By Robert Morales
Nonito Donaire will be in the most important fight of his career when he challenges Fernando Montiel for his two bantamweight world championship belts on Feb. 19 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (on HBO). During a telephone interview from his training camp in San Carlos, Calif., on Tuesday, Donaire spoke about that fight and what it means to him.
Aside from all of that, Donaire wanted to make it clear that he has no problem whatsoever with countryman Manny Pacquiao. It was reported on BoxingScene.com recently that Donaire was tentatively slated to fight on the undercard of Pacquiao's fight against Antonio Margarito in November in Texas, but that he allegedly was pulled off the card at the behest of Pacquiao's adviser, Michael Koncz.
According to Donaire, Koncz did not like it when Donaire refused to sign with Pacquiao's MP Promotions and that's why he was not allowed to fight on the aforementioned card. Koncz helps Pacquiao run his promotional company.
"He (Koncz) is disappointed in me not signing with him," said Donaire, who, like Pacquiao, fights under the Top Rank Inc. banner. "He approached me and I said no."
Donaire said he doesn't believe Pacquiao knew what was going on.
Donaire's wife, Rachel, said that they had dinner with Pacquiao's godfather, Chavit Singson, in Japan recently and that they asked Singson about it. Singson called Pacquiao and Pacquiao apparently told Singson - a politician in the Philippines - that he indeed did not know.
Therefore, Donaire said he has no beef at all with Pacquiao.
"Of course not," said Donaire, who said he will always support Pacquiao. "I have no grudge. For me, I'm here, I'm still going to fight. I'm pleased to be fighting with Montiel. I wish it was on Manny's undercard. Regardless of what goes on, the man (Pacquiao) is busy."
Donaire noted that Pacquiao has an acting career, a singing career and a political career on top of boxing and that he can't know everything that is going on with MP Promotions.
"To complain to him and to whine to him is not something that I want to do to give him more problems," Donaire said.
Bob Arum, chairman of Top Rank, on Wednesday confirmed that it was Koncz who asked him to keep Donaire off that card.
"Yes, they only wanted fighters that they promote, that MP Promotions promotes," Arum said. "I accommodated them that way because they were entitled to a number of Philippine spots on the card and I put some of the other guys off TV."
Fight of His Life
Regardless of his accomplishments - he's won titles in two divisions already - Donaire believes there are still plenty of people out there who don't want to give him the credit he deserves. A win over Montiel would stifle all of the doubters.
"This is the biggest fight of my career at this time," said Donaire, 28, who moved from the Philippines to San Leandro, Calif., when he was 10. "I'm fighting a guy who has been there for quite a while. This guy can be a Hall of Famer when he's done with boxing. His only defeats are to guys who were world champions."
Montiel, 31, is 44-2-2 with 34 knockouts. His two losses were to Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson (majority decision) in August 2003 and Jhonny Gonzalez (split decision) in May 2006.
"This is one of the things that would give me all the confidence, that I do belong in in here and belong with the top guys - when I beat this guy," Donaire said. "This is really important to me to be able to stay in boxing."
Interestingly, Donaire said he feels no nervousness about a fight that can define him more than any other has to this point - his spectacular knockout of Vic Darchinyan in July 2007 notwithstanding.
"No, I'm actually really excited for this fight," Donaire said. "I usually feel a little bit of butterflies. Maybe when I walk into the ring. But for now I'm really looking forward to this fight. It's like do or die, all or nothing and I'm ready to give it my all."
And if he wins, there will be no more wondering how good Donaire has become.
"I think that the big boys will notice what I'm capable of, what I bring to the table, what I bring to the audience," said Donaire, who is 25-1 with 17 knockouts. "I think it will definitely get my name out there as one of the elite. There will be no more doubters left out there if I get past Montiel.
"There are plenty out there who are doubting my ability as a champion and that's fine. It's up to me to prove to them. Once I take Montiel down, then that is more of a sweet victory."
Donaire said this scenario is like deja vu for him. He said nobody realized what he was capable of doing when he entered the Darchinyan fight.
"In a way, it's great to prove them wrong," he said.
Arum said a victory by Donaire would pay huge dividends for the fighter nicknamed "The Filipino Flash."
"I think it would establish him as the best bantamweight in the world, having beaten a Hall of Fame fighter," Arum said.
Arum said it would also enable Donaire to move into the higher weight classes such as super bantamweight and featherweight with even better credentials than he has now.
Doesn't Mind Playing Second Fiddle
Donaire was asked what he thinks about being in Pacquiao's shadow. He said there is no jealously whatsoever.
