Fourteen years is a long time for anything.
To spend most of that time among the best in whatever weight class you are currently battling in, in boxing, is something to be admired.
There is a lot to admire about the career of Nonito Donaire.
Since unseating Vic Darchinyan for his first title at flyweight in 2007, Donaire has won major primary crowns in four weight classes, including a partially unified share of the bantamweight crown, and the lineal throne at Jr. featherweight while unifying some straps there as well. About the only thing he hadn’t done yet when he dropped down in weight for the World Boxing Super Series was appear in a consensus choice for Fight of the Year.
The WBSS final with Naoya Inoue earned Donaire that honor too. It might have been a loss, but classics endure past the result. Nearing forty, Donaire has made clear he wants at least two more notches on his belt: an undisputed reign at bantamweight and another crack at Inoue.
To get there, Donaire will have to top his own feat as the oldest bantamweight titlist of all time and get by an undefeated two-time Olympian on Saturday night (Showtime, 10 PM EST).
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBC Bantamweight (2019-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’3 ½
Weight: 117 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Bagnolet, Seine-Saint-Denis, France
Record: 17-0, 12 KO
Rankings: #2 (Ring), #3 (TBRB, ESPN, BoxRec), #4 (Boxing News)
Record in Title Fights: 3-0, 1 KO
Last Five Opponents: 142-24-5 (.845)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Rau’shee Warren UD12; Takuma Inoue UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Julio Cesar Miranda TKO12
Previous Titles: IBF Flyweight (2007-09, 3 Defenses); WBC/WBO Bantamweight (2011-12, 1 Defense); WBO Super Bantamweight (2012-13, 3 Defenses; 2015-16, 1 Defense); IBF Super Bantamweight (2012); Lineal World Jr. Featherweight (2012-13, 1 Defense), WBA Featherweight (2014); WBA “Super” bantamweight (2018-19, 1 Defense)
Height: 5’7 ½
Weight: 117 ½ lbs.
Hails from: San Leandro, California (Born in Philippines)
Record: 40-6, 26 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #1 (Ring), #3 (Boxing News), #4 (TBRB), #5 (ESPN, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 15-4, 10 KO, 1 KOBY (17-5, 11 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 101-4-4 (.945)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Vic Darchinyan TKO5, TKO9; Moruti Mthalane TKO6; Raul Martinez TKO4; Wladimir Sidorenko KO4; Fernando Montiel TKO2; Omar Narvaez UD12; Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. SD12; Jeffrey Mathebula UD12; Toshiaki Nishioka TKO9; Guillermo Rigondeaux L12; Simpiwe Vetyeka Tech. Dec. 5; Nicholas Walters TKO by 6; Jessie Magdaleno L12; Carl Frampton L12; Ryan Burnett RTD4; Naoya Inoue L12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Hernan Marquez TKO8; Jorge Arce KO3
The Case for Oubaali: Both men enter off a two year layoff with Oubaali’s about one fight longer having bested Naoya Inoue’s brother Takuma on the Inoue-Donaire undercard in late 2019. When last seen, Oubaali was winning a clear decision on the road and much of what was on display there, and in his title winning effort versus Warren, could trouble Donaire Saturday. Oubaali has quick feet and uses them to get in and out, sliding out to the side before resetting with quick if not always hard shots. The southpaw doesn’t shy away from being at mid or close range but against Donaire he will have to be responsible with his right hand guard. Oubaali sometimes carries his right hand low and could walk into the left hook of Donaire. Oubaali likes to fight at a quick pace. If Oubaali can hurry the veteran, and neither is young for a bantamweight, he might keep the Donaire left just off target and pile up the points he’ll need.
The Case for Donaire: Donaire’s valiant effort against Inoue still feels fresh but the drama of Donaire’s highs in the fight can obscure the outcome. Donaire got Inoue in trouble more than once but he still lost eight or nine rounds and, with a bit of different officiating, may well have been counted out in round eleven. All that is to say, there are reasons to think what we witnessed was more a great last stand than renaissance. Donaire can prove that reasoning foolish in an instant. Donaire isn’t as fast as he once was but his experience, and advantages in height and length, could allow him to set traps for Oubaali. Oubaali will be buzzing around him on Saturday night and Donaire’s ability to find the timing when Oubaali comes forward could determine the outcome.
The Pick: This is a tough pick because mutually long layoffs leave a lot of guessing to be done. Will Oubaali’s timing be affected? Has Donaire refreshed or simply gotten older? Oubaali is a very skilled fighter but, as is the case for many a Donaire foe, it’s impossible to know how Oubaali handles the heat until it lands. It was a big question for Inoue against Donaire and he survived. At the top level as a professional, Oubaali’s best wins have not come against notable bantamweight punchers. Takuma Inoue stunned him with the sort of left hook/right hand combo near the ropes Donaire will be looking for this weekend. Oubaali will surely show more respect to Donaire and should find Donaire hittable. Donaire can win this fight but the feeling here is Oubaali is just a step too quick right now and his offensive attack will frustrate Donaire as the rounds wear on. Oubaali might have to come off the floor but the pick is Oubaali by decision.
Rold Picks 2021: 26-4
Additional Weekend Pick
Devin Haney TKO Jorge Linares
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com