By Chris Robinson
Last week, trainer Robert Garcia was spotted in Las Vegas, Nevada, overseeing the duties of one of his star pupils, Nonito Donaire.
The once-beaten Donaire, widely-regarded as one of the top five fighters in the world, is moving up the junior featherweight class for a February 4th collision with former champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Donaire faces the brash Puerto Rican on HBO’s airwaves in San Antonio, Texas, with the vacant WBO belt on the line.
As Donaire went through the motions prior to his workout inside of the Top Rank Gym, I had a few words with Garcia about some storylines revolving in the sport.
The first figure that came to mind was that of Garcia’s fighter Brandon Rios, who last month lost his WBA lightweight crown on the scales after coming in slightly overweight for his December 3rd clash with Manchester’s John Murray. While Rios would end up pounding Murray out in eleven heats, his future had several question marks around it afterwards as it was wondered if the strain of making 135 pounds was taking its toll on him.
Garcia confirmed that Rios, possibly in hopes of landing a shot at Cuban marvel Yuriorkis Gamboa later in the year, is going to try to stick around the lightweight class a bit longer.
“That’s what we’re doing,” said Garcia. “We’re trying to get him with a special nutritionist, somebody feeding him and making sure he does it the right way. And if we see that he’s strong enough to make it one or two more times, then we’ll do it.”
Garcia added that Rios has been working with his nutritionist since a little after Christmas and signs are pointing to the exuberant former champion possibly meeting up with John Molina on March 3rd in Southern California.
Other news on the agenda was that of Floyd Mayweather’s recent callout of Manny Pacquiao, as he took to his personal Twitter account and pleaded for his rival to meet him for his May 5th return to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The two fighters have been linked together for a few years now and Garcia feels that the Filipino star should show some kind of reaction to Mayweather’s latest antics.
“I heard about it. What can I say? Mayweather is calling him out, so do it. May 5th is the perfect date and I don’t know why Pacquiao wouldn’t do it,” said Garcia.
If the Mayweather fight doesn’t come off, the names of former Pacquiao foes Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto, as well as Lamont Peterson and Timothy Bradley had been offered. Pacquiao apparently came to a decision between those four recently but Garcia has someone particular in mind.
“Those are all good opponents for Pacquiao,” Garcia explained. “I would say Cotto would be the last one in my mind because he already beat him and it wasn’t even close. Peterson makes a lot of sense because he just beat Amir Khan and had a great win, but it looks like they might have to do the rematch with Amir Khan. I’d say Bradley would have to be my first choice.”
Touching back to his work with Donaire, I had remembered when I first spoke to Garcia in late December that he had seen little of Vazquez outside of his upset loss to Jorge Arce this past May and was in the process of getting some tapes of him. A few weeks later and Garcia, having witnessed ‘WV2’ in action a bit more thoroughly, certainly feels that Donaire has his work cut out for him.
“I already have and he’s a warrior, a great fighter,” said Garcia of Vazquez. "He boxes when he has to box and he has great power. So we’re in there against a real, dangerous opponent.”