Donaire tabs Conte, for better or worse

Picture for Donaire tabs Conte, for better or worse

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Original Article:

By Michael Woods

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When Manny Pacquiao fights, the Philippines grind to a halt. Business ceases to get done. Kids clear the streets and huddle around a TV set to see PacMan do his thing in the ring. Even the Muslim guerrilla bands put down their weapons and concentrate on Pacquiao when he gloves up.

Filipino-born Nonito Donaire doesn't have the power to provoke peace on that level, but the bantamweight champion, who fights unheralded Argentine Omar Narvaez on Saturday at Madison Square Garden's Theater arena, is edging closer to the Congressman from Sarangani Province on pundits' pound-for-pound lists, and as a Filipino icon.

"I was told things shut down, everyone watches, but maybe not the rebels," said Donaire, 28, a San Leandro, Calif., resident who moved from the Philippines when he was 10. "My ratings there are good, but not Pacquiao levels."

And quite candidly, Donaire isn't likely to get to the level enjoyed by Pacquiao, regarded in his nation as an athlete/humanitarian unlike any the world has known. At 28-1 with 18 KOs, Donaire will need to stamp on the gas to propel himself into the financial range of Pacquiao, who will make $20 million to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12. (By contrast, Donaire will take home $750,000 for the Narvaez fight.)

In speaking to Donaire, who can disarm with his humility and a heckuva Robert DeNiro-in-"Taxi Driver" impression, you get the sense that he's aiming for Pacquiao-type achievement in the ring, if not the purse department. Donaire, who has previously snagged titles at flyweight and super fly, talks about a potential progression in weight classes similar to that of his countryman, one that could lead him all the way to 140 pounds.

It's clear that the stakes here are immense, and Donaire's ambition level is on par with Pacquiao's. So it's no surprise that he seeks out methods and people whom he believes will help him to join and perhaps surpass Pacquiao on the top rungs of the pound-for-pound ladder. Perhaps, then, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has retained the services of the man once known as the bad boy of BALCO, the Notorious VIC, Victor Conte.

It's possible that Victor Conte dropped off your radar these past few years. In October 2005, he was sentenced to four months in prison and four months of home confinement after pleading guilty to money laundering and steroid distribution. His sentence complete, the man who helped introduce us to a panoply of lengthy chemical compounds -- which he had helped introduce to a bevy of world-class athletes such as Olympians Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, major league slugger Jason Giambi and NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski -- needed to choose a way to make a living.

An accomplished bass guitar player who gigged with the esteemed Tower of Power in the '70s, Conte didn't re-enter the music world. Instead, he went back to concocting nutritional supplements and finding ways for athletes to maximize their bodily potential. Only this time, the man who felt that prosecutors and the media built him into "the Adolf Hitler of sport," an evil agent who sought to create a master race of athletes, promised he would do it by the book. No cheating, no shortcuts, no administering of banned substances with tongue-twister names.

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