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Donaire at crossroads in Saturday bout

Nonito Donaire Sr. has regained influence in his son's corner
Nonito Donaire Sr. has regained influence in his son's corner
CHRIS FARINA --TOP RANK

If Nonito Donaire Jr. fights Simpiwe Vetekya in their WBA featherweight title fight Saturday in Macau the way he fought Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vic Darchinyan last year, he will lose a lot of believers and may well lose the fight.

There’s reason to believe Donaire instead will regain the form Saturday on HBO that propelled him to fighter-of-the-year status in 2012.

“This camp we went back to Nonito’s bread and butter – creating a mix that combines speed, movement and power,” said trainer Nonito Donaire Sr., who has been preparing his son and will be in the corner along with trainer Robert Garcia on Saturday. “I have never seen a fighter work harder and totally dedicate himself to his tasks than Nonito did during this training camp,” the father said.

There’s a large faction that was dissatisfied prior to 2013, dissatisfied with Donaire’s 2012 march past four 122-pound opponents. Even though he stopped two of them and knocked down all four, some deemed those performances insufficiently dynamic.

That’s faulty reasoning. Anyone who engaged Donaire, who actually tried to win, brought out the explosive “Filipino Flash” who was ranked No. 3 in the world pound-for-pound not long ago and was arguably the greatest flyweight ever. After Donaire’s destruction of Fernando Montiel in 2011, his next five opponents fought only to survive.

The two 2013 fights, a convincing loss to Rigondeaux and a stoppage of Darchinyan while trailing on the scorecards, were something else. Donaire (32-2, 20 knockouts) began to lose lots of rounds, all in a pose-and-seek-a-one-punch-knockout style reminiscent of Roy Jones Jr. in his prime.

Fortunately, Donaire has admitted that mistake. “Last year I got away from what made me successful, and I paid the price for that when I met Guillermo Rigondeaux,” he said. “And even when I knocked out Vic Darchinyan in our rematch last year, that wasn’t the best me.”

The father, who was absent from the corner for several years in a feud that has been largely resolved, said, ““I agree with Nonito 100 percent. “Nonito got away from what made him great – his speed and footwork in combination with his power.

It’s not like Donaire is the underdog, although the odds have tightened in recent weeks. Vetekya (26-2, 16 knockouts), is nearly two years older than Donaire, yet his notable achievements are recent – victories over Indonesian stars Daud Yordan and Chris John, from whom Vetekya wrested the title.

Those are pretty slight bona fides. Yordan has never been a world champion, and though John’s loss to Vetekya was his first, he was the weakest undefeated champion in memory.

Vetekya might be a cut above the guys Donaire beat so decisively in 2012. But at best, the South African seems like just the opponent to bring out the best of Donaire as the “Filipino Flash” proves he is not past his peak.