By Ryan Maquiñana
Junior featherweight world champion Nonito Donaire sat down with BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com last Thursday and touched on a variety of topics leading up to his Apr. 13 fight in New York City with Guillermo Rigondeaux.
The “Filipino Flash” has been preparing for the bout at Radio City Music Hall in the Northern California city of San Carlos with Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel. Reigning Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia is slated to periodically check in from Oxnard, a five-hour drive south of the gym.
“I’ve really been focused on this camp more than I’ve ever focused, so there’s no excuses,” Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) said.
True to his word, Donaire wakes up at 4:30 in the morning on conditioning days and has added pool workouts to his already demanding regimen, which partially consists of interval sprinting on the track and utilization of the hypoxic machine to simulate a high-altitude training environment.
Camp would not be complete without sparring, and in addition to local fighters like slick junior bantamweight Bruno Escalante, manager Cameron Dunkin is sending Donaire a few new lefties of various sizes to tangle with as well.
“It’s been excellent work,” Donaire said of the sessions so far. “These kids they brought me just keep coming, and I like that they don’t hold back.”
Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), a Cuban who now resides in Miami, enters the clash with an outstanding amateur pedigree.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, the 32-year-old southpaw known as “El Chacal (The Jackal)” can rattle off blinding, polished combinations on a dime. Though he entered the pro ranks late in his boxing career, Rigondeaux hasn’t had too much trouble adjusting to the different rules, annexing the WBA version of the 122-pound crown in the process.
But now he faces his most challenging foe in the pros by far in Donaire, and the 2012 Fighter of the Year broke down the matchup.
“I think that he’s a pure counterpuncher,” said Donaire, who currently holds both the Ring Magazine and WBO belts. “If he gets aggressive, that’s when it gets dangerous for him. I’m a counterpuncher, too, but I think I’m a better counterpuncher than he is.
“When it comes to counterpunching, I know the mistakes that people make, so that’s something we’re going to look forward to in learning about Rigondeaux. It’s going to be a tactical gameplan, but I’m going to make the fight as exciting as I can.”
While all indications are that the fight is set in stone, Donaire-Rigondeaux almost fell through at the negotiating table.
Though Rigondeaux readily agreed to random drug testing leading up to the fight, he preferred that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) collect the samples, and not the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), as was originally set in the contract.
To offer context, Donaire is currently the only boxer enrolled in VADA’s year-round random testing program; Rigondeaux’s team felt that the ties between Victor Conte, Donaire’s nutritionist, and VADA boss Dr. Margaret Goodman, presented a potential conflict of interest. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and both sides signed off on VADA, salvaging the fight.
Recently, however, Rigondeaux’s team has brought up the prospect of USADA simultaneously administering random testing in addition to VADA, who will work at no charge to the fighters. Donaire clarified where the matter stood from his perspective.
“All that was agreed was VADA,” he said. “Then I guess they were saying, ‘Oh, we want USADA.’ It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll take a USADA test, but VADA was something I believed in. I believe that VADA’s an honest organization, and they’re sponsoring this [fight].
“So I said, ‘You know what? You guys want to do USADA? I’ll do USADA with you guys, but I’m not putting my money for something you want to do.’ ”
So far, the VADA program has commenced, and Donaire still left open the idea of submitting to dual testing if necessary.
“We’ve both been tested already, and that’s just how it is,” Donaire said. “If they want to bring in other people that they believe in, or they trust, bring them in. I don’t care. I’m not hiding anything.”
The possibility of twin needles extracting twice the blood isn’t the only subplot to the fight. After he locks horns with Rigondeaux, Donaire will take a hiatus from boxing until after the summer because his wife Rachel is due to give birth in late July to their first child, a boy they plan to name Jarel.
“I love where I’m at right now, just talking to my baby every night on Skype,” Donaire said. “I don’t want to miss a day when I’m talking to it.”
As a result, Donaire has been spending his weekends in Las Vegas, where he tends to Rachel in preparation for the baby. From the outside looking in, the constant travel might seem to be a distraction, but Donaire insisted that it has actually strengthened his resolve.
“I go out there [to Las Vegas], but then I run Mount Charleston, which is 8 to 9 thousand feet elevation,” Donaire said. “We run about four to five miles, and then rest up, so there’s always something I try to find to justify my visit.”
The fight notwithstanding, Donaire has a lot on his plate for 2013, but he’s enjoying every second awaiting the new addition to his family.
“It’s crazy. In all the ultrasounds we’ve done, its hands are up, and when I start talking to him, he starts moving his hands [like a fighter],” Donaire said. “It’s already a win-win for me this year.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.