It’s hard to forget the sight of a man twitching on the canvas, as was the case when a single Nonito Donaire left hook decked Fernando Montiel in February.
But after scoring the most significant victory of his career, the Belmont-San Mateo resident has done little to keep his name in the boxing spotlight.
That is, until now.
Donaire will end his self-induced hiatus Saturday against Argentine Omar “El Huracán” Narvaez at the Madison Square Garden Theater. The fight is Donaire’s first in New York City and last at 118 pounds.
His return after eight months comes only after settling a contractual dispute between current promoter Top Rank and rival outfit Golden Boy Promotions. But despite the layoff, Donaire looks to pick up where he left off.
“Camp was great,” said Brian Schwartz, the owner of Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos where Donaire trains. “Once he got into the gym, he was super … he looked dynamite.”
“Dynamite” is what Donaire, 28, looked like when he starched Montiel inside two rounds, winning the Mexican’s bantamweight WBO and WBC titles and vaulting himself onto the coveted list of boxing’s best. Those titles, and his pound-for-pound ranking, will thus be at stake when Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) encounters the undefeated yet unknown Narvaez (35-0-2, 23 KOs).
Narvaez, 36, is a short fighter who employs tricky footwork and crafty upper-body movement to get inside and assault his opponents’ ribcage with rights and lefts. This will be his first fight in the United States.
Everything about the Argentine — his unbeaten record, experience and amateur pedigree — suggests he’s a good fighter. But Montiel was a good fighter, too, as were Vic Darchinyan and Volodymyr Sydorenko. And all the aforementioned were hopelessly outgunned against the arsenal of the “Filipino Flash.”
Narvaez, a two-time WBO titleist at 112 and 115 pounds, has built his career in the safe confines of Argentina against spectacularly average opposition.
Donaire, though spectacular, is anything but average. And everything from Narvaez’s advanced age to rising a weight class suggests that Donaire’s Big Apple debut will be a successful and rather uneventful one from a competitive standpoint.
But despite being the obvious favorite, Donaire maintains by one of boxing’s cardinal rules — not overlooking the other guy.
“All our focus is on this guy,” Schwartz said, while admitting that Donaire is eyeing the 122-pound division.
Mexico’s Jorge Arce and the formidable Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka have been mentioned as possible next opponents.
WHO: Nonito Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) vs. Omar Narvaez (35-0-2, 23 KOs)
WHERE: Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York City
AT STAKE: WBC/WBO bantamweight title
TV: HBO, tape delayed at 10:30 p.m.