Fernando Montiel (44-2-2, 34 KOs) will put his WBC and WBO titles on the line Saturday at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET) when he takes on Nonito Donaire (25-1, 17 KOs) in a bantamweight unification fight. Montiel recently discussed with ESPN Deportes his thoughts on training for the fight, a possible future at super bantamweight and his vision of how the Donaire bout will unfold.
What can you say about your training for this fight?
"Training was very tough, it was really gruesome. I almost felt like crying at times -- that's how hard it was. But there was a lot of professionalism, and I am eager to get to the fight."
Do you feel the pressure of not being the favorite despite the awesome year you had in 2010?
"No, it's not an uncomfortable situation for me. And it wasn't uncomfortable either when I was the favorite. This has only bothered me at the beginning of my career. But as years go by, and with all the experience I gained, this becomes just another part of the business. I am relaxed, at peace, and I will go out to do the best job I possibly can. If anything, this should put some pressure on him, not me."
You had a great streak in 2010 [four wins in as many fights, all knockouts]. Do you feel you have found your best possible weight at 118 pounds?
"Definitely, I am enjoying my best year and my best weight, the weight at which I have adapted the best so far. The bantamweight division is the most advantageous division I have fought in so far, and I will be victorious in this fight too. I believe I am more powerful, much stronger. And with all this new work that I am doing in the gym, I will exploit everything that I know and add what I haven't exploited yet. There are things that I have been unable to demonstrate in the ring because I haven't had the time or because my opponent doesn't fit my style, but I have a lot to show, and in this fight I will expose my entire repertoire of punches, leg movements and all that."
What challenge does Donaire present to you that no fighter has before?
"Well, to be honest, and without trying to sound cocky, I feel that I have already faced every kind of fighter, and I have experienced all kinds of fights as well. I have fought with taller fighters just like [Donaire]; with very fast fighters; with very intelligent fighters like [Hozumi] Hasegawa; and with stronger fighters too. But I won those fights, and then I used that experience a lot. The only fight I lost was with Johnny Gonzalez, and I don't think [Donaire] is taller than Gonzalez. He may be faster, though, but I don't mind that either. I am very focused in my game plan and I am working hard on that."
What do you think of the Showtime bantamweight tournament so far?
"I didn't enter that tournament, for a number of reasons, but I've been paying attention to the way they've done it. Abner Mares is the one who has done the best job so far. But I really see it as an elimination tournament to face me. Whoever wins this thing is going to be asking for a fight with me or Donaire. I think it's interesting, because all four fighters are interesting and I hope the best man wins. And if the numbers add up, we might accept to face any one of them."
So you see yourself as the man to beat in the bantamweight division?
"Yeah, sure. And without even having to enter in this tournament."
What part of Donaire's style is going to give you more problems, his mobility or his power?
"I think his speed and his movement is going to give me more problems, but we are thinking about all this when we're in the gym, and we're getting ready for that. That's the only thing that can give me some problems, but I will be able to solve that riddle too."
Besides Donaire, who would you say you have to beat in order to establish superiority? Who is the fighter you need to help propel you to stardom and establish your legacy?
"I believe that after beating Nonito Donaire, I won't have anything else to prove in this division. If things go well [Saturday], as I think they will, I would already be jumping to a higher division. My name will be clearly established in the bantamweight division, and I will be able to jump to super bantamweight right after that."
So you believe you will have success in a very competitive super bantamweight division despite your smaller frame?
"Sure. And that's because of all the work I am doing in the gym, because my routine asks for more weight -- or at least it asks for more energy from me -- so I don't wear myself down. But you will see me on the day of the fight and realize that I can make the jump to a new division. Right now, though, my mind is focused on Nonito Donaire. After this fight, we will see whether we can travel again to Japan to fight [Toshiaki] Nishioka, or maybe [Wilfredo] Vazquez, but those are only ideas right now."
If you beat Donaire, you will claim a third championship and rate among the greatest Mexican fighters of all time. Does this add incentive to your challenge?
"Without a doubt. But I don't see myself as one of the greatest Mexican fighters. Perhaps I will be remembered, yes. Without a doubt, the greatest of all time in Mexico will always be Julio Cesar Chavez. But my name will be on that list if I win this fight."
How do you envision the fight unfolding Saturday night?
"I see both of us wearing each other down, using a lot of different strategies. And it will be tiresome because I will be there ready to face him and offer myself, if he likes to, for a toe-to-toe battle, exchanging a lot of punches, to give a good show. If he drops me, I will get up. And if he cuts me, I will continue. And if I connect with him and he falls, I expect him to continue and go to war with me to the finish."
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.