FERNANDO MONTIEL vs. NONITO DONAIRE
When: Saturday, Feb. 19
Where: Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
TV: HBO, 9:45 pm. PT/ ET
Weight: Bantamweight (118 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Montiel’s WBC and WBO
Also on the card: Mike Jones vs. Jesus Soto Karass, welterweights, 12 rounds; Mark Melligen vs. Gabriel Martinez, welterweights, 10 rounds; Mike Alvarado vs. Dean Harrison, welterweights, 10 rounds.
Height / Reach: 5-4 (163cm) / 66½ (169cm)
Hometown: Los Mochis, Mexico
Turned pro: 1996
Record: 44-2-2 (34 knockouts)
Trainer: Manuel Montiel Sr. (Fernando’s father)
The Ring rating: No. 1 bantamweight; No. 7 pound for pound
Titles: WBO flyweight (2000-01; vacated); WBO junior bantamweight (2002-03; lost it to Mark Johnson); WBO junior bantamweight (2005-09; vacated); WBO bantamweight (2009-present); WBC bantamweight (2010-present).
Biggest victories: Isidro Garcia, Dec. 15, 2000, TKO 7 (won flyweight title); Pedro Alcazar, June 22, 2002, TKO 6 (won junior bantamweight title); Ivan Hernandez, April 9, 2005, KO 7 (regained junior bantamweight title); Ciso Morales, Feb. 13, 2010, TKO 1 (won bantamweight title); Hozumi Hasegawa, 2010, April 30, TKO 4 (won second bantamweight title).
Losses: Mark Johnson, Aug. 16, 2003, MD 12 (lost in bid for junior bantamweight title); Jhonny Gonzalez, May 27, 2006, SD 12 (lost in bid for bantamweight title).
Height / Reach: 5-6 (168cm) / 68 (173cm)
Hometown: San Leandro, Calif. (born in Philippines)
Nickname: The Filipino Flash
Turned pro: 2001
Record: 25-1 (17 knockouts)
Trainers: Dodie Boy Penalosa, Robert Garcia
The Ring rating: No. 5 bantamweight; No. 5 pound for pound
Titles: IBF flyweight (2007-09; vacated).
Biggest victories: Vic Darchinyan, July 7, 2007, TKO 5 (won flyweight title); Wladimir Sidorenko, Dec. 4, 2010, KO 4 (most-recent fight).
Loss: Rosendo Sanchez, March 10, 2001, UD 5.
Skills: Both fighters can be classified as dynamic boxer-punchers. Both have solid technique, beautiful footwork and make good use of feints to set up fast, powerful and accurate punches and counter punches. Montiel is at his best when he uses lateral movement to control the tempo of a bout while patiently picking his spots to explode offensively. Donaire is at his best when he boxes tall behind a crisp jab and occasionally plants his feet to put together combinations.
Power: Both fighters have healthy KO percentages (Montiel edges Donaire out, 70.83 to 65.38). Donaire has stopped nine of his last 11 opponents, including then-undefeated titleholder Darchinyan and former beltholder Sidorenko. Montiel has also stopped nine of his last 11 foes, including former beltholder Martin Castillo and respected titleholder Hasegawa. (They fought two common opponents — Luis Maldonado and Rafael Concepcion — during those respective fight spans. Donaire stopped Maldonado in eight rounds; Montiel did it in three. Donaire outpointed Concepcion over the 12-round distance; Montiel blasted him in three.) If Montiel and Donaire possessed aggressive mentalities they could have more knockouts to their credit. However, they are still dangerous with their current boxing styles, especially Montiel, who scores cleaner knockouts and appears to do more damage with single shots than Donaire. The Mexican veteran’s left hook (to the head or to the body) is a game changer.
Speed and athletic ability: Both fighters are gifted with fast hands and feet, and explosive power. However, Donaire relies more on his natural ability than Montiel. The talented Filipino often controls (or dominates) entire fights with his quick-twitch reflexes and superb hand-eye coordination. Donaire also appears to be the physically stronger of the two.
Defense: Both fighters have the bad habit of carrying their hands low at times and both rely on their reflexes and footwork to evade their opponents punches. Both also make good use of upper-body movement, which helps them slip incoming shots. However, Montiel’s years of experience has added a degree of slickness to his defensive maneuvers that Donaire has yet to pick up. Montiel is also good at blocking and parrying his opponent’s punches with his gloves.
Experience: This one is not hard to figure out. Montiel likes to tell the media that he has as many title fights as Donaire has fights, and the 48-bout veteran’s boast isn’t that far from the truth. Montiel, who turned pro more than 14 years ago, has fought in 20 title bouts. He began fighting 10-round bouts in mid-1998. His first 12-round bout was in 1999. Montiel won his first world title (in December of 2000) before Donaire turned pro. ‘Nuff said.
