Donaire has new trainer, new vision ahead of Magdaleno
MANILA, Philippines – Unless you’ve been hanging around the gyms of Las Vegas or streaming fights from abroad, Nonito Donaire Jr. has been largely out of sight and out of mind for boxing fans. It’s been over two years since “The Filipino Flash” was last seen in a ring in the continental United States, when he was knocked out by Nicholas Walters in six rounds.
Since then he’s fought twice in his native Philippines, headlined in Macau and won the vacant WBO junior featherweight title in a war against Cesar Juarez in Puerto Rico last December.
Donaire will have a chance to reacquaint himself with boxing fans when he faces undefeated southpaw Jessie Magdaleno in a mandatory defense on November 5, underneath the Manny Pacquiao vs Jessie Vargas fight at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Much has changed for Donaire (37-3, 24 knockouts) since many had last seen him. He’s got a new trainer in Ismael Salas, a Cuban guru who has worked with Yuriorkis Gamboa, Guillermo Rigondeaux and, among others, Jessie Magdaleno. Donaire was in his second stint with his father as trainer but said he didn’t want to leave his family in Las Vegas to make the trek to the California Bay Area to train with his dad.
“Now I’m more composed,” Donaire says of what he has learned. “When you see this fight, I’m more masterful in the ring now. And because of Salas he taught me to be masterful inside the ring. I’m gonna see a lot more explosive knockouts.”
In Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KOs), Donaire will be facing a 24-year-old who possesses a style similar to the one which gave him fits in his 2013 loss to Rigondeaux, but also a fighter who has fought no name opponents and has had only two fights scheduled for 10 rounds and none at the 12 round level.
“Fighting southpaws is always a little bit of a challenge than the orthodox style. We’ll go out there and try to figure him out and just go from there,” Donaire says of his opponent.
“He’s an overall kid, he has good power and good speed. All of these guys that I’m fighting, either they’re strong or they’re fast. He’s an overall kid so it’s good to see that kind of challenge ahead of me.”
The fight card will bring together Pacquiao, the most celebrated Filipino athlete of all-time, and Donaire, a fighter who has shed the “next Pacquiao” tag some placed on him to win titles in 4 weight classes, on the same night. Donaire says it took reminding Top Rank that they owed him a fight in 2016 – and Top Rank having no other suitable cards – to get him on a Pacquiao card for the first time, despite the two being under the promotional banner for the past 8 years.
Still, Donaire calls Pacquiao an inspiration and is looking forward to the exposure of fighting on the card, which will be independently produced and distributed by Top Rank on pay-per-view.
“Manny is a legendary fighter and that’s something that every Filipino fighter is going to be thankful for because he’s opened that door. He’s inspired me as well as everybody that’s coming up,” said Donaire.
Donaire didn’t speculate on what could be next for him if he gets past Magdaleno but says he still has aspirations of cementing himself at higher weights, and assures that just weeks away from his 34th birthday that he isn’t done yet.
“There’s the notion of going back to 126 and maybe going to 130 but right now I’m just focusing on the 122 category. My main goal is to keep rising beyond where I’m at,” said Donaire.
“I have a lot left in my tank. I’ve been really well, my bodys holding up really well. I’ve dedicated at least 10 years in this sport and I love what I do. As long as I can compete with the youngins, the champions, you’re gonna see me more.”
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.