One-on-one with Nonito Donaire as he prepares to take on Nishioka
Interview By: Nick Bellafatto
This past week I had the privilege to speak with current IBF/WBO junior featherweight titlist and pound-for-pound prizefighter Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (29-1, 18 KO’s) ofSan Mateo,California. Nonito is scheduled to take on the division’s number 1 ranked fighter and former WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka (34-9-3, 24 KO’s) of Tokyo, Japan in a bout which will determine the WBC Diamond belt champion. Set for October 13th on HBO from Carson, California’s Home Depot Center, the winner of this contest could potentially face off with the victor between 122-pound WBC belt holder Abner Mares (24-0-1, 13 KO’s) of Hawaiian Gardens, California and top ten pound-for-pound pugilist Anselmo Moreno (33-1-1, 12 KO’s) of San Miguelito, Panama in a title match set to take place on November 10th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here is what Nonito had to say about these and other issues while in the final stages of preparation for his upcoming confrontation.
NB: Yeah Hi Nonito how you doing?
ND: Pretty good. How you doing?
NB: Good, good. Welcome and thanks for your time I know you’ve got to get to training. Speaking of training how’s that coming along?
ND: Great you know. We’re preparing 100% and were ready to go. We’re mentally getting prepared for this fight.
NB: At one point you told me that running really wasn’t part of your training regimen which may be surprising to many, but recently you’ve added in sprints and other track work. How much has that made a difference and in what ways?
ND: It’s made a lot of difference. I mean for me you know running helps. I run once in a while but it’s mainly the way I fight that now we go for sprints because that’s how my body gets used to going all out in a fight.
NB: You’re coming in off a solid win over Jeffery Mathebula which was quite a switch for you in that you’ve mainly had the height and/or reach advantage over past opponents. Can you talk a bit about how you adapted in that bout, or maybe what you came away with as far as learning about yourself considering Mathebula was the much lengthier fighter?
ND: Well we wanted to see what we could do with the big guys, with the taller guys in moving up into the division. You know we learned a lot of stuff, a lot of things. Footwork, speed, head movement, and just being smart in all the rounds. We’ve never messed with guys that’s way taller. We knew we could deal with the shorter guys and now we know we can deal with taller fighters. That’s what we learned in the Mathebula fight.
NB: You’ve been involved in two fights in a row where you’ve successfully acquired two different titles in the junior featherweight division, not to mention your taking on Nishioka who currently doesn’t hold a belt but is nevertheless ranked number 1 in the division. With that
said how do you like the pace of your career at present?
ND: One thing is we’re actually fighting for a title, the WBC Diamond belt’s on the line with Nishioka because he’s a champion even though he hasn’t fought for a long time. So you know he’s still a champion and he’s coming back. Kind of like that. It’s for the Diamond belt and that’s our main goal in the fight with Nishioka.
NB: In following up on that he [Nishioka] was stripped of his former WBC full title for admitting he couldn’t defend it due to personal issues, but he never lost the title in the ring. Is taking him on your way of recognizing him as the true champion, or why are you risking your titles against him when on your end you really have nothing tangible to gain as far as legitimate belts or anything?
ND: Well I am gaining a WBC Diamond belt. With the WBC I don’t think it was a strip. They made another title for Mares to fight for, but they’d never taken his [Nishioka’s] title. That’s why he’s a champion. What do they call it, a champion at rest, in recess? But the WBC is acknowledging him, recognizing him as the champion of the WBC and that’s why they’re putting the WBC belt up for this fight. So there is something to gain and that’s the WBC Diamond belt. And I think the Ring Magazine is also putting up their belt as well.
NB: You know the Japanese fighter’s going to enter the ring with you not having fought in slightly over a year. Do you think that’s a mistake on his part?
ND: No. He knows what to do in the ring. He knows how to fight. When you get to this level and when you’ve been fighting for a while all you need is a couple rounds of sparring and you get back in to your mental state. Then you can get off. You know maybe the first round or two he’ll be off, but when he gets into his rhythm he’ll get back into it. But we don’t take account of him as if he’s not fought at all.
NB: Nishioka’s a high and tight type fighter who’s got solid fundamentals, but nothing jumps out about him besides maybe a solid straight left hand so that from the outside looking in you appear to have an edge from a athletic perspective as regards maybe more dynamic footwork and better overall movement, and maybe power too. In scouting Toshiaki out in his last fight against Rafael Marquez, what are your impressions of him as a fighter, or what concerns you most about him as an opponent?
