NEW YORK — Nonito Donaire debuted as a bantamweight with a sensational fourth-round knockout of Wladimir Sidorenko in December of last year, and followed that up with a devastatingly brilliant second-round stoppage of three-division titlewinner Fernando Montiel in February.
But the WBO and WBC titleholder's first fight at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night will likely be his last as a 118 pounder, and the 28 year old nicknamed "The Filipino Flash" wants to make it his best to date.
Donaire will pursue his 26th straight victory against Omar Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 knockouts) of Argentina. And if his performance is anything like his last two, then the 36-year-old southpaw from Argentina could be in for a lot of trouble.
Sidorenko was former titleholder with a mark of 22-2-2 that included seven KOs.
The Ukrainian veteran has never had been stopped entering his clash with Donaire, who broke his Sidorneko's nose during a bout in which the former WBA beltholder was dropped once each in the first, third and fourth rounds.
An explosive left hook by Donaire left Montiel (46-3-2, 36 KOs) twitching on the canvas before he twice attempted to rise only to have referee Russell Mora rightfully step in to protect him from further damage.
It was the first time anyone had stopped Montiel, ending an 11-0-1 unbeaten streak that had included nine knockouts for a man who is among five Mexican fighters to have won world titles over the course of three divisions.
"If Narvaez starts jabbing, and starts moving and starts to gain confidence, that's one thing that you don't want from a veteran fighter," said Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs), a former WBA interim junior bantamweight titleholder who is known to walk around at weights above 140 pounds when not in training.
"So we want to take his confidence away early so that he doesn't feel like he can take this into the later rounds. We want to our style to be imposed in the early rounds and let him know that I can make it happen with just one punch."
"I didn't really study Narvaez too much. I've learned to just impose my will now on my opponents. I studied Montiel and Vic Darchynian [[fifth-round knockout victory.] So with this one, we just came in from a long layoff, so we trained the best possible way," said Donaire during a Thursday press conference at Gallaghers' Steakhouse.
"I'm ready and willing to go out there and I've already made my decision to just give it my all. If I get hit, I'm going to hit him back. If he's fast, I'm going to be faster. If he's strong, I'm going to be stronger. If he's slick, I'm going to be slicker. If I can see any of his mistakes, then I will definitely take advantage of them."
Donaire said he detected some vulnerability in Narvarez's approach.
"The one thing I noticed about Narvaez is his stance. I think that his stance gives me a lot of angles. So that's one thing that I'm going to go for. That's one thing that will open up everything for the different things that I want to do," said Donaire.
In addition, Donaire said he has learned all that he needs to know from sparring left-handers such as RING No. 1 pound-for-pound rated Manny Pacquiao and former four-time titleholder Joel Casamayor.
"I've faced those two plus a lot of other southpaws in sparring, so what else can you really say?" said Donaire. "I've done fairly well against them, and they've taught me a lot, so I feel that I'm ready for his southpaw stance."
If victorious against Narvaez, Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum has mentioned future bouts between Donaire and 122-pound beltholders Jorge Arce and Toshiaki Nishioka or even unbeaten featherweight standout Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Eventually, Arum believes Donaire can become a pay per view star.
"Luckily, at his weight division, and where he is, there's a lot of room there before you have to put him on pay per view," said Arum.
"There's a lot of building that can be done with him and ways to make him happy and content by putting him on the premium networks. Trust me, there are some great, great fights for Donaire that are affordable on a premium network."
Like Donaire, Narvaez has previously won world titles at flyweight and jr. bantamweight. Narvaez stated in this week’s prefight press conference at Gallagher's Steakhouse that he intends to return home to Argentina with Donaire's title as well.
"I'm a very good boxer. I know Nonito from a long time ago when he was a flyweight. I know his skills well. I'm a very good boxer," said Narvaez, who is is 20-0-1 in world title fights.
"I know Nonito from a long time ago when he was a flyweight. So I know his skills well. He has never seen anyone with my movement and my speed and my intelligence."
Narvaez is coming off a unanimous decision over William Urina in June that represented his third successful defense of the belt he won from Everth Briceno in May of last year.
Prior to that, Narvaez made 16 defenses of the WBO's flyweight belt by dethroning Adonis Rivas, flooring him once in the seventh round of their clash in July 2002.
"This guy is undefeated and a two-time world champion, and he came to America to win his third title. This is a guy who defended his title 16 times at flyweight, which very few people can say that they've ever done," said Garcia.
"He's an awkward guy as a southpaw, and he's going to try to take the fight into the later rounds. I'm pretty sure that's his plan, but we're ready for it."
Given that Garcia respects Narvaez's abilities and still believes Donaire is well-prepared to handle them, he said Donaire is ready to win and then move on to bigger and better things.
"We're in New York. We're in Madison Square Garden, so Nonito's got to come out and he's got to perform and he's got to look great and look sensational doing it. But we're in against a great champion, so I don't want to predict anything and I don't want to look too far ahead," said Garcia.
"Narvaez has got the skills, he's got the power and he's got everything that comes with being the veteran that he is. But we're going to take care of business, and then its on to whatever we decide after the fight. That depends on [manager] Cameron Dunkin and Bob Arum. They're going to call the shots, and we'll move on and do great things."
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org