GLASGOW, Scotland – Almost two decades of prizefighting and Nonito Donaire looks and sounds like he’s never taken a punch in his life.
“The Filipino Flash” is currently in town, wrapping up media obligations ahead of his WBA bantamweight title challenge against Belfast’s Ryan Burnett at the SSE Hydro on Saturday. The location is new, but the process is more than familiar, after all, the former four-weight world champion will be contesting his 17th title fight.
Donaire (38-5, 24 knockouts) will be in action for the first time since dropping a 12-round unanimous decision to another Belfast native, Carl Frampton, in April. That bout took place at the featherweight limit of 126 pounds and, despite the fact that he performed admirably, the 35-year-old boxer-puncher has decided to make a significant change.
“After the Frampton fight, I realized I didn’t belong in the (featherweight) division,” said Donaire in an interview with The Ring. “Not just my physicality, but I was so small for the weight. I’ve been fighting at featherweight against these bigger guys and I just thought, you know what, I can go back down.
“My promoter, Richard Shaefer, said there was a possibility of fighting in the WBSS and I said to him, ‘I can make it’. There was no doubt in my mind, regardless of the fact that I haven’t fought in this division for seven years. I’ve always been the type of guy who knows his body, and I know how weight functions. If you look at my career, I have never failed to make weight.”
When his World Boxing Super Series place was finally confirmed, Donaire didn’t have to think twice about entering the elimination tournament. A gala draw took place in Moscow in July and the talented veteran was selected by tournament No. 1 seed Ryan Burnett as his quarter-final opponent.
At 26 years old, Burnett, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 118 pounds, is a former unified champion. Unbeaten in 19 fights, the Belfast man habitually saves his best performances for his biggest fights, as evidenced by clear decision wins over Lee Haskins, for the IBF title he has since vacated, and Zhanat Zhakiyanov, for the WBA belt he still holds.
“Ryan is a tough guy and regardless of his experience, he fights like he has a lot of experience,” said Donaire. “We’re not underestimating him in any way, but I have a lot of experience, and I believe I have the size advantage. I will show that on fight night.
“I learned a lot from the Frampton fight. One of the reasons Frampton beat me is that he was able to adjust, and I didn’t. That was one thing we made sure of in this camp, that we would be able to adjust. Ryan has different ways of fighting; he can make it rugged, he can box, he can fight inside. It’s about creating the ability to adjust at any moment.”
Making the necessary adjustments to turn a fight around is a vital attribute that a great fighter must possess. However, the most difficult adjustment for any fighter is to live life without the sport that made them who they are. There are those who feel Donaire should have hung up his gloves by now, but when asked what dragons are left to slay, the former champion stated his position clearly.
“A lot and I still love the sport,” said Donaire with a wide grin on his face. “I know that I’m not going to be doing this after I say I’m done. We don’t reverse time, we keep going, and I don’t ever want to sit and say, ‘I had five more years left.’ No regrets. If I can’t compete with these guys, then it’s time for me to go.
“The fans are in for a great fight on Saturday. I came here mentally and physically ready for a war. I’m here to win and that’s how it’s gotta be. That’s how it will be.”
The winner of the Burnett-Donaire bout will take on WBO bantamweight titleholder Zolani Tete in the WBSS semi-final.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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