Chin: Both appear to have solid whiskers as neither fighter has been stopped in the pro ranks. Donaire has never been knocked down or seriously hurt in any of his 26 pro bouts. Montiel has only been down twice in 48 bouts. He was dropped in the ninth round of a 12-round bout against heavy handed Puerto Rican veteran Jose Lopez and he tasted the canvas against Filipino journeyman Roy Doliguez. However, Montiel has never appeared to be clearly rocked in any of his bouts (and it should be noted that the knockdown against Doliguez occurred after his bout with Pedro Alcazar, who died two days later, so he could have been suffering from the emotional/psychological effects of that tragedy).
Conditioning: Both fighters are consummate professionals when it comes to their preparation. Neither has ever appeared out of gas in the late rounds of a distance fight. Montiel trained at his family gym in his hometown of Los Mochis for this bout and judging from camp reports and photos, he’s stepped the intensity of his training to a new level for this bout. Montiel has never lost a fight when training at home. Saturday’s bout will be Donaire’s third camp with controversial fitness/nutrition guru Victor Conte, whose scientific training methods have clearly optimized the Bay Area fighter’s considerable talent and conditioning.
Wear and tear: This category isn’t hard to determine. Although Montiel has never taken a beating in the ring there has to be wear and tear on his legs and joints from the many extended bouts and distance fights (including seven 12-round bouts and six 10 rounders) that he’s engaged in.
Corner: Both fighters were brought up in the gym by their fathers (Manuel Montiel Sr. and Nonito Donaire Sr.), who obviously did tremendous jobs instilling sound boxing foundations into their gifted sons. Montiel Sr., a solid former pro boxer (who fought the great Miguel Canto for the Mexican flyweight title in 1974), did a better job teaching proper technique to his son than Donaire Sr. The Mexican trainer, who operates a respected gym in their hometown, has also trained more pro fighters than Donaire Sr., including such Los Mochis-born standouts as Jorge Arce, Hugo Cazares, and Jesus Soto-Karass. Donaire parted way with his father after his bout with Moruti Mthalane in 2008 and brought in Dodie Boy Penalosa as his head trainer. The former two-time titleholder made sure Donaire was in shape and focused for his bouts but he didn’t improve the fighter’s technical flaws. Robert Garcia was brought in as an assistant trainer two fights ago and the former 130-pound beltholder has helped to tighten up Donaire’s form.
Outcome: Donaire will start the bout with a steely focus, popping the sharpest jab of his career. Yet, Montiel will brim with confidence. Donaire will score with his jab while a constantly moving Montiel tries to rattle him with foot feints and lead power shots. Donaire will keep an uncommonly high guard, which will protect him from Montiel’s scary counter punches long enough to land a hard straight right that sends the Mexican back on his heels at the start of the fourth round. Donaire will get overexcited in his pursuit of an early knockout and momentarily drop his hands as he tries to finish his foe. With his back to the ropes, Montiel will make Donaire pay for the defensive lapse, hurting the Filipino with a double hook to the body and head. The two will exchange blazing combinations until the end of the round, bringing the crowd inside the Mandalay Bay’s Event Center to their feet. Having tasted each others power, both fighters will box a little more cautiously in the middle rounds and the bout will become an intense chess match. Montiel will continue to taunt and goad Donaire from a distance in hopes that the bigger man abandons his jab and attacks. However, Donaire will keep his jab going and the effects of his left stick will be evident on the puffy, purple eyes of the dual titleholder by the eighth round of the bout. Sensing Donaire’s growing confidence and possible points lead, Montiel will take more chances in rounds nine and 10, and the veteran will hit pay dirt when he takes half a step back to evade a Donaire right hand and explodes forward with a counter left hook that puts the Filipino fan favorite on queer street in the final minute of the 10th. Montiel will attempt to finish Donaire, but the wounded boxer will survive with constant movement (even on wobbly legs) and the threat of sneaky uppercuts. Montiel will try to swarm Donaire at the start of the 11th round but he’ll discover that his rival recuperates quickly and run into three-punch combination that staggers him into the ropes. Donaire will cautiously press Montiel with long-range jabs, right hands and body shots that punish the more experienced fighter. However, Montiel will survive with slick upper-body movement and by grabbing and holding his tormentor. The two boxer-punchers will let it all hang out in the final round. Boxing on his toes, Montiel will pop in and out of range, landing single power shots (some of which are flamboyant bolo punches that get a rise out of the fans). Donaire will stalk flat footed and look to do real damage with hard combinations. They’ll end the round with extended flurries that electrify the crowd and prompt press row to declare the bout an early fight of the year candidate.
Prediction: Donaire by close but unanimous decision.
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.