It was never the intention of Nordine Oubaali to enter the biggest fight of his career on the heels of his longest inactive stretch to date.
The silver lining, however, is that the defending WBC bantamweight titlist gets the fight he has always desired.
“For me, the priority was to fight with Nonito Donaire,” Oubaali told BoxingScene.com ahead of his upcoming title defense. “He is a Hall of Fame fighter and it’s a fight I needed to take. I always want to take on the best.”
There is finally daylight ahead of the oft-postponed matchup, which airs live on Showtime this Saturday from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The bout comes more than a year after Oubaali (17-0, 12KOs) and Donaire (40-6, 26KOs) first expected to meet, only for the coronavirus pandemic to get in the way.
Efforts to reschedule for last December fell through when both boxers wound up testing positive for COVID-19.
The waiting game continued until event handlers were able to secure the May 29 date for the highly anticipated title fight. It means 18 months out of the ring for both champion and challenger who appeared on the same Nov. 2019 show in separate bouts versus the Inoue family in Saitama, Japan.
Oubaali prevailed via 12-round unanimous decision win over unbeaten Takuma Inoue in their WBC bantamweight title consolidation clash. Donaire came up short versus Takuma’s older and more celebrated brother, Naoya Inoue who prevailed in their WBA/IBF bantamweight title unification clash and World Boxing Super Series tournament final.
Oubaali’s extended ring absence came with canceled plans for a voluntary title defense this past March in his native France. An emergency lockdown back home left Oubaali without an event in which to participate or a formidable challenger to face. From there came the decision to just wait on a new date for a more desirable fight with Donaire, a former four-division titlist in search of becoming a three-time bantamweight titlist.
“The fight in France would have been a voluntary defense just so I could get back in the ring. It wasn’t possible because of another lockdown but that’s OK,” theorizes Oubaali. “This opportunity came and it was always the priority for me.
“One, it’s the next mandatory for me with the WBC. Second, it was very important to face and to beat a great fighter like Nonito Donaire.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox