(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Fresh from his eighth round stoppage of Mexico’s Luis Maldonado, IBF flyweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. yesterday dared WBC titlist Daisuke Naito and WBA ruler Takefumi Sakata to face him in a unification showdown anytime, anywhere.

Donaire, 25, said his immediate goal is to become the undisputed 112-pound champion and once that’s done, he’ll go for bigger game in the superflyweight division where the likes of Christian Mijares, Fernando Montiel and Jorge Arce loom as marquee opponents.

Donaire said before disposing of Maldonado, his US promoter Gary Shaw—who was in Manila for the recent WBC convention—mentioned the possibility of taking on either Naito or Sakata, both from Japan. He has a three-year contract with Shaw who was involved in two Manny Pacquiao fights when Shelly Finkel was the Filipino icon’s manager.

Donaire is tentatively scheduled to arrive in Manila on Dec. 12 with his father Nonito Sr. or mother Imelda and girlfriend Rachel Marcial, a San Francisco-based Fil-Am taekwondo champion, on Solar Sports’ invitation. He will fly the day after participating in a fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Club at his high school alma mater in San Leandro, California.

“I’ll find out from my dad if he can come home,” said Donaire. “He might decide to stay in the US because Glenn has a fight on Dec. 20. My mom would like to visit her father (Francisco Gonzales) who’s sick in Bohol. My grandfather is 95 and I dedicated my win over Maldonado to him.”

Donaire’s older brother Glenn is making a comeback after losing a technical decision to Vic Darchinyan in an IBF title bid early this year. Donaire avenged his brother’s defeat by knocking out Darchinyan to wrest the crown last August.

Donaire said Maldonado proved tougher than Darchinyan.

“I couldn’t believe how tough he is,” continued Donaire. “He just kept coming in. I felt a little sluggish and my legs stiffened in the middle rounds. I think it was because of the hard workouts bringing down my weight. Luckily, I had my handspeed and power to rely on.”

Maldonado, who had previously lost only to Darchinyan in 39 bouts, refused to back down despite absorbing a severe mauling from the onset. Switching from orthodox to southpaw in trying to confuse Donaire, the rugged Mexican used every trick in the book to gain the upper hand but couldn’t throw off the Filipino Flash.

In the second round, Donaire opened cuts over Maldonado’s eyes with ripping combinations and turned the challenger’s face into a crimson mask. Maldonado, however, came out strong in the fourth, switching to southpaw, and landed a brutal right hook that clearly shook up Donaire. But instead of retreating, the champion stayed aggressive and kept the pressure on Maldonado.

Late in the seventh, Donaire floored Maldonado with a clubbing left hook to the head. The Mexican survived the count and was saved by the bell. In the eighth, Donaire went for the jugular and as the bloodied Maldonado was pinned against the ropes unable to retaliate under fire, referee Charlie Dwyer stepped in to halt the carnage.

The three judges saw Donaire way ahead at the time of the stoppage. Clark Sammartino and George Smith both had it 70-62, shutting out Maldonado while Don Trella scored it 69-63, also for the champion.

Donaire’s father said he never doubted the outcome but had some anxious moments. “Maldonado is a real warrior,” he went on. “I told Jun to measure his distance and throw combinations because the guy just kept coming in. I knew it was only a matter of time but if Jun’s legs didn’t stiffen, the fight would’ve ended much earlier.”

Donaire said he owed the victory to Tony Aldeguer, who owns the ALA gym in Cebu where he trained for the fight, and his ALA sparmates Rocky Fuentes, Michael Domingo, Louie Bantigue, Reman Salim and Weng Haya.

Donaire arrived in Cebu from San Leandro weighing 133 pounds last Oct. 22. He tipped the scales at 111, one under the flyweight limit, at the weigh-in the day before Saturday’s fight.

Donaire’s victory silenced his critics who had questioned his ability to make the weight and described him as a “one-hit wonder,” implying the knockout over Darchinyan was a fluke.

Peping not worried over poor start Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., president of the Philippine Olympic Committee and the RP equestrian association, isn’t alarmed the Nationals have yet to strike a gold medal a week after the shooting competition of the 24th Southeast Asian Games started in Bangkok, Thailand.

“I keep on saying this and I’ll say it again. It’s not all about winning the gold, its how you conduct yourself there,” said Cojuangco in yesterday’s final sendoff of the RP men and women basketball teams in a restaurant in Quezon City.

Cojuangco said the athletes shouldn’t be blamed.

“They have better equipment than us, that’s the bottom line,” said Cojuangco.

The lack of state-of-the-art equipment took its tool on the RP shooters, particularly on Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla, whose gun jammed thrice that cost the country three potential gold medals.

“We have to address this problem after the SEA Games,” said Cojuangco.

To date, RP could only cop three silver medals and one bronze – all in shooting.

That is good only for seventh place and way behind the host Thais, who have scooped up 15 gold medals with the bulk of the events starting on Dec. 7.

Although he isn’t worried, Cojuangco said he’s apprehensive the Philippines could retain the overall title it last won in the 2005 Manila Games.

“It’s going to be difficult especially since there are many subjective sports that will be played in Thailand,” said Cojuangco. “But we can never say.” – Joey Villar

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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