By Chris Robinson
WBC and WBO bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire will be moving up in weight on February 4th when he faces off with former titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. for the vacant WBO junior featherweight belt at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Donaire officially kicked off his camp yesterday at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada and a few things stood out about his first day.
A move to Las Vegas
Donaire has spent several of his recent camps in the city of San Carlos, California, at the Undisputed Boxing Gym but decided to keep this particular camp closer to home, as he owns a Condo with his wife Rachel, right off the strip.
The move makes far more sense financially for Donaire, who had spent quite a bit in lodging in past camps in the Bay Area for his sparring partners and trainers. But despite looking to stage his upcoming camps in Vegas, Donaire still had great admiration for his crew at Undisputed and noted that his corner, which includes strength and conditioning coach Mike Bazzel, will always remain the same.
Donaire’s two chief sparring partners for this camp are a pair of younger, heavier pugs in 25-year old unbeaten, Russian-born featherweight prospect Evgeny Gradovich and 22-year old Javier ‘Pelos’ Garcia, a lightweight prospect from Oxnard, California who happens to be the nephew of Donaire’s trainer Robert Garcia.
Javier went up to the Bay Area for Donaire’s camp with Fernando Montiel earlier this year and witnessed some of the intense sparring at the gym. He instantly felt a need to test his skills against Donaire’s and now he has his wish.
“I was worried that I would be a little too heavy for him but now I guess I got what I wanted,” said Garcia.
Donaire sparred three rounds apiece with Gradovich first and then Garcia. The action was pretty brisk for the first day of camp as they both pressed Donaire, who seemed content on laying back and countering with rapid shots.
A few weeks ago Donaire sparred with local bantamweight prospect Alexis Santiago, who is now trained by Roger Mayweather, and despite initial rumors of the Phoenix, Arizona native helping Nonito again, those plans seems to be off for now.
Robert Garcia’s hectic schedule
With the absence of Jonathan Penalosa from Donaire’s camp due to visa issues, the aforementioned Robert Garcia will be playing a bit more of an intricate role in Donaire’s camp, while former champion Morris East fills in for the 29-year old champion on the mitts.
Garcia made the drive from Oxnard to Las Vegas early Monday, a trip that succeeded a busy November and early December for him. Garcia spent some of those weeks in the city of Temoaya, Mexico, working with former champion Antonio Margarito as he prepared for his rematch with Miguel Cotto before twice venturing to New York to handle business related to the fight, which went down at the famed Madison Square Garden on December 3rd.
Garcia is often on the road due to his duties with his fighters but insists it is never a burden.
“Not at all,” said Garcia. “Especially when I know I’m coming to a training camp with Nonito and Rachel, Morris [East], everybody. It’s always great to me. I’m driving here with excitement.”
Donaire’s fight with Vazquez Jr. is just over five weeks away, leaving one to wonder if Donaire will have enough time to prepare adequately heading into the contest.
Most training camps on the world-class level last at least two full months but Donaire has been maintaining his weight well and is coming back from a trip to Japan where he spent some time sparring at the Teiken Gym.
The Fil-Am star also feels that the move up in weight to 122 pounds will allow him to focus more on a game plan for this specific contest as opposed to past camps.
“I’m in decent shape now,” Donaire claimed. “It should only take me about three weeks to reach that twelve-round fight and two more weeks to maintain it. I’ll definitely be ready. My condition right now is good. My weight is good, so I don’t really have to focus on losing the weight like I did last fight.”