Speaking to Donaire Sunday afternoon from his training camp at the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, CA., the idea of being the first professional boxer to undergo this stringent of testing seemed to empower him. In a way, it is a gift to his fans.
“I have always been the type of person who has nothing to hide,” Donaire told Maxboxing.com. “I think that this is not only good for boxing but good for sports overall. I think that my fans deserve the truth. They deserve my honesty, that this is who I am. I’ve got nothing to hide. It is to show my fans that I am at this level and I am competing naturally and that anybody can do it. Just work hard. That is more than enough to get you to the top.”
Donaire is a consummate athlete. He loves his body. Listening to him talk, he sounds like a test pilot looking to take his equipment to the edge of his limits and beyond through the power of his mind, spirit and body. Part of that process has brought him to the Undisputed Boxing Gym, as impressive a boxing facility as I have ever visited. Nearby, nutrition guru and close friend of Donaire, Victor Conte, has his Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC) offices. His expertise in conditioning, recovery and nutrition, along with sprint coach Remi Korchemny, strength coach Mike Bazzel, mitt man and Undisputed owner Brian Schwartz and chiropractor Dr. Cameron Fort are why Donaire moved his training camp from Las Vegas, NV back to San Carlos.
“I have learned a lot from Victor,” said Donaire. “I think he is very smart. He knows how the body works, how recovery works and all that good stuff that he understands. He has me doing stuff that a lot of fighters are not doing like simulated high altitude training and getting the proper recovery. That’s the whole overall recovery process that Victor teaches. Then all the things we learn with Remi. We just incorporate all of it. I believe when you have a powerful mind that is motivated and focused, you go to a different level. When you work hard, get the right people behind you, you do the right things. I believe that the mind is capable of doing anything and you can do it naturally. Yeah, you have to work harder; you have to be more positive but I believe the body can take anything.”
Asked to address Conte’s past as a founder of BALCO and its possible ramifications on his own reputation, Donaire is quick to point out the amount of trust he is putting in the man. Donaire is not the first fighter who worked with Conte to test under VADA; that would be Andre Berto. Still, Donaire is unfazed.
“Like I said, I have nothing to hide,” he reiterated. “That said, there’s always going to be people out there that are going to criticize no matter what. They are always going to look at Victor as the devil of the sport because what he did a decade ago. It’s always going to be that way. But the issue with me and Victor and the trust that I give him and the trust that he gives me, now with VADA? I think that not only helps me but it helps my whole team and the whole boxing world’s perspective.”
Another reason Donaire moved back to San Carlos was to refocus. He had previously trained there and worked with Conte, Korchemny and the Undisputed crew in the three fights leading up to his sensational, second round, one-punch knockout of Fernando Montiel. In that run, he stopped Hernan Marquez in July of 2010 in eight rounds. Donaire followed that up with a stoppage over Volodymyr Sydorenko in December of that year. The coup de grace was the knockout of Montiel in February of 2011.
Enter the move to Vegas and two somewhat lackluster fights against Omar Narvaez (who played it safe for 12 rounds) and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (who troubled Donaire at times). Donaire dropped the latter hard but was unable to finish him off. In both fights, Donaire appeared off his game and nowhere near the razor sharp athletic assassin that he was during his three-fight tear. Now he has returned to the place and the team that helped him become a fluid knockout machine.
“Mentally refocus. I have my guys here and they get me in tremendous shape. They get me sharp and give me the desire, the determination to train,” said Donaire. “When I am [not there], I slack off because I was training by myself most of the time. But here, I actually push myself and go beyond what I can do because I have the motivation to be in the best shape possible.”
What is interesting about Donaire’s 24/7/365 stance is that, while he will offer his opponent the opportunity to test with VADA alongside him, it is not a requirement to get a fight with him. This is one man stepping forward and showing his fans that he is clean.