ND: His style you know. Definitely his style. His speed has diminished, but he still has pretty good speed and he can counter well. That’s what makes it scary is that he’s able to counter. And he’s been able to come up with the big counter in the past. But I think my overall advantage is speed. But it all comes down to who has the best strategy.
NB: On the other side of that, in what areas do you yourself feel you have an advantage?
ND: Speed and a powerful left hook. That works well against lefties and I’ll be looking to take advantage with it.
NB: Many are clamoring, I’m going to get off track a little bit. Many are clamoring for you to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux who in the past you pretty much referred to as having a boring style so that you weren’t much interested in fighting him. But then he came up with three stoppages in a row where he kind of let his hands go a little bit, only to regress in his last fight against Roberto Marroquin where he looked conservative again and less than marketable as far as being exciting. Beyond that he may have been exposed a bit after getting rocked with some left hooks by Marroquin, no doubt your primary weapon of choice. Assuming you take care of business against Nishioka, is the time nearing when you’d like to silence those who claim you don’t want to fight him, that being namely Rigondeaux himself?
ND: Well the thing is if they put his name on my contract right next to the dotted line then we’re in. But there’s somehow some kind of negotiation problem and that’s why the fight’s not happening. But if you make it easy for me and for everybody else, and this goes for Mares as well, then their names will be written on that dotted line. But that’s all neither here nor there. If you put it on the contract then we’re good to go. That’s up to them. If they want to make it difficult for everybody it’s not gonna happen. So it is what it is. I’m not afraid of anybody. If they want to make it happen then they’ll make it happen.
NB: And in mentioning Abner Mares, he was positioned for the WBC junior featherweight title after Nishioka was in recess [stripped] which is ironic because Abner had never fought at 122 pounds before. Nevertheless Mares has got a title fight against #10 ranked pound-for-pound fighter Anselmo Moreno who’s considered a tough nut to crack. What are your impressions of that fight, as well as of the fighters themselves? Let’s start with Mares.
ND: That’s a good fight. I think that if Mares comes out more aggressive than usual I think he’ll be able to beat him. WhenMoreno fought Sydorenko, the guy I fought, Sydorenko applied constant pressure so he [Moreno] had trouble getting away. And he [Sydorenko] would catch him. So I think that Mares has a good chance of beating him if he just pressures him.
NB: Ok what do you think aboutMoreno?
ND: He can box, but anybody can catch up to him. He was good when he fought Darchinyan because they were both lefties. That’s why he looked so good. But when you fight a guy who’s standing in front of you and who’s going to be on the opposite side which is nearer to you, in this case with an orthodox fighter like Mares, then he’s going to get caught like that. I think he can make things difficult for Mares though, especially by boxing him. If he [Moreno] uses his legs and boxes him, he can win that fight.
NB: Would you like to take on the winner of that bout betweenMoreno and Mares?
ND: Like I said you know, if they make the fight easy in the negotiation process then I’ll fight anybody in this division. If they want to know who’s available to fight, well I’m available to fight anybody.
NB: Is there a rematch clause with Toshiaki?
ND: No there’s no rematch clause. Not that I know of.
NB: When we spoke a number of fights ago your career was slightly stalled where you were having a few promotional issues and looking at options with Golden Boy. And during that time you weren’t necessarily involved in the most lucrative match ups nor were you getting top billing considering your stature as an elite fighter. How has that changed from your perspective? And did maybe showing some discontent with past arrangements pay off in your mind because it seems that your career is on the fast track now? I mean your fighting one top fighter after another in what look to be more competitive match ups after pretty much dominating the lower weight classes.
ND: I’m happy with the way things are going. I think things happen for a reason and that’s pretty much the way it is.
NB: Last question. Andre Ward of course had a high profile fight in the Bay Area [Andre Ward-Chad Dawson] which was very successful. Are we going to see Nonito Donaire fight in the Bay Area anytime soon?
ND: I’m hoping man. You know that’s one thing that I’d like to do as a professional is be able to fight out here if front of a hometown crowd. That would be great if I’m able to fight out here.
NB: Thanks for your time. Before wrapping however, what would you like to say to fight fans who’ll be tuning in to watch you on October 13th?
ND: Well, I just want to say first of all that I’m definitely looking forward to this fight. It’s going to be an exciting fight you know with the undercard, Rios and Alvarado. That’s going to be a bloody mess [laughs]. Then we’re going to have an exciting fight with me and Nishioka on HBO on October 13th. So I wish you guys can get out to LA and I hope to see you inCarson,California at theHomeDepotCenter.
NB: Thanks a lot and I’ll see you soon.
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