NEW YORK — On a blustery Thursday evening in October, Omar Narvaez, his rat-tail snapping with each wind gust, seems oblivious to the many people rushing to and fro on a busy Seventh Avenue.
The unbeaten, 36-year-old WBO junior bantamweight titleholder from Argentina flicks punches at an imaginary opponent while staring into the bright lights of the video cameras aimed at him by television crews.
Behind Narvaez in even larger bright lights are the words, "Madison Square Garden," the place where the champion from Argentina will make his American debut against WBC and WBO bantamweight titleholder Nonito Donaire on Saturday.
It will be a night of firsts for Narvaez, who will make his initial appearance at 118-pounds — the highest weight at which he has ever fought — and fight for the first time on HBO.
Narvaez will do so against Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs), who is No. 4 on THE RING’s pound-for-pound list. The talented 28-year-old switch-hitter is pursuing his 26th consecutive victory against Narvaez and is coming off a second-round knockout of former three-division titleholder Fernando Montiel in February.
But you wouldn't know that this is, perhaps, the fight of a lifetime for Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 knockouts), a well-traveled southpaw who has fought in France, Italy and Spain in addition to his native Argentina.
"Omar is always relaxed before his fights," said Narvaez's interpreter, Osvaldo Rivero. "This fight is nothing different for him."
Narvaez, of Cordoba, is 20-0-1 in world title fights, and is coming off a unanimous decision over William Urina in June. That was Narvaez's third successful defense of the title he took from Everth Briceno in May of last year.
Narvaez won the WBO's flyweight belt by dethroning Adonis Rivas, flooring him once in the seventh round of their clash in July 2002. He then made 16 successful defenses of that title.
During a press conference interview on Thursday, Narvaez addressed a number of topics.
Translated by Osvaldo Rivero
Does he believe that he was brought in as a steppingstone because of his age and relative lack of power as well as the fact that he's giving up weight?
"Maybe. But I trust very much in my experience and in my fitness for this fight. I trust very much in that."
Does he think that he can cause problems for Donaire?
"I'm a very good boxer. I know Nonito from a long time ago when he was a flyweight. I know his skills well."
Is there added pressure fighting in New York for the first time?
"I've fought in a lot of other countries. France, Italy and Spain. As an amateur, I fought all over the world. I had 103 fights as an amateur. I went to the Olympics. This is nothing.
Has Donaire faced anyone with his general skills and experience?
"I don't think so. I don't think that he has ever fought against a person with my style and my skill level."
Being that this is his first fight at bantamweight, does he have the power to match Donaire?
"He will know my power in the ring. I have really prepared myself well for this fight."
Is he concerned about Donaire's power?
"No. I'm really, really trusting in my preparation."
What can you show Donaire that he has never seen?
"He has never seen anyone with my movement and my speed and my intelligence."
Does Donaire have any weaknesses?
"No. Not too much. He's a very good boxer."
What does he think of Donaire's knockouts of Montiel and Vic Darchinyan?
"Wonderful. Specatcular knockouts."
What does he think of Donaire's left hook?
"I've prepared to avoid the left hook. I think that I'm a much better boxer than Darchinyan and Montiel."
Does it give him more motivation that Donaire is getting so much attention?
"Yes, I have more motivation about that because it's better for me that he has all of the attention and all of the pressure."
Do you expect to see a number of Latin fans in the audience on Saturday?
"I think that there will be people from the Latin community cheering loudly for me. I think that there are a lot of Latino people here in New York, and I think that there will be a lot of Latino fans supportingme."
Does he need a knockout to win or can he win a decision in New York?
"No. I can win a decision. I am not worried about that. I'm only thinking about going into the ring and showing my skills and showing that I'm better. I'm just thinking about winning and nothing else."
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]