Commentary

Montiel out to prove he's the man at junior bantamweight

Fernando Montiel is pulling out all the stops in his quest to reign supreme at junior bantamweight. First up: a date with Luis Maldonado on Saturday.

Originally Published: May 29, 2008
By Robert Morales | Special to ESPN.com

Fernando MontielAP Photo/Jae C. HongWho's the king at 115? We won't know until Fernando Montiel, right, and Cristian Mijares meet.
Fernando Montiel is like most Mexican fighters: filled with tremendous pride. When it was suggested to him Tuesday that he is the "other" super flyweight champion from Mexico because countryman Cristian Mijares now holds two of the four belts, Montiel became animated.

"I'm not saying I'm the best, I'm just saying let's meet," said Montiel, who possesses a world title at 115 pounds and will defend it Saturday against Luis Maldonado in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. "Once we fight each other we'll really find out who is the best. I think some people think he's the best. I know that some people think I'm the best. But we're never really going to find out until we meet each other."

Montiel said he knows it won't be easy to dispatch Maldonado, another Mexican, on Saturday. But he didn't mind talking about his future and his career during a telephone conversation from San Luis Potosi.

[+] EnlargeMontiel-Castillo
AP Photo/Isaac BrekkenIn his last fight, Montiel, right, looked spectacular in blasting out Martin Castillo.
He became most excited when discussing future opponents such as Mijares. The names of flyweight champion Nonito Donaire and former light flyweight champion Jorge Arce also came up. But there could be a stumbling block with Arce.

Bob Arum, promoter of both Montiel and Arce, said Arce now tells him he does not want any more fights at super flyweight and that he wants to immediately move up to super bantamweight to challenge 122-pound world champion Israel Vazquez.

Mijares is No. 1 on Montiel's hit list, but Montiel said he finds fights with Donaire and Arce (with whom Montiel happens to be good friends) intriguing.

"Of course, I would be very interested in that kind of fight," Montiel said of a bout with Donaire, the Filipino who shocked the world by taking the flyweight title from Vic Darchinyan via fifth-round technical knockout last July. "That would be a fight between champions. That would be a fight that I would definitely want to do."

Cameron Dunkin, Donaire's manager, late Tuesday night voiced concern that a Donaire-Montiel fight could be difficult to make because Arum and Donaire's promoter, Gary Shaw, are on the outs. The two had been in litigation from two lawsuits filed by Shaw -- one each in New York and Nevada -- after Jose Luis Castillo did not make weight for the second time for a fight with the late Diego Corrales. Arum promoted Castillo; Shaw had Corrales.

However, Arum said Wednesday morning that is no longer an issue because Shaw dropped both lawsuits of his own accord about three weeks ago.

[+] EnlargeNonito and Donaire
Tom Casino/ShowtimeLuis Maldonado, left, was stopped by Nonito Donaire in December.
"I wasn't happy that he brought it, but now that he's dropped it, it's a clean slate," Arum said. "He dropped it on his own volition and we didn't pay him a nickel. I was reluctant to [negotiate for a fight] while we were in litigation with each other."

A call to Shaw went unreturned.

Donaire has defended his belt once, an eighth-round technical knockout of the aforementioned Maldonado. Dunkin not only said he would love to get Donaire in the ring with Montiel, he predicted victory.

"I have a lot of faith that my guy wins," Dunkin said. "I don't think anybody beats Donaire. I think my guy is sensational."

I have a lot of faith that my guy wins. I don't think anybody beats Donaire. I think my guy is sensational.

-- Nonito Donaire's manager, Cameron Dunkin, in regards to a fight between his charge and Fernando Montiel

Meanwhile, Montiel and Arce are friends. A year apart in age, they both grew up in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. Montiel, 29, would welcome a fight with his 28-year-old homeboy.

"We're good friends and we actually talk about the fight," Montiel said. "And I think we're willing to forget our friendship for 36 minutes and have a great fight for the fans. That would be something I would be interested in. But it would have to be for a really good purse."

But Arum was adamant when he said Arce would be moving up right away. Arce told ESPN.com earlier this month he had one more fight left in him at super flyweight.

Assuming a fight with Arce is not a possibility, a fight with either Mijares or Donaire would be about as high-profile as a super flyweight fight could be.

It seems that regardless of Montiel's lofty achievements over an 11 ½-year career, he needs that status and recognition. Montiel is 36-2-1 with 27 knockouts. He is 13-1 in super flyweight title fights, and he challenged Jhonny Gonzalez for his bantamweight belt in May 2006 and lost a split decision.

"A lot of people don't recognize how good I've been," Montiel said. "They see the record and they're like, 'Wow.' They're always like surprised to see what I've done. I just want to add on to it. I want to be in bigger, better fights so that people can remember me."

But as the saying goes, first things first. Maldonado (37-2-1, 28 KOs) is no slouch. He was stopped in the eighth round by Donaire in a challenge to Donaire's title in December, but that was only the second loss of Maldonado's career. In his other loss he was stopped in the eighth round by Darchinyan.

Maldonado, 30, fought Mijares to a 12-round draw in February 2006.

"I know he's a real good fighter," Montiel said. "He only has two losses out of 40 fights. He has a draw with Mijares. So we know how good he is. He's certainly dangerous and we certainly have to be careful when we fight him -- fight intelligent. We just have to be at our best to beat him and I intend to be."

Then, Montiel said, he is hopeful that a fight with Mijares can be made. Not only would it pit perhaps the two best super flyweights in the world, but there also is a rivalry between Fernando Beltran and Nacho Huizar to add more spice. Beltran is Montiel's Mexican promoter and Huizar promotes Mijares. Beltran and Huizar are both from Tijuana.

"The fight doesn't need to have any extras, but that would be something extra because we know the promoters don't like each other," Montiel said. "I know Fernando's all for the fight; I don't know about [Beltran and Huizar]. There's something about doing the fight. They're not as inclined to do it as I think we are."

Robert Morales covers boxing for the Long Beach Press-Telegram.