Donaire: 'My focus is to beat Narvaez'
One fighter will maintain his lowest possible weight, while the other will go up to his heaviest in a 12-year career. When the dust settles after Saturday's fight at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Nonito Donaire and Omar Narvaez will part ways to their respective weight classes, one of them moving on with renewed bragging rights and the chance to earn a higher spot on pound-for-pound lists. Fighting for the first time in the U.S., Argentina's Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 KOs), a two-time champion and former Olympian, will face the biggest challenge of his career when he clashes with three-division titlist and pound-for-pound entrant Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs). With two bantamweight belts in play, the stakes are high in an intriguing clash between two classy southpaws who are as skillful and crafty as any fighters in boxing's top echelon. We caught up with Donaire during the closing stages of his preparation for this fight to get his thoughts on this interesting matchup.
How was your training for this fight?
We were training in California, in a place called Undefeated Gym in San Carlos. We've been training for two months, and we've been training very hard for this fight. I know that Narvaez is a very veteran fighter. He is very experienced, and we plan to be in the best possible shape.
What are your expectations for this big fight on the East Coast?
We're very excited to be fighting in Madison Square Garden in New York. We are expecting a lot of people in the crowd, because when we trained at Gleason's [Gym, in Brooklyn], there was a lot of people that showed up and gave me support.
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Is there any additional pressure in this fight, considering that you're fighting an undefeated champion in a new territory while people are starting to consider you a top pound-for-pound fighter?
A few weeks ago, I was feeling the pressure. I was thinking, This is the Madison Square Garden, the East Coast, and all that. But now that I am ready, my focus is to beat Narvaez, and that's pretty much it. I am focused to win. That's all I have in my mind and not to worry too much about the crowd and the venue. Our main focus right now is to win, and with the mindset that I have now, that I am ready, my focus is only on beating Narvaez.
You always say that you don't study your opponent, but did you study Narvaez at all?
I haven't seen much of Narvaez in videos. I've seen his stance, the way he stands in the ring in his fights. My trainer, Robert Garcia, is the one that has been looking at all the videos, and we're going to watch more later so we can study him a little bit more. But I don't really usually study my opponents.
Is his southpaw stance a problem for you, or was it a factor in choosing him as an opponent?
His southpaw stance is very difficult because he is very short. He is going to be very tough, and he is very experienced. So me and Robert and my team were very prepared for everything that he brings, because we know that he will have to represent his country of Argentina, and he is going to do his best to fight me here in the United States and in New York. So we are preparing for every possible situation.
Was the selection of Narvaez any indication that you will be choosing a similar opponent (veteran, southpaw) in the future?
We're definitely thinking about one guy. This is our last fight at 118 pounds, and we're definitely moving to 122. And there is one guy that is very experienced, more than others, and that's Jorge Arce. Me and him, we are good friends, but at 122 pounds he is one of the best in that weight class. And I am the type of fighter to fight the best. In terms of experience, Jorge Arce has the experience that compares to Narvaez. Jorge Arce is one of the guys that I want to fight because I have a lot of respect for Jorge. But he holds the title that I want, you know. There is also the Japanese guy that beat [Rafael] Marquez [Toshiaki Nishioka]. In terms of experience, those are the two guys that I want to fight -- Nishioka and Jorge Arce.
Are you headed to the junior featherweight division or straight up to featherweight?
I believe that I am getting much bigger now. I want to fight in the junior featherweight division next, and then if I feel that I am still gaining more weight, then I will move up to the featherweight division.
Do you believe you have anything left to be achieved in the lower divisions?
I tried to open myself to [fight] other champions, but they are focused on their own plans right now. I am not going to wait until they are ready to fight me. Instead, I want to move up and fight the best at 122, and if later they want to come up and fight me there and make a name for themselves in that division, then I am willing and ready to fight anybody.
Finally, how do you envision the Narvaez fight playing out, round by round?
If Narvaez becomes more defensive, we're going to break his shell and break his barriers, but if he tries to be more offensive, I am ready to go and fight with him. Whatever he gives me, we'll adjust to it. And if we can take him out as early as the first round, we will. But if it goes to 12 rounds, we are also ready for a 12-round fight.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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