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Cuban brings out best in Donaire

Nonito Donaire Jr.

MANILA, Philippines – WBO superbantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. has now worked eight training sessions over the last two weeks with new Cuban coach Ismael Salas and the progress is evident in preparing for his second title defense against undefeated challenger Jessie Magdaleno in the undercard of the main event featuring WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas and challenger Manny Pacquiao at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5.

Donaire previously trained with his father Nonito Sr. and Robert Garcia. With Salas on board, Donaire said he’s found a coach who’s able to bring out the best in his ability. “He’s incredible and very smart,” said Donaire. “He’s bringing back my skills as a technician without taking away my punching power. He’s making me realize my potential.”

Salas, who is married to a Japanese and used to be married to a Thai, has trained fighters in Cuba, Thailand and Japan. His list of world champions includes Guillermo Rigondeaux, Rances Barthelemy, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jorge Linares, Yokthai Sith-oar, Pitchit Sor Siriwat, Pichit Sithbangprachan, Saen Sow Pleonchit, Daorung MP Petroleum and Kazuto Ioka. He used to be the national amateur boxing coach of Cuba and Thailand.

Salas was Magdaleno’s trainer for two fights last year. Under Salas’ watch, Magdaleno outpointed Raul Hirales and knocked out Vergel Nebran. For Magdaleno’s most recent fight last February, he rehired trainer Joel Diaz who used to work with Tim Bradley. For Donaire, Magdaleno signed up trainer Manuel Robles of The Rock Gym in Carson, California. Robles is Magdaleno’s fifth trainer after Pat Barry, Augie Sanchez, Salas and Diaz.

Salas said Magdaleno has sound fundamentals, power in both hands and determination. However, he’s been distracted by family problems, sharing custody of his two-year-old son Leonardo after separating from his girlfriend Julia Dominguez.

Donaire said he will begin studying tape of Magdaleno’s fights this week. “Honestly, I haven’t watched him fight,” he said. “Right now, I’m focusing on my training with Ismael. I’m making a copy of Magdaleno’s fights for Ismael and we’ll break his style down. It’s an advantage that Ismael used to work with Magdaleno so he knows how he fights. But we know boxers sometimes fight differently depending on their opponents. I’m not relying on Ismael’s familiarity with Magdaleno.”

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From Magdaleno’s record, Donaire said he looks like a fast starter, scoring eight first round knockouts in compiling a 23-0 record, with 17 stoppages. His record, however, shows no name opponent. Mexico’s Luis Maldonado is their only common opponent. Donaire halted Maldonado in the eighth round when the Mexican’s record was 35-2-1 in 2007. Magdaleno stopped Maldonado in the third round when the Mexican’s record was 36-11-1 in 2013. So in the six years after Donaire beat Maldonado, his record fell to 1-9 and he was clearly over the hill.

“We’ll look at Magdaleno’s data and stats then go from there,” said Donaire. “The fact that he hasn’t fought any name opponents isn’t necessarily a negative. When I fought (Vic) Darchinyan in 2007, I had no name opponent in my record but I beat him and won the IBF flyweight title. All I know is I have to be ready to fight to the best of my ability, no matter whom I face in the ring.” Maldonado is a southpaw but that isn’t a problem for Donaire who’s beaten lefthanders like Darchinyan, Toshiaki Nishioka and Omar Narvaez.

Donaire said he’s confident of making the 122-pound limit without difficulty. “I’m 10 to 12 pounds over the limit,” he said. “I’ve been eating healthy and working out every day. The highest I’ve reached was 135.” Donaire was scheduled to start light sparring yesterday with former WBO bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda and Filipino Joebert Alvarez. He said he’ll warm up with Kameda and Alvarez before the tougher sparmates check in.

Donaire trains at the Clarence (Bones) Adams gym in Las Vegas. Adams was a former WBA superbantamweight champion who was sentenced to six months in prison last year for his role as a driver in a limousine company engaged in drug trafficking, fraud and prostitution. Salas has taken over Adams’ gym.

Donaire turned pro in 2001, nine years before Magdaleno’s debut, and has logged 233 rounds in 40 fights. Magdaleno is a lot less experienced with only 87 rounds in 23 bouts. Donaire, 33, has fought in 21 12-rounders while Magdaleno, 24, never signed for a 12-rounder. Magdaleno’s last two fights were 10-rounders but they ended inside the distance. The farthest he has gone is eight rounds. Last February, Magdaleno knocked out Rey Perez who came in with a 20-7 record and hasn’t fought since. Donaire’s most recent outing was his third round demolition of Hungary’s Zsolt Bedak in Cebu last April.

Magdaleno is ranked No. 1 by the WBO and Donaire’s second defense of the vacant title he won on a decision over Cesar Juarez last December is mandatory. The other world superbantamweight champions are WBA’s “super” titlist Rigondeaux of Cuba, WBA’s “regular” titlist Nehomar Cermeno of Venezuela, IBF’s Jonathan Guzman of the Dominican Republic and WBC’s Hugo Ruiz of Mexico.

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