Pinoy pride is on the line when Nonito Donaire and Reymart Gaballo meet in a battle between Filipino boxers on Saturday night at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Showtime.
Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs) will be defending his WBC bantamweight title for the first time since handing Nordine Oubaali his first professional loss via fourth round KO in the same venue in May.
Gaballo (24-0, 20 KOs) is a 25-year-old upstart looking to follow in the footsteps of the fighter he idolized growing up.
“We’re 100% ready. We build up our mental fortitude so we can always push forward and be ready. We’re only as strong as our mind can be,” Donaire said Thursday during a press conference.
“My mental strength is through the moon … I’m here enjoying this moment and every moment I have left in my career. In the gym, I feel like I can do this for another 10 years. I just take it one fight at a time and I’m grateful for every moment of it.
“I’ve faced a lot of top guys with great power like Gaballo has. My experience allows me to have no fear of the power. We’re just focused on our strategy and how I can take advantage of his style.”
Donaire has won titles at 115, 118, 122 and 126 throughout his 20-year career but he said he feels that he’s at the peak of his powers at 118, the division of which he’s exclusively competed in since November 2018. The 2012 fighter of the year has largely revived his career in recent years due to the fact that he’s dropped down in weight.
Even in a losing effort in the 2019 fight of the year against Naoya Inoue, Donaire proved that he still possesses remnants of his pound-for-pound best skills that made him a tour de force in the decade before.
“For me, after the Naoya Inoue fight, I saw that I still had a purpose in this sport. I came in strong against Nordine Oubaali in my last fight because I have that purpose. That purpose is to become undisputed champion of the world,” said Donaire.
The 39-year-old Donaire is a four-division titleholder who should be a first-ballot International Boxing Hall of Fame fighter once his eligibility period comes around three years after he retires.
Gaballo can only dream of such accolades for now. His best win came last December in a highly controversial split decision win over Emmanuel Rodríguez. Nevertheless, Donaire still paid praise to the fighter and countryman 14 years his junior.
“I’m proud that there is another Filipino fighting at this level. I’m happy to be sharing the ring with Reymart. I know he’s very hungry and that he has a big dream, just like everyone in the Philippines. I know that he’s going to be at his best, so I made sure that I’m prepared and at my best as well,” said Donaire.
“Reymart is a really good fighter, but I’m very confident. I have bigger fish to go after following this fight. We’re both going to do our best but victory is the only thing I’m here for.
“This is a gentleman’s sport. It gives credibility to a fighter if he can speak with sportsmanship. It’s not about talking down to other people. I believe the greater man can look into his opponent’s eyes, shake hands with him and then go for the kill when they’re in the ring.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com