Judging from his left hook — a punch that has left numerous fighters quivering on the canvas of the ring — Nonito Donaire shouldn’t have much to fear.
But he does.
“Growing up, I was always scared, because I was bullied,” said the 122-pound boxer, who is regarded among the best practitioners of professional fist fighting. “But being scared, it’s human. It’s human nature. And what I’ve learned from that is how to look at punches, how to not get hit, how to be smart ... there’s no shame in being afraid of something.”
And given who the Filipino-born-Bay Area-bred pugilist will be fighting in Saturday’s super bantamweight championship bout from Carson, there is plenty to be afraid of.
He appears slender, rickety and anonymous, as does Toshiaki Nishioka, Donaire’s opponent. But the classy Japanese southpaw is of the rare breed of fighter that does all things well. He can command the center ring with his right jab, or bludgeon an opponent listless with a swift body attack.
But perhaps most puzzling is that despite his slim build, Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) has the kind of power in his left hand that can starch an opponent with a single clout.
“Nishioka is a great fighter,” said Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs), who trains in San Carlos. “We both have power, we both have speed. ... Nishioka has something that can mirror me.”
Nishioka hasn’t lost a fight in eight years, and at 36 has established himself as one of the best fighters at 122 pounds. But so has Donaire, 29, who likewise hasn’t lost since his second pro fight in 2001.
But since his emphatic knockout of Fernando Montiel four fights ago, Donaire has labored to impress.
“We’ve experimented with power, we’ve experimented with head movement, but we’re all done with that,” Donaire said, who’s turned in frustrating performances in his last three bouts. “It’s going back to the roots, it’s going back to my style, it’s going back to who Nonito Donaire is.”
Donaire at his best is a fighter who favors the jab and technique. That’s how he set up Montiel, and Vic Darchinyan, too — both of whom fell victim to his lethal left hook. But that described fighter was absent in his last three bouts.
“I’ve been getting caught,” Donaire said. “And usually, I don’t get hit.”
And come Saturday, for Donaire’s sake, it would be wise not to get hit.