Boxing

Nonito Donaire laughs off talk weight issues almost forced him out of Ryan Burnett fight

Ryan Burnett and Nonito Donaire came face to face during yesterday's press conference in Glasgow, ahead of Saturday night's fight at the SSE Hydro
From Neil Loughran in Glasgow

HE may not have been belting out tunes or playing to the gallery as much as when he charmed Belfast six months ago, but Nonito Donaire was still fit to laugh off speculation that weight issues could have forced him out of Saturday night’s clash with Ryan Burnett.

The ‘Filipino Flash’ made a major impression on the city’s fight fans when he took on Carl Frampton back in April, enjoying a sing-off with ‘The Jackal’ and playing a starring role at the public workout in Victoria Square days before stepping between the ropes.

Donaire was slightly more subdued at the Jury’s Inn in Glasgow yesterday, and seemed bemused at any suggestion he was struggling to make the weight after talk swirled around last week that Burnett could instead fight first reserve Paul Butler.

Having faced Frampton at featherweight, Donaire – who turns 36 later this month - has dropped two divisions to take on another Belfast fighter in Burnett. Indeed, Saturday’s showdown will be his first at bantamweight since defeating Omar Narvaez in October 2011.

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Donaire had heard the talk before leaving Los Angeles for Glasgow last Wednesday, but insists he has no idea where it came from.

“No, never,” he said when asked if there had ever been a chance of him pulling out.

“I’ve always been the guy, if you look at my track record from the amateurs, I never miss the weight. I’m a man of my word. If I say that I’m going to be there, I’m going to be there.

“I was laughing actually. I don’t know where it came from, how it came about. I think they [Paul Butler’s team] were just trying to hype their man. There’s nobody that’s in my gym who is open to anybody else, so no-one would have known if I did have any struggles.

“No-one would have known if there was anything.”

Indeed, Donaire even decided to get in on the act himself, sending Twitter into overdrive after posting a picture of a plate of roast duck.

“I was just playing the game,” he smiled. “I was like ‘hey, if you guys are gonna talk about this, you guys are gonna talk about this’. I know Ryan didn’t fall for that because he knows I’m a man of my word.

“And, actually, it was quite easy. On Tuesday I did the preliminary weigh-ins which was 121 and I weighed in at 119.8 or something. So I don’t really have any problem at all.

“As you can see I’m still very cohesive, I’m not slouching. Sometimes guys are just laying back, but I feel good. I feel really good.”

Donaire admits he sees similarities between Frampton and Burnett but believes that, down at bantamweight, people are going to see a different animal than the man who faced ‘The Jackal’ at 126lb.

“Belfast guys are tough guys, that’s for sure,” said the former four-weight world champion, who is now being trained by 78-year-old Kenny Adams, a man who has guided 26 fighters to world titles.

“They’re similar in that they’ve got big balls, they’re there to fight and that’s something I like. As you know from my history in this game, I’ve always come to fight the best out there. That’s why I’m in this tournament, and that’s what you’ll get – the best of me.

“Frampton is a different level in terms of experience… he’s just done it. Burnett is trying to get there. He’s a rugged guy, a tough guy but being in this division now I feel that I have the biggest advantage in terms of size.

“When I was fighting Frampton, I was walking the weight I was weighing in. Being at this weight, it feels good.”

Four of the five defeats suffered during a glittering pro career spanning 17 years have come since 2013, but Donaire believes he is far from a faded force – and aims to prove that on Saturday night.

He added: “The only thing I haven’t done in boxing is become undisputed champion – I’ve been multiple champion, knockout of the year, fighter of the year, unified champion. You name it, I’ve done it. The one thing I haven’t done is become undisputed, and that’s one thing that’s given me this fire.

“But, most of all, I have a great team behind me. The legendary Kenny Adams is a great guy with a great knowledge of everything. I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I’m never shy when it comes down to fighting, I’m never shy when it comes down to anything.

“I’m just grateful to be in the ring with a great man.”

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