Nonito Donaire, Fernando Montiel have big fight for "little guys"
Nonito Donaire of the Philippines lacks the two world title bantamweight belts belonging to his Feb. 19 opponent, Fernando Montiel of Mexico, but he does have the smarts to recognize what the 118-pound bout at Mandalay Bay means.
"The little guys have been deprived of getting big fights on HBO," Donaire (25-1, 17 KOs) said Tuesday at a news conference at the downtown Biltmore Hotel officially announcing the fight. "This is our shot."
More precisely, it's Donaire's shot.
Riding the momentum of three 2010 stoppages, including a superb Dec. 4 fourth-round knockout of former world champion Wladimir Sidorenko at Anaheim's Honda Center, Donaire, 28, lands the first bantamweight main event on HBO since 2006 against a respected veteran who's been a world champion since 1999 -- two years before Donaire's pro debut.
And Donaire is a 2-to-1 favorite in Las Vegas sports books.
Donaire, who hails from Manny Pacquiao's hometown of General Santos City, said he recognizes the road map Pacquiao traveled to superstardom -- win repeatedly and impressively against respected opponents.
"I know what to do," Donaire said. "I want to see where my talent takes me and if it's beyond Montiel. Boxing is a different game for me now. I have a nutritionist, a sprint coach, a strength coach, doing good things to make me as good as I can be.
Promoter Bob Arum said he expects Donaire to move up in weight after this bout, and suggested a possible future foe could be featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez.
"If this is a great fight, I'll move them both to 122 [pounds] for a rematch," Arum said.
The 31-year-old Montiel (44-2-2, 34 KOs) won all four of his 2010 fights by knockout or TKO, including a fourth-round stoppage of Japan's southpaw Hozumi Hasegawa in Tokyo. He has upside by being an entertaining fighter from Mexico in an Arum stable that's in need of another Latino standout.
"This is a rare opportunity that I have to take advantage of," said Montiel, who noted he was told after a 2006 loss to Jhonny Gonzalez at Home Depot Center in Carson that he'd never be back on HBO. "It's a question of me being able to get [Donaire] to fight my fight, to not let him think, to not let him do anything.
"My experience -- 21 world-championship fights -- is important. I'll be intelligent. I'm a smart fighter."
The card -- with tickets ranging from $25 to $250 -- also includes a welterweight rematch between Mike Jones (23-0, 18 KOs) and Jesus Soto-Karass (24-5-3, 16 KOs), who engaged in an entertaining slugfest won controversially by Jones in November.
Arum said he plans to push the winner to a title fight against Andre Berto. Arum said Berto has made overtures to various promoters, including Arum's Top Rank, that he's a free agent.
"I'd like to make that fight regardless of who promotes [Berto]," Arum said.
-- Lance Pugmire