Donaire named boxing's best, focused on Rigondeaux
Programming note: Watch the Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux weigh-in streaming live today at 11 am PT.
NEW YORK CITY -- Nonito Donaire became the second consecutive Bay Area boxer to receive the Fighter of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America on Thursday night.
The San Leandro resident succeeded childhood friend Andre Ward of Oakland for top honors at the organization’s annual dinner, which was held at Capitale in Little Italy.
“It means a lot [for the Bay Area],” Donaire told CSNBayArea.com about his triumph. “We just gotta keep rolling. We’ve got great fighters. Maybe this year Robert [Guerrero] can get it.”
[RELATED: NorCal Boxing Pound-for-Pound Top 10: March 2013]
Guerrero, who was one of the nominees for the award, was not in attendance as he continues to train for his May 4 fight with Floyd Mayweather. However, Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs), the reigning junior featherweight world champion, spoke in front of a packed house that included his wife Rachel, who is pregnant with their first child.
“Here I am, a kid from nowhere receiving the biggest award, and I humbly, humbly accept this award with all my heart,” Donaire told the crowd before accepting a plaque sculpted with the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson’s likeness. “And thank you for giving me that fire to win another.”
Known as “The Filipino Flash,” Donaire abdicated his 118-pound title and ascended to 122 pounds in 2012, winning all four of his bouts against current or former titleholders. By year’s end, he had gained ownership of the WBO, IBF, and Ring Magazine championship belts.
He also broke new ground by becoming the first pro boxer to submit to a year-round random drug testing program administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.
[RELATED VIDEO: Taking a drug test with Nonito Donaire]
“I’m hoping in the future that [year-round drug testing] will be possible, it will be mandated, it will be a part of boxing, and I’m hoping I can be a part of that,” Donaire said.
The East Bay star wasn’t the only member of his team to come away from the banquet empty-handed. Robert Garcia, Donaire’s chief cornerman, won Trainer of the Year.
“It’s a great honor being here,” said Garcia, who works the corner with the rising San Carlos duo of Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel. “Growing up watching all these great trainers get the award, and now me being one, it’s just awesome.”
Donaire’s weekend in the Big Apple has just begun. On Friday, he must meet the 122-pound junior featherweight limit at a Madison Square Garden weigh-in before unifying his belts the next day with WBA titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) at Radio City Music Hall.
“I feel great,” Donaire said, “I feel very blessed…I know what I’m doing when I’m sitting inside that ring. I’m not going to be as nervous as going in front of everybody and making a speech than going inside that ring.”