By T.K. Stewart (photo by FightWireImages)
The weigh-in process, held in the Shimmer Showroom at the Las Vegas Hilton for the Pinoy Power 3/Latin Fury 13 pay-per-view card, was supposed to have begun yesterday afternoon somewhere between 3:00pm and 3:15pm.
But by the time 3:45pm came and went there was still no sign of the ‘A’ side of the main event - Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire. These well orchestrated affairs usually begin at the appointed time, which led to speculation that Donaire was somewhere behind the dark curtain or still locked in a sauna making a valiant attempt to sweat off the last few ounces he would need to in order to make the 115-pound weight limit ahead of his title bout tonight against last-minute sub Manuel Vargas.
The 350-seat Shimmer Showroom is the new home of comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay, who began a 28-week run here last week, but the situation with Nonito Donaire and his problems in making weight is no laughing matter. He was 123 pounds on Tuesday morning before a run the UNLV outdoor track, which meant that with only three days to go - he still needed to drop eight pounds.
He has been surviving on nothing more than soup, apples and bananas in the days that have led up to this fight. His original opponent, Gerson Guerrero, fell out Wednesday after failing an eye exam. A couple of hours later, Top Rank, Inc. who is the promoter of tonight’s marathon card, found Manuel Vargas somewhere in Mexico. It just so happened that he had been training for another bout, also scheduled for tonight. Promoter Bob Arum said of Vargas, “He jumped at the chance.”
Donaire finally did arrive Friday at 3:55pm, nearly an hour late, but it would be another 10 minutes or so before he stripped down to his shorts and stepped onto the scales. Despite all of the uncertainty regarding whether he would be able to boil his 27-year-old body down to the super-flyweight limit - he made the 115 pound mark on his first try.
“I just want to fight - it doesn’t matter who - bring on anyone,” said a dried out looking Donaire who claims he began training for tonight’s bout two months ago. “I feel Guerrero’s pain at having to drop out. He’s a true warrior and I know that he trained really hard for me and I know he was ready. But I’m ready for Vargas now.”
Arum, who never tires of singing the praises of the fighters in his vast Filipino stable says of Donaire, “He’s a fan favorite. He is a terrific, terrific craftsman - and a great fighter.”
It is difficult to argue with Arum. Donaire, with a record of 22-1, 14 knockouts, has begun to find his way onto boxing’s pound-for-pound lists. He is one of the best young fighters in the world and should he continue to remain focused he may be able to go on to win titles in several more weight divisions. His lanky frame holds weight easily, he claims he walks around at 140 pounds and believes he will one day fight as high as featherweight or super featherweight. If Filipino countryman and world's best fighter, Manny Pacquiao decides to pursue a career in politics, Donaire is the Philippine heir apparent.
“I’m just hoping that the fight is going to be a good one,” said Donaire who has two prominent, pierced ears that stick out from under his cap. He is as well-spoken a fighter as you will ever meet. He is also a God fearing man.
“I’m ready to show my heart as a fighter, as a Filipino fighter and as someone who loves the sport,” he says. “I think whoever trains hard, whoever has a good coach and whoever believes in God can be as good as they can be.”
Donaire is trying to be as good as he can be. For this fight, he says it’s the first time he has ever reached twelve rounds in sparring.
“I worked really hard for this camp and everything has been covered. Power, speed, everything - so I am very confident,” he says. “You can never stop learning in this game and I’m still learning. I want to be the best.”
As a flyweight and now super-flyweight, Donaire is naturally fast and he has extremely quick reflexes. He is attempting to perfect the southpaw stance and his hope is that he will someday be as effective fighting as a lefty as he is as a righty. He is not shy about admitting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make the 115-pound weight limit - but even at that anemic weight he has explosive type power on his shots.
And while Donaire is as friendly and endearing a fighter as you will meet, he has a mean streak in him that fuels his success and ambition.
“If I get the opportunity, I’m going to take my opponent out,” he says. “As a fighter, that’s something I always want to do. There’s no better win than a knockout win. In my fights, whenever I get the chance for a knockout victory - I go for it. Hopefully, I can take this guy out and I’m going to give it all I got.”
Nonito Donaire can’t wait.
In the Corners
Nice to see the Las Vegas Hilton back in the boxing game. It is the largest Hilton hotel in the world and it has a long and storied history in the sport. It was where Floyd Mayweather, Jr. won his first world title from Genaro Hernandez way back in 1998. Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history there in 1986 when he knocked out Trevor Berbick. It was also the setting for the first Muhammad Ali - Leon Spinks bout in 1978. It was also where Sonny Liston lost via brutal knockout to Leotis Martin in 1969, back when it was still known as The International Hotel & Casino. Elvis performed there for 58-straight sold out shows and lived in the penthouse. Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis’ manager) used to live there in the 70s and 80s. Liberace used to play the piano there twice a night and they paid him $300,000 a week to do so…Nice to see David Diaz vs. Humberto Soto added to the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard next month in Dallas. It’s a good match-up between two solid pros and because both guys always come to fight it promises to be entertaining. Diaz is one of the nicest guys there is in the sport. “Class act” comes to mind whenever I think of him…Too bad that Evander Holyfield continues to get himself into situations that are unflattering. From the on-and-off foreclosure of his home, alleged steroid purchases, child support issues and now the latest - alleged abuse of his third wife - the news just never gets any better for “The Real Deal” whose once squeaky clean image has been soiled forever.