Four months ago, the biggest stage of Nonito Donaire’s career had become a nightmare. He was the headline attraction of a heavily promoted Top Rank card at Madison Square Garden, the site of many of boxing most legendary battles like the iconic Fight of the Century. Facing a smaller and outgunned Omar Narvaez, the fight was supposed to build on Donaire’s amazing second round KO of Fernando Montiel last February, a win that had nearly every boxing writer gushing and proclaiming him the Pound 4 Pound successor to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Instead, a clearly flustered Donaire looked clumsy and lost in earning a unanimous decision over a Narvaez that was content to focus on defense and keep exchanges to a minimum.
In a sport where the elites are lucky receive two TV dates a year, a bad performance can almost be as crippling as a loss. But on the flip side, a dominant, sensational win can bring immediate prestige. When Donaire makes his super bantamweight debut tomorrow night (February 4) on HBO against Wilfredo Vazquez, he’ll be acutely focused on capturing the public’s imagination he so quickly gained and lost between the Montiel and Narvaez bouts. Find out how Donaire plans to become the “must-see” boxer of 2012.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Boxing is interesting in that because TV dates are so limited, you can’t really afford to have a bad day at the office like you did in your last fight against Omar Narvaez. You heard everything about it being a “stinker” and being such a disappointment coming off the Montiel KO. Where do you lay most of the blame: Navaez’s style, your own nerves or being out of the ring for most of the year?
Donaire: Well, there were big expectations going into the fight. I’ve never fought a guy that defensive. It would have been different if he stayed in one spot but he was constantly moving which took away from my power. We had a good mentality going into the fight so it wasn’t that. He didn’t have any intentions to fight, just a defensive strategy that spoiled it for the fans.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: We always hear the standard line from boxers about letting their promoters handle the matchups. But after what you went through, did you get proactive with Top Rank about the fights you wanted next?
Donaire: Yeah, I did try to talk to them about it. I’m going to force my opinion when it comes to matchups I believe that are going to be a boring fight. I do not want boring fights. Some people were there [at the Narvaez] fight from New York, but you had others that came from the Philippines and all around the nation. The people in New York really supported me and it made me feel bad to give them that type of fight. I don’t want that to ever happen again. My fans deserve exciting fights and if need be I will voice my opinion.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. hasn’t faced many elite opponents, so were you surprised any that his team took this fight?
Donaire: I believe he’s the type of the guy to have a great fight with me. It was a great move for them. He wants the challenge and my name on his resume. With the Puerto Rican people behind him he’ll come to fight and I him commend for stepping up. He won’t run or not exchange.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Are Jorge Arce and Toshiaki Nishioka still the next guys in line after this?
Donaire: Yeah, definitely! Both guys were mentioned for me this year. We might not get in both this year but they need to and will happen, but first things first in Vazquez.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You expressed extreme dislike at the idea of facing another division beltholder in Guillermo Rigondeaux. Is that because you think it’s an ugly styles clash or lack or name recognition on his part?
Donaire: Well he’s good but he does remind me of Omar [Narvaez] and like I said, I want exciting fights before anything like that. He’s just not exciting for me. He’s not on that level yet but he’s good. I just don’t see an exciting fight with him. I saw him fight on HBO where he was winning the fight and the guy hit him and he started running around. That’s exactly what happened with Narvaez; I hurt him and next thing is he stopped coming forward and [started] being defensive. With Rigondeaux, I know I’m going to hurt him.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: I know this can change depending on the money involved, but as of right this second is your preference for dominating a division long-term or weight-jumping?
Donaire: Right now I want to focus myself on taking over this division. I have my target list and I’m always looking to be the undisputed champion of the world in every division I go to. I’m willing to fight anybody but first are the guys like Nishioka and Arce. Once I’ve got all those fights, then why not? I still have to see how the guys at this weight handle my power and how my speed is.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: We’re close to the one-year anniversary of your big KO of Fernando Montiel. The fight has been a gift and curse in now the expectation is like you said to be equally exciting each time…
Donaire: Well… I do want to do the same thing and perform well. I don’t see it as pressure but more so a challenge to keep getting better and proving myself. I’m ready to meet it.
HBO’s Boxing After Dark double-header of Nonito Donaire vs. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Marco Antonio Rubio begins Saturday night (February 4) at 10:30 p.m.