Nordine Oubaali has made the most of the 18-plus months he has spent out of the ring.

His upcoming challenger, Nonito Donaire has used that same downtime to fully recharge his 38-year-old body

The former four-division titlist aims to become a three-time bantamweight titlist as he faces France’s Oubaali this Saturday, live on Showtime from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The bout marks the first time either of them step into the ring since appearing in separate bouts on the same November 2019 show in Saitama, Japan.

“I’ve learned a lot in my habits in training. I always train very hard. The difference was in sparring, I took everything lightly in the past,” Donaire insisted during a recent interview on The PBC Podcast with co-hosts Kenneth Bouhairie and Michael Rosenthal. “I took it as work. I was always in tremendous shape but the killer instinct was not something I developed for many years now.

“The killer instinct allowed me to grow even more and re-learn all the things I had not applied That viciousness and the urge of growing. I am aiming for that viciousness. No mercy.”

The two were supposed to collide last May only for the coronavirus to ruin those plans. Efforts to get them back in the ring last December were ruined when both boxers wound up testing positive for COVID-19.

Once the fight made its way back to the schedule, both took the gym to prepare. Oubaali (17-0, 12KOs) is convinced he will pick up where he last left off—turning away challengers just as did to then-unbeaten Takuma Inoue more than 18 months ago.

Donaire isn’t looking for another valiant-in-defeat effort like the one that took place in his Fight of the Year-level loss to Naoya Inoue. Instead, the intention is to greater resemble the version that stormed through Vic Darchinyan to win his first championship nearly 14 years ago and Fernando Montiel to become bantamweight king ten years ago.

“I’ve always been a very healthy guy, always in the gym. I’ve upped that more,” claims Donare. “I’ve been eating healthier. Most of all, my mental health. The biggest thing when you get older is experience. Without that mental health, you succumb to time. You succumb to the complacency of doing it for quite some time.

“With self-help development, it allowed me to be very excited and add purpose to being inside that ring instead of thinking about another exit. It allowed me to be excited and grow into a different fighter. You guys will be wondering, ‘Is this guy 20 years old?’”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox