Donaire thinking (and fighting) bigger
Nonito Donaire knows a bit about boxing history, and would like to make some more of his own.
"The Filipino Flash" grew up in General Santos City, the same Philippines city in which national icon Manny Pacquiao grew up. In fact, they went to the same school. So Donaire has watched closely as Pacquiao has moved from weight class to weight class, winning titles in a record-tying six divisions. He certainly plans to watch when Pacquiao goes after No. 7 against Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14.
Another of Donaire's boxing heroes is the late Alexis Arguello, who won championships in three divisions before falling short of a fourth when Aaron Pryor stopped him in the 14th round of their 1982 classic. Donaire watched videos of Arguello over and over as a kid, using them to learn how to throw his powerful left hook.
Donaire, who has lived in California since he was 9, aspires to follow in his heroes' footsteps by climbing the scale and winning title after title.
Pinoy Power 2
TV lineup for the Top Rank PPV card Saturday night (9 ET, $34.95) from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas:
He has one in the bank. The 26-year-old claimed a flyweight title when he scored a massive one-punch knockout of Vic Darchinyan in the fifth round of a 2007 upset.
Donaire followed with three title defenses, ending each with a knockout, including a dominant fourth-round stoppage of San Antonio's Raul Martinez on April 19 in the Philippines.
But now Donaire's days at 112 pounds are over. He vacated his title and looks forward to moving back up to the 115-pound junior bantamweight division, where he fought many of his pre-title fights.
Besides the comfort and strength the additional three pounds will give him, Donaire (21-1, 14 KOs) sets off on his quest for a title in another division when he meets Panama's Rafael Concepcion (13-3-1, 8 KOs) for a vacant interim belt in the main event of Top Rank's Filipino-themed "Pinoy Power 2" pay-per-view card at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday night (9 ET, $34.95).
"I can make 112 pounds, but it's hard on my body," Donaire said. "I want to win as many titles in as many divisions as I can. If I stay at 112 I can never achieve that. So this is the opportunity for me to do that. I'm happy that Top Rank made this happen for me."
Donaire figures he can hang around junior bantamweight for a little while, win some titles and then move up.
"Two years ago I had gone up to 142," Donaire said. "I was not in training, so that was my walking-around weight. I know that with proper training, I think I can go up to 130 or 135."
First comes 115 pounds, a welcome relief from the burden of going down to 112.
"I've been looking forward to moving up for awhile," Donaire said. "A lot of people think three pounds doesn't make a difference. For little guys, it makes a difference. I'm glad to move up. Besides, I want to go to 118 and then 122, stuff like that. I have big goals and big dreams, and that keeps me hungry. I'll go as however high my body can go. That's one thing I want to do -- keep moving forward and reach for the stars. I want to prove it to myself and see how far I can go. Moving up and fighting the best keeps me hungry."
Donaire said he'd eventually like to fight bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel and Jorge Arce, both of Mexico.
"I think you are going to see the emergence of a fighter that has the ability to win titles in multiple weight classes," Top Rank's Carl Moretti said. "He moved up from 112, and when you see him in the ring he looks like a big 115-pounder. There are some good names like Concepcion and Arce that all make for interesting fights."
Concepcion, 27, comes first. He's a tough but limited brawler who briefly held the interim belt when he came from behind to score a one-punch, 10th-round knockout of Filipino contender A.J. Banal in the Philippines 13 months ago. However, Concepcion lost his next fight in September when he went toe-to-toe in a brutal slugfest with Arce in Mexico on Mexican Independence Day and was stopped in the ninth round.
"I think it's an easy fight," said Donaire, who saw a video of Concepcion's bout with Arce. "He's a tough guy, but once I figure out his style, that's it. But I know this guy will give it all he has. He doesn't give up.
"He has a lot of heart, which tells me he can be very dangerous inside the ring. I am going to rely on my speed and power to get through this one."
Concepcion, who will be fighting in the United States for the second time, is also confident.
"This is my first time in Las Vegas. No one really knows my name," he said. "On Aug. 15, they will, when I take that title belt to Panama."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.