MANILA, Philippines - Former IBF flyweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. is set to battle Ukraine’s Volodymyr Sydorenko at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Dec. 4 but what he’s eagerly anticipating is the showdown with WBC and WBO bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel of Mexico at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Feb. 19.
Donaire recently signed a two-fight contract with Top Rank to culminate in the duel with Montiel. However, the bout is contingent on Donaire beating Sydorenko, a former WBA bantamweight king and 2000 Sydney Olympic bronze medalist, and Montiel disposing of his next challenger, likely Mexico’s Alejandro Valdez, on Nov. 20.
“I’m super excited,” said Donaire in an overseas phone call from his home in San Mateo, California. “I’ve been itching to face an elite opponent and Sydorenko is up there among the quality fighters. This is a big test for me because I will be fighting as a bantamweight. How I do against Sydorenko will determine if I’m prepared for Montiel. Obviously, if I don’t beat Sydorenko, the Montiel fight is off so for me, losing isn’t an option.”
Donaire, 27, said he now weighs about 135 pounds but when he begins hard training at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos on Monday, the excess weight is expected to disappear in a flash. He shouldn’t find it difficult to hit the bantamweight limit of 118.
Donaire said he has called for trainer Jonathan Peñalosa to fly over from Manila this weekend. “Athan will be my main trainer as usual,” said Donaire. “Robert (Garcia) will continue to be my chief strategist. He’ll join us in San Carlos right after Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Antonio Margarito. Right now, Robert’s busy working with Margarito.”
Donaire said his manager Cameron Dunkin has lined up three sparmates to work him into tip-top condition. Two are unbeaten prospects – featherweight Randy Caballero (4-0, with four first round KOs) and superfeatherweight Eloy Perez (18-0-2, with five KOs). The third will probably be California bantamweight Chris Avalos (17-1, with 14 KOs).
“Randy is managed by Cameron, too,” said Donaire. “I know I have to be at my best to beat Sydorenko. This is what I’ve been waiting for – the chance to fight the best. I’m hoping Montiel does his part and wins in his next defense so we can finally meet in February.”
Sydorenko, 34, is a two-time European amateur champion and in the Sydney Olympics, defeated Mexico’s Daniel Ponce de Leon (former WBO superbantamweight champion) and Argentina’s Omar Narvaez (now the WBO superflyweight champion) on the way to bagging a bronze medal. He turned pro in 2001 and has since compiled a 22-2-2 record, with seven KOs. His two losses were to WBA bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno of Panama, both on points, and his two draws were with another Panamanian Ricardo Cordoba. Moreno and Cordoba are both southpaws, indicating a weakness in Sydorenko’s defense. Donaire is a known switch-hitter with the ability to fight either southpaw or orthodox.
Sydorenko held the WBA 118-pound title from 2005 to 2008 and repulsed six challengers, including Jerome Arnould in Marseille and Nobuto Ikehara in Osaka. Among his victims were former world champions Leo Gamez of Venezuela and Joseph Agbeko of Ghana. The Ukrainian is coming off a win by decision over Tanzania’s Mbwana Matumla for the WBC International silver superflyweight belt in Kiev last August.
The Donaire-Sydorenko fight will be in the undercard of the main event featuring unbeaten Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Alfonso Gomez for the WBC silver middleweight crown. Chavez, 24, has a 41-0-1 record, with 30 KOs while Gomez, 29, packs a 22-4-2 mark, with 11 KOs. Last March, Gomez disposed of former world champion Jose Luis Castillo in the third round in the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Donaire said he was told his much-awaited fight against Montiel will be the headliner in an HBO show.
Donaire has won seven of his last eight bouts by knockout and hasn’t lost since dropping a decision to Rosendo Sanchez in his second pro outing in 2001. His record is 24-1 with 16 KOs. It will be Sydorenko’s US debut. He has fought mainly in Germany throughout his career. Poland, France, Japan and Ukraine were other countries where Sydorenko has seen action.
Joaquin Henson, Philippine Star