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Boxing:

Donaire ready for an upgrade

Nonito Donaire Jr. trades in old championship belt for chance at a new one

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Steve Marcus

Super flyweight boxer Nonito Donaire Jr., originally from the Philippines, works out at the Top Rank Gym Friday, Aug. 7, 2009. Donaire will fight Rafael Conception of Panama for the interim WBA super flyweight title at the Hard Rock hotel-casino on Aug. 15.

Pinoy Power 2 Week in pictures

Super flyweight boxer Nonito Donaire Jr., originally from the Philippines, works out at the Top Rank Gym Friday, Aug. 7, 2009. Donaire will fight Rafael Conception of Panama for the interim WBA super flyweight title at the Hard Rock hotel-casino on Aug. 15. Launch slideshow »

IF YOU GO

What: Pinoy Power 2

Main event: Nonito Donaire (21-1-1, 14 KOs) vs. Rafael Concepcion (13-3-1, 8 KOs), WBA interim super flyweight championship, 12 scheduled rounds

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel

Tickets: $50-$200, hardrockhotel.com

TV: Top Rank Pay-Per-View ($34.95)

Sun Coverage

Nonito Donaire Jr. smiles when people ask if it was hard to vacate his IBF flyweight championship belt so that he could move up in weight class.

Nope. It was actually pretty easy.

“I think moving in weight categories is more difficult than holding onto the same belt,” he said. “I’m confident I’m going to catch another belt in another division. I was willing to take that risk.”

Confidence just comes with the territory when you’re a fighter mentioned in the same breath as Manny Pacquiao.

Although it may seem pretty early to some to compare Donaire (21-1, 14 KO) to the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, the 26-year-old fighter is certainly making it easier to do so with each passing fight.

A knockout win in 2007 over previously undefeated Vic Darchinyan for the IBF world title put Donaire on the map, earning him honors of “Knockout of the Year” and “Upset of the Year” by Ring Magazine.

Add in another three wins by knockout since then and the fact that he grew up in the Philippines and went to the same elementary school as the Pacman himself, and you can see where the comparisons come from.

“That’s a great honor to be affiliated with a fighter like Manny, but I still have a lot to prove to myself,” Donaire said. “I try not to put that in my head because I don’t want to be complacent. I want to keep moving.”

In order to keep moving in the super flyweight division and possibly even the bantamweight division down the road, he’ll have to defeat Rafael Concepcion (13-3-1, 8 KO) Saturday night for the WBA interim super flyweight championship at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.

He’s certainly a favorite to do so.

Few are giving the 27-year-old Concepcion a chance despite impressive wins over the last year, including a second-round TKO over Emmerson Nisperfuza and a 10th-round knockout over the previously undefeated Filipino fighter, A.J. Banal in the Philippines.

The Panamanian fighter says that the underdog role hasn’t bothered him in his preparations for this fight.

“I’m not worried about things like that,” he said. “When I’ve fought in my home country I’ve been the favorite before. When I went overseas to the Philippines everyone said he’d knock me out in one or two rounds. I know how good I am and I’m prepared for this fight.”

No matter who emerges victorious, Saturday night should provide fireworks as neither fighter allows many fights to go the distance.

“I want to take him out as early as I can,” Donaire said. “If I see the opportunity, I want to knock him out. To me, there’s no other victory more satisfying than a knockout.”

By the numbers:

4 World championship fights fought by Donaire. He’s won all by knockout.

4:40 Time it took Concepcion to TKO Emmerson Nisperuza on Nov. 28, 2008 – the fastest knockout of his career.

5 Times Donaire has knocked out his opponent in the first round.

5.1 Average length of bouts for both Donaire and Concepcion.

4 Amateur championships won by Donaire at 106 pounds, including the 2000 U.S. National amateur championship.

10 Round that Concepcion knocked out previously undefeated Filipino sensation A.J. Banal on July 26, 2008.

Last five:

Donaire: 5-0, (TKO, TKO, TKO, TKO, TKO)

Concepcion: 4-1, (TKO, KO, L, TKO, UD)

He said:

Donaire: On moving up again in weight class if he defeats Concepcion: You see the smile on my face when you ask. I love the good challenge. People may say that some guys are better than me, that’s where I want to be. I want to prove I belong in this game and with the top guys.

Concepcion: On what motivates him: I motivate myself. I have a daughter to take care of. I haven’t had the chance to fight in the United States as much and I look at this as a chance for people to know who I am after this fight.

Las Vegas Sun Predicts:

It’s hard not to go with the majority on this one. Concepcion is a dangerous opponent with legitimate power in his right hand but Donaire is on a different level right now. He’s riding a streak of fight consecutive knockout wins and looks very comfortable with the climb in weight. Look for him to continue his knockout ways by making Concepcion his sixth straight victim.

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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