“I told Victor that even if the guy tests positive, I’m still going to kick his butt,” laughed Donaire. “That’s the mentality I have. I don’t fear anything. If I work hard, the body can get to a different level up to par with the guys who are using it. It doesn’t matter to me. I am here to prove myself. I am here to do it for my fans. Not that I don’t want to be an example. I do want to be an example. I do want people to take it in and do it themselves. Hopefully, we can get other fighters willing to do it but I won’t force anyone to do it. I am just here to prove to people that I am here because I work hard.”
Donaire says that performance-enhancing drugs are prevalent in the sport. How much so? Like anyone, he has heard the whispers.
“Back when I was in the amateurs, I would hear a lot of these things going on. Fernando Vargas getting caught with it and all the others guys supposedly,” Donaire explained. “I won’t say but I heard that a lot of guys were taking steroids and growth hormone and that kind of stuff. You know, the thing about human beings is when they are on top, they want to stay on top. And when they aren’t on top, they want to be on top and they do everything they can to get there. Illegal substances, they’re going to do that. That’s the challenge that I face. The higher [level the competition], the harder I have to work. That’s the only thing I can do.
“For me, I grew as a guy that was bullied,” continued Donaire. “I grew up, part of me is the type that was always put down and pushed down. That’s why I always rise up and be who I am. And that’s why I challenge everyone out there because I never thought that I could get this far. And I just want to see how far I can go the natural way and that is why I always push for that.”
Nonito Donaire stepping forward and declaring himself clean in this fashion is a huge step for boxing. It’s a very brave step for him, personally. He didn’t have to do this. No one is pushing very hard for star fighters- any fighters- to undergo this type of testing. But he is ready to accept full responsibility for whatever may happen.
On HBO’s “The Fight Game” Saturday night, boxing commentator Jim Lampley offered an impassioned speech imploring fight fans who are outraged by the ills of the sport to “occupy boxing.”
For a movement like that to begin, it will take personal decisions like Donaire’s. Change begins with the individual. The more individuals follow suit, the greater the possibility that better testing is implemented across the board in all sports.
“One person can make an impact,” said Donaire, “and the next person can make a bigger impact. And the next one person can make an even bigger impact. So hopefully, this will change the minds of some fighters out there. And we are hoping this changes boxing. Not just from here but cleaning up every aspect of the sport”
“The immediate future”
As for the man he will be facing July 7, Jeffrey Mathebula, Donaire said, “I don’t much about the guy. I know he is big. 5’10” and the IBF world champion. He’s a taller guy. It’s the biggest challenge I will be facing. I have never faced a guy who is taller than me, so I am ready to showcase my talent in being diverse in not just being a boxer or a puncher but in being a counterpuncher. I am looking at every aspect of him. I am not looking past him.”
Not to look past Mathebula but Donaire’s plans past this fight are to satisfy fans with another unification bout. It’s getting to be legacy fights time for Donaire.
“I will just keep moving on whatever path [my team] lead me but one thing is I want to be undisputed in this weight class,” Donaire declared. “We got [Guillermo] Rigondeaux. We got [Abner] Mares and my next fight. I want to beat the guy who has the belt. Either one of them, whoever steps up then we’ll fight them and we’ll look to 126. But one thing is I want a third belt in this weight class.”
While “The Fight Game” exposé left something to be desired in terms of exposing corruption or malfeasance the way some fans hoped, HBO’s Jim Lampley’s impassioned speech rang very true with me. It’s always been my opinion that Harold Lederman’s unofficial scorecard confuses casual fans who think that is the actual score. And Lampley’s hyperbole at times misses the actual fight. I think some casual observers believe that CompuBox is also a type of official score. I don’t always agree with Jim Lampley but to say Jim Lampley he’s part of the problem and ask angrily, “Who is he to ask us to occupy boxing?” is ludicrous. The message is a clear one and a right one. “That’s boxing” is not a good enough answer anymore.
Mr. Lampley is a part of our community and a respected one. I tend to take notice when men like him stand up and say, “Enough is enough.” Too often we lose the message in how we feel about the messenger. It’s high time we got positive and proactive in our complaints. If you are not part of the solution, guess what part of the equation you are.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.