By Ronnie Nathanielsz
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Although most boxing writers and fight fans believe that Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire (26-1, 18 KO's) is too skilled, too fast and too strong for undefeated two-division world champion Omar Andres Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 KO's)of Argentina, both Donaire and trainer Robert Garcia are not taking any chances.
Donaire and Narvaez both worked out lengthily at the Affinia Hotel Gym last night with Narvaez accompanied by his trainer Ruperto Ruiz, his brothers Jorge and Daniel and manager Osvaldo Rivero.
Donaire was with Garcia, former world light welterweight champion Morris East who handles the punch-mitts for Donaire, his medical team, wife Rachael and her parents.
We watched Donaire shadow box for several rounds on the corridor outside the gym while Narvaez did the same thing inside and also spent some time on the treadmill.
Donaire is obviously having problems making the 118 pound limit and has made it clear the title defense against Narvaez will be his last at bantamweight even as he is set to move up to super bantamweight for his next fight which may well be against WBO 122 pound champion Jorge "Travieso" Arce.
Both Donaire and Garcia are not looking beyond Saturday's "Battle of Champions" at the WaMu Theater of New York's famed Madison Square Garden.
Garcia said that while he has watched tapes of five or six fights of Narvaez including two of his three fights this year, there is no guarantee that the fighter he watched on tape will be the same fighter who faces off with Donaire on Saturday in a fight to be telecast "live" by ABS-CBN Channel 2 and on The Filipino Channel worldwide.
Garcia said he could give Donaire some pointers based on what he saw but Narvaez may well change his tactics and style when he confronts Donaire and this is what he will watch for during the fight and tell Donaire how to adapt if he needs to.However, Garcia said Donaire was a very intelligent fighter and would be able to figure out his opponent when the fight gets underway.
He believes Narvaez will try to drag the fight into the later rounds hoping to frustrate and upset Donaire who has said a knockout would be most satisfying.
Garcia maintained that despite some minor problems with his weight, Donaire was in excellent shape and ready to go twelve rounds if he has to. But he did concede that if the WBC/WBO bantamweight champion is unable to put the much smaller challenger away in the early rounds he may get frustrated and take unnecessary risks which is something that concerns him.
The odds are around 8 to 1 in favor of Donaire who will become the second Filipino to fight at Madison Square Garden since junior lightweight champion Gabriel "Flash" Elorde lost by a 14th round knockout to WBA lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz of Puerto Rico at the old Garden on November 28, 1966 in a "Battle of Champions" some 45 years ago in a fight we covered for dzHP Radio in Manila and the now defunct Philippines Herald newspaper.
Donaire who admires Elorde said that while "Flash"lost, this time around "The Filipino Flash" has no intention of losing although Narvaez predicted that his experience would be too much for Donaire and he plans to return to Argentina as a three-division champion.
While Narvaez hasn't beaten any really well-known and big name fighters internationally, he has overcome quite a few solid contenders.After winning the WBO super flyweight title with a unanimous twelve round decision over Nicaragua's Everth Briceno (31-5-1, 26 KO's) on May 15, 2010, Narvaez scored three big wins this year, all by comfortable unanimous decisions.
On February 12 he defeated Mexican Victor Zaleta (17-1, 9 KO's) and followed this up with a win over Puerto Rico's undefeated Cesar Seda (20-0, 15 KO's) on April 15 before overcoming Colombia's William Urina (17-1, 14 KO's) last June 11.