THE reception Nonito “The Filipino Flash” received at the grand entrance of the plush Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino last Wednesday clearly showed that he is the star of the show and the main attraction in tonight’s triple world title Top Rank card here in Macau, which has left Las Vegas biting the dust in terms of the staging of major boxing events and entertainment spectacles in the magnificent Cotai Arena.
The arena’s casino, which is burgeoning with gamblers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is both a reflection of the economic growth of China and the attractions the sprawling Venetian and Macau provide.
Simpiwe Vetyeka, the WBA super champion, who won the title when long-reigning featherweight champion Chris John of Indonesia retired at the end of the sixth round in Metro City, Perth, Western Australia late last year following 17 successful title defenses, proved beyond doubt the solid credentials of the South African champion.
Still and all, while Donaire was introduced last and stood in the center, Vetyaka was shunted onto the side, which Nonito himself believes is likely to have made him mad, even though Vetyeka told us he didn’t mind because he acknowledged the fact that Donaire is a four-division champion (counting his WBA super flyweight Interim title) and is the star of the show, which to Vetyeka is a motivating factor.
The South African told us he had picked Donaire even if he was under no obligation to fight him because he wants to beat a fighter with a name and earn a bigger name and recognition for himself.
Vetyeka, who ran on the beach in South Africa and trained hard for three months, is confident he has the tools to beat Donaire which includes—not the big right hand which he is known for, but a surprising left which he claims is just as powerful as his right and which he plans to unleash to the body of Nonito.
All things being considered, this may well be a 50-50 fight as the venerable HBO Sports boxing analyst Larry Merchant has predicted. That’s because nobody knows what Nonito Donaire will show up tonight.
Personally, we would have liked to see Nonito train for a longer period than one month. The other thing that has always bothered us—not him or his father/trainer “Dodong” Donaire Sr.—is that Nonito on the eve of the official weigh in was five pounds over the 126 pound limit.
His former trainer and 2012 Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia echoed the confidence of Donaire and his Dad when he said “that’s no problem,” even as we personally frown on the habit of fighters to lose five to six pounds a day before a big fight.
Donaire himself has told us he wants to demonstrate his full potential, but admits he will not be able to do that in this fight because we feel his training camp was too short and when he began in Cebu, he was up to 145 pounds since he loved the food and failed to control his penchant for lechon, crispy pata and the buko shake.
The result was he did some cramming to get into shape for the Vetyeka fight, but to his eternal credit, he worked himself to the bone under the strenuous plyometrics regimen of strength and conditioning coach Nick Curson.
We have never ever seen a fighter train like he did, including the relentless Fighter of the Decade Manny Pacquiao. We got tired simply watching Nonito go through a series of exercises that Curson put him through without ever complaining, which was a tribute to his grim determination to add a fifth world title to his trophy room.
One other aspect that pleased us beyond belief is that the reconciliation between Nonito and his wife Rachel and “Dodong” Donaire is genuine. The respect father and son showed towards each other and their collaboration in drawing up a fight plan, while previewing tapes of Vetyeka’s fights, reminded us so much of Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach which again provides us with an example of a relationship anchored on respect and trust.
Make no mistake about it, Vetyeka has an awkward style and is a worthy champion and Donaire may find he is in a fight of a lifetime. But if he plays it smart, uses his God-given talents of speed and power and puts together combinations while not trying to get drawn into a street brawl with the champion, he should prevail.
As former trainer Robert Garcia told us, Nonito is very smart, very strong, very fast and we too believe if he uses these innate qualities, he should win his coveted fifth world title.
Garcia provided another heartwarming dimension to this fight when he visited Donaire on Wednesday night and spoke to “Dodong,” Nonito’s wife Rachel and the other members of Team Donaire and told him he may not be his trainer at present, but he will continue to support the career of “he Filipino Flash.
In fact, Robert said he will be in Nonito’s corner if he needs him to do anything to help. He added, he would be more than happy to help even as he commended Donaire’s Dad for doing a good job.
Boxing can, at times, be considered a brutal sport. But the happenings in Donaire’s camp and the commendable gesture of Garcia once again prove that boxing is a sport where there are many decent men, which reinforces our faith in the sport and fighters like Pacquiao and Donaire, whose integrity and dedication are a testament to decency and more importantly, a reflection of the best in the Filipino.