"He is the first guy from the Philippines to really make the country proud," Donaire said. "If I do the best I can with the ability God has given me, I'm satisfied with that."
Besides, Donaire said, "Who can be compared to Manny right now?"
What's The Appeal on Cotto-Mayorga?
Arum was speaking via telephone from New York City, where he helped play host to a news conference formally announcing the March 12 fight between junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto and former two-division champion Ricardo Mayorga at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime pay-per-view).
Mayorga has fought just once - he stopped Michael Walker in the ninth round last month - since being knocked out by "Sugar" Shane Mosley in September 2008. Arum was asked what the attraction is for Cotto-Mayorga.
"That people know that as long as the fight goes, it's going to be an entertaining battle," said Arum, who promotes Cotto. "It's going to be a bang-bang kind of fight.
Mayorga is very dangerous because of his power punching and against a guy like Oscar (De La Hoya) or Shane Mosley, it was difficult for him to utilize his power punching because they moved so well.
"Now he is in with a fighter like Miguel, who is a bruising fighter himself and doesn't move with the grace of a Mosley or an Oscar did a number of years ago. Mayorga is in there with a real good puncher's chance. It really is styles that make fights."
Bradley Knows What Fight Means
A week from Saturday - on Jan. 29 - Timothy Bradley will take on fellow welterweight champion Devon Alexander at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich. Bradley is in a similar situation to Donaire in that there are still those experts out there who wonder if he is really as good as the hype.
A victory over Alexander could lead to even bigger fights for Bradley, and he told BoxingScene.com recently that he realizes the totality of the situation.
"There is a lot of added pressure due to the fact this fight could put me on the brink of greatness," Bradley said. "I have worked very hard to get to this position and now it's time to put up or shut up. I want to show the world what I'm capable of doing."
Berto-Ortiz Would Share HBO Bill With Khan
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said he had just gotten off the phone with Lou DiBella, promoter for welterweight champion Andre Berto. Schaefer and DiBella are in talks for a fight between Berto and Victor Ortiz that would also take place April 16.
"We met with Victor and he is interested in that fight," Schaefer said of Ortiz, a junior welterweight whose highest weight for a fight has been 144 pounds; welterweight is 147. "Amir would be fighting in the U.K. on April 16 and then HBO would take the delay of that fight and pair it up with the live fight with Berto and Victor."
Schaefer said no site has been agreed upon, but that DiBella is hopeful of it taking place somewhere on the West Coast.
Bantamweight Tournament To Los Angeles
Showtime's bantamweight tournament finals will take place April 23 at Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, Schaefer said. Abner Mares will take on Joseph Agbeko for the title while Yonnhy Perez and Darchinyan will battle for the consolation prize.
Mosley-Pacquiao Tour Begins Next Month
Arum said the first of many news conferences formally announcing the Pacquiao-Mosley fight slated for May 7 at MGM Grand will be Feb. 10 in Los Angeles. Other stops will include Las Vegas, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
Every year about this time yours truly selects the winner of the annual Donald Tremblay Award for excellence in boxing public relations. As has been stated in the past, without the many men and women doing PR work, us writers would have a much more difficult time getting all the good stuff to readers.
This award was named for former Main Events publicist Donald Tremblay, who always went above and beyond the call of duty. This year's winner is Lee Samuels, the longtime in-house publicist for Arum's Top Rank Inc.
Samuels has always been good at his job, but he has stepped up his game in recent years. Prior to this award - now in its fifth year - Tremblay was about the only publicist who would stay on press row while writers were filing their deadline stories after the main event. He would make sure the production crews from either HBO or Showtime did not interfere with us - and believe this, they often did; fisticuffs almost broke out once between writers and HBO workers, who often would pull electrical plugs and tear down tables on top of reporters desperately trying to meet their respective deadlines.
Samuels has become a protector now, too. But it's more than that. He has a passion for his job that is very obvious, and he has become more of a reporter's publicist than ever before. If he gives you a number for a connection to a boxer, he will call later in the day to make sure that connection was made. It sounds simple, but not all PR people do that. Not all have the time.
Samuels is also very tough when he has to be. At a card last month at Honda Center in Anaheim featuring Donaire against Volodymyr Sydorenko, a member of Sydorenko's camp was trying to videotape the fight. It was a Top Rank pay-per-view card, which means there were copyright issues. Samuels was all over this guy, who grudgingly stopped taping after being hounded by Samuels.
Furthermore, anyone who has had to work for Arum for so many years deserves some kind of accolade. From everything we've heard, Arum runs a very tight ship at Top Rank.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram and BoxingScene.com