Donaire's skills key to P4P rise

By Joaquin Henson, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 24 2011 07:31 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2011 12:04 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Trainer Robert Garcia said yesterday newly crowned WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr.’s pure boxing skills put him a cut above others in rising to No. 3 in the world’s pound-for-pound ratings.

More than power and poise, Donaire’s skills are considered to be the key to his ascent from No. 5 to No. 3 in The Ring Magazine’s honor roll. Manny Pacquiao is rated No. 1 and Floyd Mayweather Jr., No. 2.

Garcia spoke to The Star in an overseas telephone conversation while en route to Las Vegas.

“I think skills-wise, Nonito is just as good as Manny if not even better,” said Garcia who worked Donaire’s corner in his second round knockout win over Fernando Montiel in Las Vegas last Saturday. “But I don’t mean to take anything away from Manny who has done so much for boxing and Filipino fighters like Nonito. It’s almost impossible to beat Manny’s record of winning eight world titles in different divisions. In terms of skills, reflexes and talent, I really think Nonito is a lot better than Sergio Martinez and Juan Manuel Marquez who are also in the top 10 pound-for-pound ratings.”

Garcia, 26, used to train former world titlists Brian Viloria and Steven Luevano. Now, he has a jewel in Donaire and hopes to add Brandon Rios to his stable of champions. Rios challenges WBA lightweight king Miguel Acosta of Venezuela in Las Vegas on Saturday with Donaire watching at ringside.

“To win two world titles in a week would be awesome,” said Garcia, a former IBF superfeatherweight champion. A few days after the Rios fight, Donaire and wife Rachel will fly to Manila.

Garcia said even as Donaire dominated Montiel in the first round, he reminded the Filipino Flash to be careful before sending him out for the kill.

“Montiel’s a great champion and a true Mexican warrior,” said Garcia. “Nonito banged him up in the first round with body and head shots. But in between rounds, I told Nonito to be careful, to pick his punches, to watch Montiel’s head. Montiel’s a tricky and experienced fighter. I told Nonito to relax, to let Montiel throw and to counter. The plan was to get Montiel to throw the right so Nonito could counter with the left. We knew Montiel wanted to turn it into a war so we expected him to come in. We knew that was the only way he could win because he couldn’t fight Nonito from a distance. So Nonito waited patiently for the opening to counter.”

Garcia said the knockout was sensational.

“Brian put out (Ulises) Solis with a right hand and it would’ve been the knockout of the year if Manny didn’t stop Ricky Hatton,” said Garcia who was in Viloria’s corner for the bout at the Araneta Coliseum. “I’ll never forget that knockout just as I’ll never forget Nonito’s win over Montiel. It was a devastating knockout. I was really happy the moment Montiel fell. We were all celebrating. It’s what Nonito worked so hard for. But later, watching the video replay, I felt sad for Montiel. Right after the fight, I walked up to Montiel. He’s Mexican and I’m Mexican. I told him to stay strong, that only a few have accomplished what he did – winning three world titles, that he could hold his head up.”

Garcia said Montiel should be given a clean bill of health by doctors if he plans to continue fighting.

“One punch, one knockout can change everything in a fighter,” said Garcia. “But Montiel’s still young. If everything’s okay and he’s healthy, I can see him coming back to become a world champion again, especially since Nonito could go up to 122 pounds. It was a good sign that Montiel managed to get back on his feet after the knockdown and walk out of the ring on his own. Still, I’m worried because I read in the papers that he suffered a fracture in his cheekbone and there was like a dent on the side of his face.”

Garcia said nothing is on the table at the moment for Donaire’s next fight.

“That’s up to Nonito, his manager Cameron Dunkin and promoter Bob Arum,” said Garcia. “As soon as they decide who is Nonito’s next opponent, that’s when I prepare a game plan and figure out what to do. That’s my job. If Nonito wants to unify the bantamweight division, then he’ll probably fight Abner Mares whom I expect to beat (Joseph) Agbeko in their fight. Another option is to go straight to the 122-pound division and challenge (Wilfredo) Vazquez or (Steve) Molitor.”

Garcia said he would enjoy visiting Manila again. After the Montiel fight, Garcia went back home to Oxnard, California, but yesterday, motored to Las Vegas with Rios to prepare for the weekend bout.

“I’m meeting up with Nonito and Rachel for dinner,” said Garcia. “We’ll talk about his plans and if there aren’t any fights in the way and my schedule is free, I’d love to go back to Manila.”