Donaire gets long-awaited opportunity

Nonito Donaire waited longer than he’d hoped, but he finally has the fight he has craved — a chance to dethrone WBC and WBO bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel.

Donaire (25-1, 17 knockouts) and Montiel (44-2-2, 34 KOs) will meet Feb. 19 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in the first big fight in Las Vegas this year. HBO will televise the bout.

Victory won’t be a small task for Donaire; Montiel hasn’t lost since 2006.

“He’s a legendary fighter,” said Donaire, 28. “I was hoping we’d do it sooner, but now that we’re going to meet, it’s going to be his power against my power and someone is going to get knocked out.”

When Donaire beat Vic Darchinyan by TKO in 2007 to win the IBF and IBO 112-pound (flyweight) titles, there was talk he would quickly move up to bantamweight (118) to face Montiel, who then held only the WBO title. But the match never materialized. Donaire moved up to super flyweight (115) in 2009, but abandoned that weight class — despite being WBA interim champion — on Dec. 4 to fight Wladimir Sidorenko at 118. He stopped Sidorenko in the fourth round.

“(Bantamweight) is a weight I’m very comfortable at,” Donaire said. “I weigh 130 today and I’ll be ready on Feb. 19.”

Montiel, 31, is 11-0-1 since last losing to Jhonny Gonzalez by 12-round split decision on May 27, 2006. Montiel added the WBC bantamweight title last year with a fourth-round TKO of champion Hozumi Hasegawa in Tokyo.

He said he won’t be intimidated by Donaire.

“I’m glad we’re finally getting to meet,” Montiel said through a translator. “I’ve always been willing to fight the best fighters and I had a very good year last year.”

Montiel fought four times in 2010, his busiest year since 2000, despite suffering a motorcycle accident in October that resulted in scrapes and bruises to his right leg. He healed in time to face Jovanny Soto on Dec. 10 and knocked him out in the second round.

“I think it was important for me to get back in the ring and show everyone I was all right,” Montiel said. “But I’m off motorcycles for life.”

MGM Resorts sports books installed Donaire a minus-220 favorite, with Montiel at plus-180. But Montiel didn’t seem too concerned about being the underdog despite being the champion.

“I’ve been the underdog before and won,” he said. “When I fought Hasegawa, he was a 3-1 favorite and I knocked him out in four rounds.

“Outside the ring, Nonito and I are good friends. But inside the ring, there’s no respect and I will knock him out.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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