By Francisco Salazar
When Nonito Donaire signed a promotional contract with Top Rank in 2008, his goal was to win continue winning world title belts.
That goal has been fulfilled numerous times as he was won world titles in five different weight classes.
Another goal Donaire had was to fight on the same cards as Manny Pacquiao. That did not happen right away and Donaire wondered whether that dream would become a reality.
It finally, albeit eight years after he signed with Top Rank.
Donaire realizes that dream tonight, but also faces an unbeaten fighter when he defends his WBO junior featherweight world title belt against Jessie Magdaleno at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
The 12 round bout will precede the welterweight showdown between Pacquiao and WBO titleholder Jessie Vargas. Both fights will air live on a pay-per-view, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs) has won his last four bouts since being stopped by Nicholas Walters in October of 2014. In his last bout on April 23, the Filipino-American dominated Zsolt Bedak before stopping him in round three.
Donaire is facing his mandatory challenger in Magdaleno, who enters the bout unbeaten, but has yet to face the opposition Donaire has faced. The fight will likely be the most competitive on the Top Rank-produced pay-per-view.
While his father Glen will always be in his corner, Donaire recently began working with trainer Ismael Salas.
“I have an incredible coach in Ismael Salas,” Donaire told Boxingscene.com recently. “He's bringing a lot out of me. I feel great at 122 (pounds). I'm the same size as the other fighters in the division.”
Tonight will mark a milestone for Donaire. The ‘Legend versus Champion’ card will mark the first time Donaire will fight on a Pacquiao undercard.
It has been a goal for Donaire, but both fighters sharing a bill has been a dream for Filipinos for many years.
After several years of waiting and anticipation, Donaire will finally realize his dream.
“We've wanted to fight on a (Pacquiao) undercard,” said Donaire, who now resides in Las Vegas. “One of the reasons (why) we signed (with Top Rank) in 2008 was to fight on the same cards with Manny. How it came about this time was my wife (Rachel) was adamant about it. She said (to Top Rank), ‘You need to give him a fight or be in breach of contract.' Something like that. She made the magic happen.”
“I thought that was going to be a great gift to the fans, especially the Filipino fans around the world who have dreamed about us being on the same card. Now that this has happened, it's great and I'm grateful for it.”
Donaire may not be the same explosive fighter he was between 2008-2012, when he was dominating the bantamweight and junior featherweight divisions.
His war against Cesar Juarez on Dec. 11 prompted some in boxing to wonder whether Donaire had slowed considerably as the Mexican fighter tagged Donaire repeatedly during the fight.
Could Magdaleno be catching Donaire at the right time? Donaire does not think so.
“I know I've been hit more than usual in recent years. It has to do with the desire that I have in boxing. Then I started to reevaluate everything (after the Walters fight) and I had to find that desire and determination all over again.”
“The longevity is still going to be there because I'm going to be smart and use my head for a lot of things. I'm going to utilize the experience I have in boxing. I've been blessed with great opportunities and with great people behind me to make the fights happen and getting all the victories.”
Should he come out victorious against Magdaleno tonight, Donaire wants to continue fighting the best at 122 pounds.
“Everybody and anybody. I'm always the type of person to face fighters for their titles or for me to defend my title. I've never backed down from anybody.”
After 15 years in the sport, Donaire still has the drive and motivation to want to be the best in the sport. He realizes now more than ever what is needed to maintain his longevity in the sport.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing