By Ryan Maquiñana
With several hundreds in attendance packing in the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos, Calif., unified bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire held court at his first of two public workout days leading into his Oct. 22 title defense against Argentina’s Omar Narvaez at New York City’s Madison Square Garden Theater.
“I love to be here at home in the Bay Area,” Donaire said. “It brings me great excitement to be able to work out in front of the fans who have been supporting me for so long.
“It will be my last fight at bantamweight, and I haven’t seen too much film on Narvaez, I will be ready by October 22,” “The challenges up there are better at the 22’s, and there are guys like Arce and Nishioka…and maybe we can move up to featherweight and fight ‘El Ciclon’ (Yuriorkis Gamboa).”
After a candid Q & A session with the fans while trainer Robert Garcia wrapped his hands, Donaire sparred for the full 12 rounds, eight with unbeaten junior featherweight Roman Morales and another four with another 122-pounder, Jamal Parram.
“He’s pretty fast and changes his punches a lot from an uppercut to a hook,” Morales said. “Him and Eloy Perez are the fastest I’ve ever sparred. Eloy’s got a fast jab, but with Nonito, all his punches are fast.”
“You learn a lot when you spar Nonito,” Parram said. “He’s so patient in there and it’s amazing to see him think inside the ring.”
Garcia also reflected on the sparring, which he hoped would give Donaire a good taste of the southpaw style. Narvaez, a lefty who employs a strong lead left hand and tricky right hook in his arsenal, will not be overlooked if you ask the celebrated trainer.
“He’s got a lot of experience,” Garcia said of Narvaez. “I think this guy is one of those that likes to take the fight to the later rounds, so we have to be ready for that, too. Overall Nonito was impressive. He always takes a 30-second break in between rounds. My guys always do the minute break, but he does it because he recovers so easy.”
“I came up here because I wanted to see him train, so it’s my first time seeing him spar,” said the trainer’s nephew, lightweight prospect Javier “Pelos” Garcia. “He looked very strong and fast for his weight class.”
As consultant Victor Conte looked on, Donaire worked the pads with strength and conditioning coach Mike Bazzel and assistant trainer Brian Schwartz for a few more rounds. Team Donaire donned black and pink T-shirts, and Nonito revealed the reason why.
“We’re campaigning for breast cancer research,” he told BoxingScene. “I’ll be wearing black and pink trunks with my black Everlast gloves in the ring, too.”
After conducting interviews with several media outlets from the local ABC affiliate to Philippine News, Donaire interacted with the fans on a closer level, inviting them to do plyometric drills with him.
“I thought it was great he was talking to the fans,” said fight fan Aaron Shaw of Daly City. “He was really personable, and not every boxer does that. It was a good experience for everyone who came.”
While Donaire capped the afternoon by posing for photographs and signing autographs for every fan who lined up, his wife Rachel revealed how this Saturday came to fruition.
“We’ll hire security, merchandising, and a lot of food is provided by sponsors, like Wingstop,” she said. “The drinks were provided by Coca-Cola. The alcohol was provided by VuQo. So there’s a lot of people who pitch into the event and then all we do is social media…and it becomes like a huge social event. It’s more family-oriented than it is for a [regular] media event.”
She also touched on their busy schedule over the next two months, which includes a church wedding in the Philippines in November following the Narvaez fight. However, up next is a second public workout at Gleason’s Gym in New York on Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.
“[Nonito]’s holding something exactly like this where fans and media can come, just have fun, get to know each other, and hopefully N.Y.C. can be just as beautiful as the Bay,” Mrs. Donaire said.
Of course, with her husband’s meteoric rise in recent years, it’s all part of the territory now. With the boxing world buzzing about his prospects of becoming a five-weight world champion one day, Donaire is fully cognizant of what lies ahead, and he embraces it. However, it all starts with beating Narvaez.
“The Filipino Flash is never backing down from a good fight,” he said. “I’ll fight anybody out there…but I always respect my opponent, and I know I have to win this fight first.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. He’s a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.