While Fernando Montiel and Nonito Donaire are promising fireworks Saturday night in Las Vegas, devoted boxing fans are hoping their bout doesn’t evoke memories of a similar matchup four and a half years ago: Montiel’s last HBO showcase, a much anticipated but brutally disappointing 2006 clash against Jhonny Gonzalez.
Montiel, 44-2-2, has since knocked out nine of twelve opponents in mostly exciting affairs, but because his HBO appearances—the other being a majority decision loss to Mark Johnson in 2003— have been less than rousing, he still battles the perception of being a boring fighter.
Following a controversial technical draw against Alejandro Valdez, his surprising fourth-round KO over red-hot Hozumi Hasegawa has largely put him back in the good graces of the hardcore contingent. As one of the better finishers in the hurt game, Montiel, Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, mixes unorthodox feints with powerful left hooks and uppercuts to dispose wounded prey before they regain their senses.
That certainly doesn’t guarantee fireworks against the sharp reflexes of “The Filipino Flash.” As the Gonzalez bout illustrated, a bigger opponent can temper Montiel’s aggression, and if that staggering shot never materializes, promises of war can quickly turn into an uneventful match of wits. And while his adversary Saturday night has no shortage of power, he can be a calculating counter-puncher with the foot speed to avoid consistent contact (read: boring).
Nonito Donaire’s performances since blasting Vic Darchinyan in 2007 has quite literally alternated from uninspiring to awe-inspiring. While his dominant knockouts over Raul Martinez, Manuel Vargas, and Volodymyr Sydorenko showcased his special blend of speed and power, victories over Moruti Mthalane, Rafael Concepcion, and Hernan Marquez were worryingly bland struggles. He has an excuse for each—Mthlane is probably better than most people think, Concepcion cheated and came in four pounds overweight, and a hip injury limited Donaire against Marquez—but they’re not exactly reassurances that he’ll come out guns blazing against the class of Montiel.
So while a slugfest may not be in the books, the intrigue is obvious when two premier bantamweights with fight-ending power square off.
From either side, possibilities range from early destruction to tedious decision. Physical advantages in height, reach, and speed justifiably influenced oddsmakers to tab Donaire, 25-1, as the 2 to 1 favorite. A steady jab against his shorter foe should accentuate those advantages, but his compulsion towards stance-switching and “experimenting” best be subdued. Donaire as a southpaw leaves himself far more vulnerable than he is with his left foot forward, where he possesses one of the more lethal counter left hooks in the game.
The sneaking suspicion here is that Montiel is more comfortable than Donaire, San Leandro, California, is in long fights. With a high ring IQ, the 31-year- old tends to make the proper adjustments to prosper during the mid to late rounds. Donaire’s flash may own the early going, but if Montiel survives the onslaught, the bout’s likely to tighten down the stretch.
At which point—when Montiel’s guile catches up with Donaire’s incandescent style—something memorable erupts and promises are kept.
Or at least that’s the hope.