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                    NONITO DONAIRE JR.

 

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Like most American residents, Nonito Donaire Jr. celebrated Thanksgiving last Thursday by eating turkey. At face value, this tidbit of info sounds pretty mundane and uneventful, but here it’s notable considering that the holiday was just a week before fight night.

Donaire, a former flyweight and interim super flyweight champion, wasn’t doing a whole lot of eating prior to his most recent training camps. Faced with reality, Donaire made the decision to step up to the bantamweight division and its additional three pounds of breathing room.

For the 28-year-old “Filipino Flash” now residing in San Leandro, California, the rise in weight couldn’t have come any sooner.

"I’m definitely more comfortable now,” said Donaire, who faces former bantamweight champion Wladimir Sidorenko on Dec. 4 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The vacant interim World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight title — and Donaire’s Feb. 19 clash with unified champion Fernando Montiel — will be on the line.

Donaire-Sidorenko will headline Top Rank’s “In Harm’s Way” pay-per-view, which is available for purchase at $44.95 beginning at 9 p.m. EST.

 

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                   WLADIMIR SIDORENKO

 

“Usually I’m about two-and-a-half pounds over on the day of the weigh-in. I’m glad I don’t have to cut as much weight now.”

The difficulty by which the lanky 5-foot-6 reached weight had grown to be a primary concern for his team of trainers, particularly before his most recent fight, an eighth round TKO of Hernan Marquez in July.

“I was really hoping everything went well because I was really worried,” said assistant trainer Roberto Garcia, who works alongside head trainer Jonathan Penalosa. “He had a hard time making 115.”

“Now, he’s eating good meals every day, but it’s only three pounds of difference, so it doesn’t make a big change. I think once he goes to 122, he’ll be where he should be.”

The rise in weight also brings him to a division chock full of big fight possibilities. Frankly, Donaire could use a challenge.
Donaire’s career, for a lack of a better word has stagnated since his star-making knockout of previously unbeaten flyweight kingpin Vic Darchinyan in 2007. Despite the crushing defeat, Darchinyan went on to fight and defeat Cristian Mijares and Jorge Arce en route to unifying the super flyweight division.

Donaire’s own tour through the super flyweight division included the aforementioned Marquez, Rafael Concepcion and Manuel Vargas. The absence of big name opponents has caused many to question whether Donaire is deserving of his perch on Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings, where he is currently at number five.

“There was a lack of motivation for these fights,” Donaire admits. “There was a ‘just another day at the office’ kind of feeling.”

For an athlete with a competitive streak, the tendency is there to fight to your level of competition. With Donaire, there seems to be no greater motivator than having a formidable challenge awaiting him in the opposite corner.

Enter Sidorenko.

The 34-year-old Sidorenko, 22-2 (7 KO), from the Klitschko brothers’ hometown of Kiev, Ukraine, held the WBA bantamweight title for three years before suffering back-to-back losses to the Panamanian Anselmo Moreno in 2008.

Moreno, who is a tall, mobile southpaw slickster, towered over the 5’4” Sidorenko with a similar height and reach advantage to Donaire.

Sidorenko returned 15 months after the losses to decision Mbwana Matumla in August.

“That’s one of the motivations for the training camp because I’m fighting somebody good, an elite fighter,” said Donaire, who was born in Talibon, Bohol, Philippines. “It does help a lot to be in there with somebody who is going to be really tough.”

Still, Garcia is confident that Donaire can not only win, but make a statement in the process.

“We’re in there against a tough guy and we have to come up with a good game plan. But Nonito’s style and his footwork is perfect to either outbox this guy and look great against him, or even try to go for a knockout if possible.

“I know that he’s never been down or out but Nonito has very good power so he can be the first to knock him out.”

The Montiel fight, which would be Donaire’s first appearance on HBO, is serving as Donaire’s pot of gold on the other end of the rainbow. Still Donaire stresses the need to focus on the task at hand.

History has had its share of “tune-up” fights that spoiled super fights that already had signed contracts. Erik Morales may have been looking too far into the future when he faced Zahir Raheem prior to his rematch with Manny Pacquiao. Raheem wound up winning a decision that night.

A similar fate befell heavyweight contender Tommy Morrison in 1993, when Michael Bentt knocked him out in the first round and delayed his clash with heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis for two years.

All of these cautionary tales undoubtedly are resting in the back of Donaire’s mind.

But for now, Donaire is invigorated by the prospects that for the first time in years, his career is on the verge of fulfilling its lofty expectations.

“I’ve never been really motivated like this before. I’ve never been in as tremendous shape as I am now. I’m in the best shape of my life. I want to see where that takes me. I think that being in the best shape gets me to see my real potential in boxing and my ability.”

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Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to GMANews.TV.

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

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