Nonito Donaire and Fernando Montiel, who fight on Feb. 19 in Las Vegas on HBO, have a lot of respect for one another but aren’t afraid to criticize their opponent.
Donaire said Montiel is the most-complete fighter he has faced but not necessarily the toughest. Montiel complimented Donaire on his sensational performance against Wladimir Sidorenko in December but qualified his praise.
That’s how confident the fighters are.
“Montiel has experience,” Donaire said on a conference call Tuesday. “This is more strategic. He’s the smartest guy I’ve ever faced. Toughness? Relentlessness? I’ve faced guys much tougher than that.”
He went on.
“I also have my own advantage in height and speed. And I think I’m a better strategist than Montiel is. Everyone has his flaws and strengths. Definitely Montiel has his strength in experience. I also have my strengths.”
Montiel was also polite but pointed when asked about the Donaire-Sidorenko fight, which Donaire won by a spectacular fourth-round knockout.
“He did impress me,” Montiel said. “He looked great against Sidorenko. But I’m not Sidorenko. Sidorenko stood in front of him and did nothing. You have to take that into consideration too.
“I won’t be standing in front of him. I’ll be moving around, doing my job. It’s a good fight. I think our styles match up well.”
Montiel went on.
“He obviously has a lot of speed. He’s an intelligent fighter. The question to me is how he’ll react when he faces a guy just as intelligent, just as strong, just as good as he is. That’s the question.”
We’ll have answers to many questions on Feb. 19.
Garcia’s take: Robert Garcia, Donaire’s trainer, also is bursting with confidence
He even suggested that the Montiel could resemble his fighter’s demolition of Sidorenko.
“People in Oxnard (Calif.) said to me, ‘Oh, (Sidorenko) is a bum to get ready for Montiel,’” Garcia said. “I said, ‘No, this guy is a former Olympian, a former champion. It won’t be easy.’ Well, the technique and style Nonito has made it look so easy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing (against Montiel). He’s a hell of a fighter. I’ve followed his career; I admire his work. He’s a three-time world champion. … It could turn into a fight that just goes our way.”
The future: Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, was asked what might be next for Donaire (25-1, 17 knockouts) if he beats Montiel (44-2-2, 34 KOs).
The possibilities are many, particularly because Donaire will fight at 118 pounds or 122 in the near future and possibly beyond that later.
“There are so many great options,” he said. “If he stays at bantamweight, there’s the (Abner) Mares-(Joseph) Agbeko winner. If he goes up to 122, we have two 122-pound champions at Top Rank, (Steve) Molitor and (Wilfredo) Vazquez. And he’s going to keep moving up.
“We have killer featherweights, Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa. We have fighters for him to fight.”
That’s for sure. And, presumably, the same would hold true if Montiel were to win.
New and improved: Montiel was asked about his most-recent loss, a split-decision against Jhonny Gonzalez in 2006 that he attributed to a bad style matchup.
He also said he consciously changed his style after that fight, becoming more assertive. The result: He’s 11-0-1 (with nine knockouts) against stiff opposition since that night, an indication that he is peaking past the age of 30. The only blemish was a technical draw against Alejandro Valdez, the result of a cut.
Coincidentally, Montiel’s fight against Gonazlez was his last on HBO.
“I did feel I needed to do something after that fight,” he said. “I changed my style, I became more aggressive. I wanted to give people a better show, a better fight. I think that’s what I’ve done.
“My style is better. I think everything is better about me. I think I’ve shown that in my fights.”
Pound for pound: Donaire has been modest about the perception of him as one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound.
He suggested that he might not have the resume to claim a spot on a Top-10 list. However, he said that no one could deny him his due if he were to win on Feb. 19.
“(A victory) would skyrocket my marketability,” he said. “I would get bigger fights. Everyone would probably go after me. When you’re on top, that’s what usually comes out of it. And I’ll really put my stamp, my name with the pound-for-pound Top 10 guys.
“No one can take that away from me after Montiel.”
Tickets: Tickets for the fight, at Mandalay Bay, remain on sale. Prices range from $25 to $250.