By Jake Donovan
Their February 4 vacant title fight promises fireworks from the opening bell, but there was no spontaneous combustion to speak of when Nonito Donaire and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. met on stage during Tuesday’s press conference in San Antonio.
The two collide in an HBO-televised co-feature battle next month at the Alamodome in San Antonio, serving as the chief support to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s 12-round showdown with Marco Antonio Rubio.
Meeting in the very venue in which their fight will be held, both fighters seem genuinely excited to be part of the show. The main event fighters don’t seem too fond of one another – refusing to pose together as they instead stood side-by-side with promoter Bob Arum.
The exact opposite rang true for Donaire and Vazquez, both of whom were appreciative of being in other’s company.
“This is an incredible fight,” Donaire (27-1, 18KO) stated during Tuesday’s press conference, dressed stylishly in a gray and black suit. His appearance was noted by HBO representative Peter Nelson, who joked on stage that he plans to hire the Fil-Am fighter as a fashion consultant.
What wasn’t a joking matter was Donaire’s last fight, a rare stinker as he settled for a decision win against an unwilling participant in Omar Narvaez. On paper, it looked to be a fight that would add considerably to Donaire’s 2011 campaign that included an eye-opening 2nd round knockout of Fernando Montiel.
Instead, he wound up matched against a long-reigning titlist moving up in weight and fighting as if he had nothing to lose. Narvaez was all too willing to give up his “0” in offering up the stinker, though one noted critique from the fight was Donaire failing to cut off the ring and changed the pace.
Suffice to say, no such problem should occur next month in San Antonio. Vazquez Jr is by no means a runner and always comes to fight. Whereas the last fight tested Donaire’s – and the fans’ – patience, his 122 lb. debut figures to test his chin and fighting heart.
“The last fight, the guy didn’t want to fight me,” Donaire says of the October stinker that hurt his chances of securing Fighter of the Year honors. “I know that Vazquez Jr., not only is he a good person - a great guy - but I know that he comes out there to fight.”
Vazquez Jr’s all action style prompted Top Rank to get involved in his career, reaching an agreement last year with Felix “Tutico” Zabala of All-Star Boxing to co-promote the second generation boxer.
Zabala promoted Wilfredo Vazquez Sr., who won belts in three weight classes. One of the bigger moments of his career came in this very city and also captured on HBO’s airwaves. Vazquez Sr. scored an upset win over Orlando Canizales, who was coming off of a record-setting bantamweight reign and moved up in weight in an attempt to capture a title at 122 lb. when the 10-1 underdog edged him out.
Odds have yet to be released for this fight, but it stands to reason that Vazquez Jr (21-1-1, 18KO) heads to San Antonio as an even greater underdog for February’s bout against a fighter many regard among the top three or four fighters in the world.
A considerable amount of luster was removed from the second generation fighter’s career after a heartbreaking 12th round stoppage loss to faded Jorge Arce. The bout was Vazquez Jr’s first under the Top Rank banner, having since won a tune-up fight in his native Puerto Rico.
The 27-year old ex-titlist is well aware of the current public perception surrounding his career, and more specifically his chances in this fight. He also believes it to be the reason why he was chosen as the opponent for Donaire’s first bout at the 122 lb limit, and fully intends to shock the world.
“I know Nonito is a great fighter,” Vazquez Jr. humbly acknowledged, dressed in normal street gear and slightly oversized ball cap, a simple outfit reflective of his low-key personality. “I’m training hard every day. I’m ready to take the title back to Puerto Rico.”
The two politely posed for post-presser photos and wished each other well at the end of the press conference. There are times when smack talk is welcomed; it doesn’t mean it’s mandatory for all media sessions. What takes place in the ring is ultimately all that matters.
“This is what makes boxing great,” Donaire comments. “You have two guys who respect each other, but we go out there to tear each other’s heads off.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .