LAS VEGAS – Nonito Donaire is in the corner rather than the ring this weekend, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to swap his boxing gloves for a coach’s spit bucket just yet – not completely, anyway.

The future Hall of Famer has been training Australian middleweight challenger Michael Zerafa ahead of his WBA title fight with Cuba’s Erislandy Lara at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, and Donaire is confident about his charge’s chances. 

“He’s a great fighter,” the Filipino icon said of Zerafa. “He’s actually the first guy I have taught and he gets it, his body gets it, and the thing was before he never had the experience that I am giving him now – all the knowledge I’m giving him. I know from seeing him and the way he was performing in all the sparring and stuff like that, he is a different Michael Zerafa and he will be devastating. He will go out there, prove himself to the world and he will be the new world champion.”

Lara is a veteran champion, highly-rated and he’s lost just three of 33 contests. He is known for his defensive acumen, but is a spiteful hitter, too. Donaire was bullish when asked about whether Zerafa might be able to unlock the Cuban veteran’s guard.

“If we can hit you, you may be able to block one, two, three or maybe four, but not 20,” he smiled. “I think he [Lara]’s a great fighter. I think that’s why we took everything in camp seriously, to be prepared in every way for this fight.”

Donaire is still an active fighter, although at 41 he is almost a decade older than his boxer, but says he has had no trouble getting through to the middleweight contender, and that Zerafa has been a willing student. 

“[I’m] ten years older, so that’s big for boxing,” Donaire added. “But I see that we’re like brothers and we have respect for each other. Sometimes we get into each other’s faces, and sometimes we don’t. Ultimately, we have each other’s back. I’m training a lot of fighters now; this is going to be my first world champion. I know that.”

Donaire, however, contends he still has plenty of fuel left in the tank for his own fighting career. The Filipino star has won 42 of his 50 fights and lost his last bout in July, at the same T-Mobile, when outhustled by Alex Santiago on the Terence Crawford-Errol Spence bill.

“I’m still going to go for it, man. One hundred per cent,” Donaire said, of his ring future. “When that opportunity comes… I know Sunny Edwards was calling me out, I can drop down in weight, whatever you want, or you want to come up in weight? Let’s do it. Of course, there’s Takuma Inoue, there’s [Jason] Moloney, there’s a lot of people I’m reaching out to to get that fight.”

Edwards and Donaire traded social media barbs after the Englishman called for a fight with South Africa’s IBF light flyweight champion Sivenathi Nontshinga having avenged the only loss of his career, defeating Adrian Curiel in Mexico last month.

Donaire was speaking up on behalf of his countryman Christian Araneta who, according to the IBF, is next in line for Nontshinga. Donaire abruptly told Edwards to wait his turn.

“I’m open to that,” Donaire said, of a potential fight with the former IBF flyweight champion. “If he wants to make it happen since he wants that fight, let’s make it happen. Me, I was just backing up my wife [Rachel, who also spoke up for Araneta] like, ‘Hey, you cannot be jumping people in line just because of what you did or whatever.’ He should know that, and I’ve got respect for all the champions and all the fighters, but when it comes down to it, I’m going to protect my fighter.”

Donaire was frustrated in the Santiago fight last July, and while he did not want to take credit away from the winner, indicated that all was not well behind the scenes going into the bout and pledged, “When I do come back, you’ll see a big difference.”

There have been no thoughts of retirement, Donaire added.

“One hundred per cent, this is what I love doing,” Donaire said, of fighting on. “Every moment that I wake up I’m in that gym training and eager to fight, you’ll see me as long as I can [do it].”

Has he got a timeframe in mind?

“As long as it takes. It could be tomorrow, it could be next month, it could be next year, it could be 10 years from now. I’m still aiming to beat B-Hop’s record. That’s what I’m aiming to do.”

Philadelphia icon Bernard Hopkins was 46-years-old when he became the oldest man to win a world title, but this week Donaire’s focus is not on his own record-breaking future but on the biggest night of Zerafa’s life.

“I get nervous,” Donaire said, of the difference in roles from being inside the ring to being outside it. “I wish I could get in there because when I get there I don’t get nervous and when I see my fighter I get a little bit nervous.”