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Superstar boxer Nonito Donaire Jr. (right) with his trainer Roberto Garcia at the Edison Ballroom in New York on Sept. 20.  (Filipino Reporter photo by Rene Ner)

 

 

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Manny Pacquiao is by far the most popular Filipino fighter on the planet, there is no denying that.

But Roberto Garcia, who trains World Boxing Council (WBC)/World Boxing Organization (WBO) world bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. (26-1, 19 KO), feels he has the best skilled Pinoy pug around.

“I believe that and I’ve said that before,” said the Oxnard, California-based Garcia at a New York City press conference to promote Donaire’s Oct. 22 challenge of undefeated Argentinian Omar Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 KO) at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater in New York City.

“We cannot take anything away from what Pacquiao has done,” said Garcia.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see anybody do what Pacquiao has done, go from flyweight to junior middleweight and win titles in every division. But if we talk about skills, I do believe that Nonito is a better fighter. Nonito might not do what Pacquiao has done, this is true. We only see the Pacquiaos once in a 100 years, but when it comes to skills, I believe Nonito has more skills than him.”

Garcia, 36, took over as Donaire’s head trainer after Donaire’s Filipino coach Jonathan Penalosa was unable to join them in camp due to visa issues.

In addition to his work with Donaire, Garcia was a world champion in the super featherweight division, reigning for about a year-and-a-half from 1998 to late 1999.

Garcia also trains former welterweight champion and Pacquiao opponent Antonio Margarito, as well as reigning lightweight terror Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios.

Garcia says he has been studying tape of the 28-year-old San Leandro, California resident Donaire’s 35-year-old challenger Narvaez, who is a former champion at 112 and 115 pounds, and is working on a strategy to cope with the tricky southpaw.

“We can’t take him lightly. He is a world champion, he is undefeated and he defended his title like 18 times. He’s a tremendous champion and I’ve been watching his fights and he’s very skillful so we can’t take this lightly.

“I know Nonito’s out of this world, his skills, his talent, the way he trains. He was up at six in the morning running. He’s very dedicated and I have no doubt that Nonito can come out victorious in this fight and look at future things.”

Meanwhile, Donaire’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank says that the work he has done promoting Pacquiao has prepared him to optimize Donaire’s visibility with the Filipino-American market.

Arum says he is excited to tap into the New York metropolitan area’s sizable Filipino population to expose Donaire to an audience that Pacquiao will never fight in front of.

“A foreigner can’t fight in New York if he gets a big purse because of the tax situation. You don’t get a credit for your state taxes. Manny will keep out of New York, as would [Floyd] Mayweather because Mayweather comes from Nevada. [Donaire] doesn’t have the situation because he’s from California and California has a big state tax and he gets a credit for his New York tax. But if Nonito lived in Nevada, he would have the same problem.”

Arum concedes that there is a large gap between the popularity of Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound number one ranked fighter Pacquiao, and Donaire, who is ranked number four by that same list.

Still, he isn’t ruling out that Donaire could one day occupy a similar plateau.

“I think Nonito can increase his popularity while Manny is still very popular,” said Arum.

“Popularity is something that you build. Right now, he’s nowhere near as popular as Manny, but who is to say that in the next two or three years as Manny’s career winds down that Nonito picks up that fan base and becomes extremely popular?”

When asked the obligatory question if he feels Pacquiao would ever fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., he dismissed the question and focused on Pacquiao’s upcoming assignment at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Nov. 12.

“I don’t know about Pacquiao-Mayweather,” said Arum.

“All of us are concerned about [Juan Manuel] Marquez in terms of how close he was the two times they fought. That’s our only concern.”

Donaire vs. Narvaez will be televised in America live on HBO Boxing After Dark, beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.

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Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City.

He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com

Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia


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Nonito Donaire Jr. addresses the media in New York on Sept. 20. With him at the dais are Mark Taffet (senior vice president of HBO Sports and HBO Pay-Per-View), Bob Arum (founder and CEO of Top Rank) and boxers Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito.  (Filipino Reporter photo by Rene Ner)