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SAN CARLOS -- As Nonito Donaire summoned the kids into the ring, they lined up like little penguins, emulating their hero’s punching form and hanging onto every word of his instruction.
“Turn your fist in like this,” Donaire said as he took a break from his own workout to teach a young fan the finer points of the right cross. “That’s it. Keep working hard and you’re going to be a champion one day.”
With his team looking on and the throng of supporters tethered around the Undisputed Gym’s squared circle just to watch him prepare for his next fight, the 29-year-old San Leandro native truly understood what he had been missing.
“The Bay is going to be my home no matter what,” Donaire said before Saturday’s 122-pound unification title clash against Jeffrey Mathebula (HBO, 10 p.m.). “You have everybody here, and it just gives you inspiration, just seeing the kids here working out. You just got to appreciate every moment.”
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For his last training camp before his split decision win over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in February, Donaire (NorCal No. 1; 28-1, 18 KOs) moved operations from San Carlos to Las Vegas, where he owns a home with his wife, Rachel. However, the decision proved to be a logistical nightmare.
Key members of Donaire’s team, such as assistant trainer Brian Schwartz, strength coach Mike Bazzel, chiropractor Cameron Fort, nutritionist Victor Conte, and track coach Remi Korchemny, are all based in the Peninsula—making coordinating travel difficult.
“I have the gym over here in San Carlos, and of course, Mike and Cameron and Victor and everyone else is over here, too,” Schwartz said. “It was pretty tough having to go back and forth to Vegas, and we weren’t there all the time. He still got it done against Vazquez, but I think he’s got everything he needs over here at home.”