By Ryan Songalia
Everyone expected Nonito Donaire Jr. to make weight for his first - and last - bantamweight title defense. No one expected him to be so light, however.
Donaire, wearing boxers with the logo of comic book hero "The Flash" in accordance with his nickname "The Filipino Flash," raised concerns of overtraining when he tipped the scales at the surprisingly low tally of 116.25 pounds for his Saturday night’s clash undefeated Argentine champion Omar Narvaez at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Donaire's weight was his lightest among his three fights at bantamweight. After coming in right at the bantamweight limit of 118 for each of his past two fights, Donaire checked in closer to the 115 lb. super-flyweight limit.
Narvaez, who is moving up to bantamweight after winning world titles at 112 and 115 pounds, weighed in slightly heavier at 117 pounds.
Donaire, 26-1 (18 KO) of San Leandro, Calif., by way of Bohol, Philippines is currently rated number four by Ring Magazine's pound for pound list, while the 36-year-old Narvaez, 36-0-2 (19 KO) of Cordoba, Argentina is generally considered to be the best fighter at 115 pounds.
After making weight, Donaire was brisked away by his team to quickly rehydrate, as his assistant coach and former world champion Morris East waited with Donaire's ritual meal of green bananas and chicken soup after every weigh-in.
Donaire's low weight seemed to peak the confidence of Narvaez's manager Sebastian Rivera, who said Narvaez had no issues with weight.
"Have you seen him? At the weigh-in he was really tired," said Rivera. "But tomorrow is another day. Nonito is a very professional man and for sure he'll be good in the fight."
Donaire's head trainer Roberto Garcia didn't appear to be outwardly concerned. He explained that his fighter was a pound and a half over the limit an hour before the weigh-in and lost excess water weight.
"He just had too much water and more than enough came out," said Garcia, himself a former world champion. "It's not because we overtrained or anything. He started shadowboxing and sweating and sweated a little more than he was supposed to."
Garcia said that Donaire was 124 pounds last night, which was confirmed by iconic Filipino boxing journalist Ronnie Nathanielsz, who was standing near-by. Garcia said he expected Donaire to enter the ring tomorrow night between 128 and 130 pounds.
Among the observers in attendance at the intimate weigh-in were former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who shares the same promoter (Top Rank) and manager (Cameron Dunkin) as Donaire. Pavlik and Donaire have known each other since their amateur days, when both competed in the United State Olympic trials in 1999.
"Right now he's on top of his game," said Pavlik, who, like Donaire has clashed with Top Rank in recent months, only to reconcile shortly after. "I think it'll be interesting for the first couple of rounds, but then I see Donaire pulling away pretty quick."
Another – and perhaps more interested - spectator at the weigh-in was former featherweight champ Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico, who may be an attractive opponent for Donaire in the near future as Donaire ascends the scales.
"That would definitely be a big fight for Madison Square Garden," said Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters. "Nonito is blessed with a huge number of fighters in the bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight divisions. He's not going to lack for really good opponents."
Donaire's next fight, rumored to be in January, will likely be against WBO super bantamweight champion Jorge Arce, 58-6-2 (45 KO), of Mexico or Japan's Toshiaki Nishioka, 39-4-2 (24 KO), who is the claimant to the WBC super bantamweight title.
When asked about what he anticipated for tomorrow's turnout, Arum said he expects about 90% capacity for the 4,500-seat venue.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.
By Ryan Songalia