Nonito Donaire has yearned for a big fight since he took the boxing world by surprise in 2007 when he scored a sensational fifth-round knockout of Vic Darchinyan to win a flyweight title.
But since then, it's been one fight after another against obscure opponents, and he has been relegated mainly to Top Rank's small pay-per-view undercards as he defended his flyweight title and eventually won and defended an interim junior bantamweight belt.
Now, Donaire finally has that big fight within his grasp, a Feb. 19 main event in Las Vegas on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" against bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel.
How significant is it that HBO is buying the fight? The network does not typically dip into the small weight classes and has not televised a bantamweight fight since 2007. But Montiel-Donaire is one of boxing's premier fights in the little weight classes and HBO has embraced it.
However, you never know what could happen to trip it up.
Donaire must first take care of business when he moves up to bantamweight to face former titlist Wladimir Sidorenko of Ukraine in the main event of Top Rank's "In Harm's Way" pay-per-view card Saturday night (9 ET, $44.95) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
"I have never been this motivated for a fight, and you have never seen Nonito Donaire fight when he is this motivated," Donaire said. "You will see the best in me and you are going to see it against Sidorenko, and hopefully against Montiel in February.
"Sidorenko is a tough guy, a former champion, and I have to be at my best. If I slip I'll never get past him and I'll never get to Montiel. I have Montiel on the horizon if I get past this guy and that's why I have all the motivation that I need. This is where I want to be, with Montiel and Sidorenko."
Said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, "Nonito has his work cut out for him in the next two fights as his career goes on. I am confident in Nonito, now recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound in boxing, that his best days are ahead of him."
The Donaire-Sidorenko bout was moved up to the pay-per-view main event position this week when the original headliner, middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., withdrew from his fight because of the flu. That turn of events gives Donaire a chance to shine in the main event.
"Nonito has a big fight coming up, and the next one will be even better," trainer Robert Garcia said. "Nonito has had very intense sparring. He is in tremendous shape for this fight. We have a tough opponent in front of us, but like you mentioned, he has a fight next against Montiel that he has been wanting for a very long time. Hopefully everything goes well on [Saturday] so we can get that big date against Montiel."
While the Philippines' Donaire, 28, must defeat the crafty and experienced Sidorenko (22-2-2, 7 KOs) in their scheduled 12-rounder, Montiel also has to win an interim bout. He defends his title against Eduardo Garcia on Dec. 11 in Mexico. But Donaire isn't concerned about Montiel's fight. He said he is only thinking about the obstacle of Sidorenko, 34, who held a bantamweight belt from 2005 to 2008 and has lost only a pair of close decisions to slick Anselmo Moreno in title fights.
"Sidorenko is a very tough guy," Donaire said. "He is very experienced and he knows how to win, as well. He is there to bring his name up as well in beating me. I am really focused on this fight and ready for whatever he brings to the ring. He is a different style than I have seen. I will change my style accordingly to take advantage of my opponent. It is going to be a tough fight and one that I want to make a statement on. Montiel may be after this, but we don't want to look past Sidorenko."
Yes, Donaire is doing his best not to look ahead to the Montiel fight.
"Bob [Arum] and everybody are already talking about the fight with Montiel on Feb. 19, but we would never look past Sidorenko," Donaire said. "We have a tough opponent and I've been studying his tapes for the past couple of weeks. He is not looking past his next opponent and we see great fights in the future, not only [against] Montiel."
Some fighters would view a big fight looming in the future as a distraction to the business at hand. Donaire (24-1, 16 KOs) said he is using the lure of the Montiel fight to keep him focused on the fight with Sidorenko.
"It is always a learning experience, and the one thing I look at is there is a lot of pressure on this fight, and I don't want to look past Sidorenko," Donaire said. "I want to make a statement in the fight, so that way I motivate myself to work harder, looking forward to that big fight. But we can't look past Sidorenko, so we use that as motivation."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.