By Ryan Maquiñana
Junior featherweight world champion Nonito Donaire had a busy Tuesday, completing an intense 12 rounds of sparring, a strength and conditioning workout, and ending the afternoon with a random drug test.
Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) is in the final week of preparation leading up to his HBO-televised April 13 showdown in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall for 122-pound supremacy with fellow titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs).
“I’m always looking for challenges to keep me going,” Donaire told BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com. “At first he didn’t impress me, but after watching him fight, he’s started to interest me.
“We’re both the same type of fighter, but it’s going to be a different kind of fight. He has to be faster than me, and he has to be a better counterpuncher. We’ll see who sets their punches up better, and who’s the smarter man when we fight.”
Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is an excellent body puncher who just happens to have one-punch knockout power as well. Donaire stressed that his mind will be just as important as his fists for this fight.
“It doesn’t matter how strong or how fast your opponent is, if you can be tactical to take away their power or their speed, you’re set,” Donaire said.
With his corner of Robert Garcia, Brian Schwartz, and Mike Bazzel looking on, Donaire went the distance in the ring, trading leather with up-and-coming southpaws Erick DeLeon (2-0, 1 KO) and Vic Pasillas (3-0, 1 KO). All three fighters share the same manager, Cameron Dunkin.
“I’ve been to lots of training camps. I’ve sparred with lots of world champions, but I haven’t sparred somebody like Nonito,” Pasillas said. “He’s like a big brother. After you spar him, he’s coaching you, telling you what you did wrong and how you can improve…With everything I’ve been learning every day, it’s like high school.”
DeLeon was in accord with his fellow prospect in terms of Donaire’s vast ring intelligence.
“He’s fast, real strong, [and] slick,” DeLeon said. “He makes me think a lot when I’m in there. [The fight] could end early, so he’s ready to go.”
Donaire then strengthened his core with Bazzel, doing several drills with a medicine ball and resistance bands before hitting the hypoxic machine, a high-altitude simulator.
During this period, Donaire met with Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) agent Jennifer Hunter and chaperone Tuasivi Scanlan, to whom he submitted both blood and urine samples.
“For this camp alone, this is my fourth time [doing testing], and I’m used to it,” Donaire said.
Donaire, the reigning Fighter of the Year, went 4-0 in 2012, but made bigger headlines last July for enrolling in VADA’s year-round random drug testing program. He made the decision alongside then-nutritionist Victor Conte, who has since abruptly quit three weeks before the fight.
While Donaire would not comment on the specifics of the split, he did speak briefly on the matter with BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com.
“We all have our own paths. Victor’s got his own path, I’ve got mine, and I wish him all the best,” Donaire said.
This training camp has also been unconventional for another reason. Donaire is expecting his first child on July 21 with wife Rachel, who is pregnant with a baby boy they plan to name Jarel. As a result, Donaire has been spending weekdays in Northern California, but traveling on the weekends to Las Vegas to visit Rachel, who has now joined her husband for the last days of camp.
Though the constant flights have produced a far-from-ideal situation for Donaire, the 122-pound king has continued to send his assurances that his concentration has not wavered, and that he relishes the test that Rigondeaux will offer on April 13.
“Don’t get me wrong, my focus is there for the fight,” Donaire said. “But I’m thinking about the ultrasound. I’m thinking about Rachel and the baby. I’m excited for this fight, but I’m really excited to be a father, too.”
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.