Nonito Donaire’s remarkable return to the bantamweight division has been an anomaly.
Boxers typically don’t drop down to lower divisions and succeed as they age, especially those that are approaching 40. Donaire moved back down to the bantamweight limit of 118 pounds, all the way from the featherweight maximum of 126, after suffering a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Carl Frampton in April 2018.
Three-and-a-half years later, the 39-year-old Donaire has added two more bantamweight championships to his Hall-of-Fame resume and is in position to secure a rematch against Japanese star Naoya Inoue. Their first fight, which Donaire lost by unanimous decision in November 2019, was voted “Fight of the Year” by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
If Donaire cannot secure that intriguing rematch with Inoue, “The Filipino Flash” is certain that he can comfortably drop down three more pounds to face the winner of the upcoming rubber match between super flyweight rivals Juan Francisco Estrada (42-3, 28 KOs) and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KOs). Donaire discussed potentially facing the Estrada-Gonzalez winner during a recent appearance on the “Boxing With Chris Mannix” podcast.
“I would love to,” Donaire said. “I would love to. I’m putting myself out there, in that mix with ‘Chocolatito’ and Estrada. … That would be great. I am all for it. I’m all for it.”
Las Vegas’ Donaire hasn’t competed within the 115-pound division since July 2010, when he stopped Hernan Marquez in the eighth round. Going on 12 years later, he isn’t reluctant to do it again.
“Making the weight is just such a simple thing for me,” Donaire said. “I mean, I could go down to 115 if I want to, you know, and still feel really strong.
“When I fought Inoue, I was actually 116, so I had to [drink] a couple more [waters], a few waters, to get up to 117, just a little bit below 118. So 116, you know, is right around the corner of 115.”
The hard-hitting Donaire (42-6, 28 KOs) knocked out previously unbeaten countryman Reymart Gaballo (24-1, 20 KOs), who was the mandatory challenger for Donaire’s WBC bantamweight title, in the fourth round of a main event Showtime televised December 11 from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. He wants Inoue next, but the four-division champion considers the Estrada-Gonzalez winner a viable alternative.
“Richard’s gonna do his thing, and I’m just gonna advise what I want,” Donaire said in reference to his promoter, Probellum’s Richard Schaefer. “And it that’s possible, we’ll make it happen.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.