Nonito Donaire moves down
On the night of October 22, 2011, Nonito Donaire (then the WBC and WBO 118-pound champion) out-pointed Omar Narvaez over 12 rather pedestrian rounds at the Theater of Madison Square Garden, in New York City. It was the last time that Donaire fought as a bantamweight.
For the past seven years, which encompass 15 bouts, Donaire, 38-5 (24), has fought at junior featherweight (122 pounds) and featherweight (126 pounds).
Now this Saturday at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, he returns to the bantamweight division as he takes on WBA 118-pound titlist Ryan Burnett, 19-0 (9), in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
Generally older fighters (Donaire is now 35 years old) continue to rise in weight, not go back down. In this case Donaire is actually moving down two weight classes.
Last week as he landed in Scotland, he was asked how he felt. Donaire told UCNLive.com last Friday, “I feel like I’m like everybody else. I feel good; I feel really good. It’s just now I’m maintaining, so I’m just like everybody else. In the past years I’ve been walking around and eating; this time I’m actually cutting down the weight and I’m actually looking to maintain.”
There was a train of thought the past several years that, as Donaire competed at 122 and 126, he was actually fighting above his optimum weight class. Donaire, who has had a distinguished career, won his first title at flyweight (112 pounds). Now the “Filipino Flash” reasons that he’s back where he belonged the whole time.
“Before I really didn’t need to do anything,” he stated, “so I’m like everybody else at this point, this time.”
However many fighters feel fine a week or two before the weigh-in. How will Donaire feel this Friday afternoon, as his feet hit the scales? That’s the real question. “I’ve been there before. The last two, three pounds is definitely going to be hard and difficult,” he admits.
Donaire says he made sure to come into this training camp at a lower weight and was more cognizant of being within spitting distance of the 118-pound weight limit, as November 3 loomed.
He explained last week, “So usually I come in about 10 pounds (heavier) on the week off or so and just cut it down. But this time I’m really just close to the weight, so that’s pretty much where I’m at right now.”
At junior featherweight and featherweight, Donaire didn’t have such concerns.
“There were times when I would train and try to cut the weight and I would cut the weight to like 119 (pounds) and I’m like, ‘Uh-oh, I’ve got to get something to eat.’ But I took those measures because there were greater opportunities and challengers but, this time, I’m going back to where I truly belong.”
Donaire’s most recent outing last April came in a featherweight contest versus Carl Frampton and, while he had a few moments, he was beaten decisively over 12 rounds. It was clear then that, for this career to remain relevant, he would have to consider moving down. “It’s funny because when I was talking to Carl – and he walks around at 150 or whatever he was saying – when I had the conversation, I said, ‘Man, I don’t even get that close when I’m training.’ So I decided that I’m going to drop down to where I’m comfortable,” said Donaire, who has won major world titles at flyweight, junior bantamweight, bantamweight and junior featherweight.
When the opportunity came to enter the WBSS, Donaire believed it was an ideal way to get back into the mix at the world-class level. But the reality is that while it’s possible to move down in weight, it’s impossible to turn the clock back. He is now in his mid-30s (which is considered downright ancient by the standards of smaller boxers) and he is 1-2 in his last three bouts. That said in all fairness, there is no shame in losing to Frampton and Jesse Magdaleno.
However should he not defeat Burnett, then what?
“I never put that in my head. I feel that I’m very strong in this weight class; I’m very confident in this weight class,” Donaire insisted. “So I’ve always been a positive guy. If I get dominated in that way than I’m like, ‘Holy smokes; this is done with me,’ but I know that’s far from anything. I went with Carl (Frampton) and I did really well against a heavier man, against a guy who was incredible. I know that Ryan is very tricky and similar to Frampton.
“But I feel very confident in the weight class, I know a lot of people are guessing if I can make the weight and how I’m going to look and how I’m going to feel but I already know exactly how my body’s going to feel.”
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