Carl Frampton considers Nonito Donaire the most accomplished fighter he will ever have faced.
The pair will be looking to revive their careers when they fight for the WBO interim featherweight title today at Belfast’s SSE Arena.
The 31-year-old Frampton plans to next fight at Windsor Park, and has been promised the winner of next month’s IBF title fight between Lee Selby and Josh Warrington, or WBO champion Oscar Valdez, should he win.
In Filipino Donaire, however, a seven-time world champion once considered one of the finest fighters in the world, he is expecting a challenge beyond even those presented by Leo Santa Cruz, who inflicted his only defeat, and Scott Quigg.
The 35-year-old Donaire has also won world titles at four separate weights, including at featherweight before Frampton, and the Northern Irishman said: “I’ve got the most accomplished fighter I’ve ever faced standing on the opposite side of the ring.
“I need to be fully focused on that; after that I can think to the future.
“I don’t want to be forgotten in 10 or 15 years. I want to be able to go into a pub in 30 years’ time and I would love to be remembered as a great fighter.
“I remember meeting Freddie Gilroy, a British champion, as a kid. He was probably 70 at the time and I was a young kid and didn’t know who he was, but I remember my dad making me get a photograph with him. If I could be in the position he was in at 70-years-old, when a man puts his son on my lap for a photograph, that would make me proud.”
Today’s fight represents Frampton’s second with new trainer Jamie Moore and new promoter Frank Warren, who considers Donaire the finest fighter he has brought to the UK since Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2016.
The Filipino’s career was threatened by a defeat by Nicholas Walters in 2014, when he looked too small to truly excel at featherweight, but he insists in the years since he has focused on his conditioning and is again relishing the prospect of overcoming doubts surrounding his size.
“We’ve had plenty of time to gain weight the right way, and I’m very confident of being a full featherweight and I’m very comfortable sparring bigger guys,” Donaire said.
“Growing up I was bullied because I was very small; I didn’t speak English when I was in America so I was ridiculed. But my father got me into the ring (aged 11), and I was scared, but the moment I got into the ring I was liberated.
“I just felt that I needed to survive, and just fought, and know from all of my experiences that no matter how tough the guy is in front of me, no matter how big, or strong, there was always something in me that was willing to fight and never give up.”