WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire needs an impressive win to reinforce his ranking as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and as heir apparent to "Fighter of the Decade" Manny Pacquiao.
He gets that chance in a unification battle with IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula of South Africa at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California on July 8, Manila Time, in a fight to be telecast by the giant Philippine broadcast network ABS-CBN over Channel 2 at 10:00 a.m. as well as over The Filipino Channel for Filipino communities particularly in the middle-east.
For the first time in his career, the four-division world champion (which includes the WBA super flyweight interim title) will be facing a much taller opponent with a longer reach.
Mathebula is 5'10" and his well-known promoter Branco Milenkovic told us they expect Mathebula's "height and reach advantage to make a difference."
While Mathebula's handlers including trainer Nick Durandt expect a "tough, hard fight and respect Donaire" they indicated " Mathebula will be ready" claiming that Donaire "is no secret and definitely not Manny Pacquiao."
The IBF champion, who won the title from countryman Takalani Ndlovu has been back in the gym since three weeks after winning the title last March 24 and said he has been in "very hard training for the Donaire fight." In fact Milenkovic told us that Mathebula who trains three times a day "would have been ready if the fight was held three weeks ago."
Donaire himself has trained harder than ever before, knowing he's got a challenge on his hands and wishes to put on an impressive performance especially since there are bound to be large numbers of Filipino and Fil-American fans and an interested spectator and possible future opponent, WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka, the classy Japanese southpaw at ringside.
Aware of the height advantage of Mathebula, Donaire has been sparring with taller and tougher opponents, including Mexican featherweight Gilberto Sanchez Leon who is 5'11" and junior lightweight Robert Rodriguez of Colorado who is almost the same height.
Garcia isn't awed by Mathebula's height advantage and believes Nonito "likes fighting taller opponents." We reflected on that thought remembering that when Donaire fought little South African Moruti Mthalane he had some problems although he won by a 6th round TKO when referee Joe Cortez stopped the bout after Donaire broke Mthalane's nose, caused a cut over his eye and bloodied his face.
After a recent visit to Donaire's training camp, Arum told us Nonito was "not just good but sensational." That same day Garcia said "he looks very strong and is very, very quick. He is ready."
Part of the work ethic has been to put on some muscle, which was achieved after working with Olympic track coach Remy Korchemny and strength and conditioning mentor James Bassel.
Donaire burst into the consciousness of the media and fight fans with two spectacular knockouts but in-between hasn't been able to deliver similar performances against somewhat lesser opponents which strengthens the opinion that Donaire likes challenges and when the stakes are high that's when he delivers in style.
Not too many gave him a chance when he faced hard-hitting, cocky Australian IBF/IBO champion Vic "Raging Bull" Darchinyan on July 7, 2007. But Donaire speared Darchinyan with the finesse of a matador and then connected with a perfectly-timed left hook counter that dropped Drachinyan on the seat of his pants and had him wobbling around the ring like some drunken sailor before crashing into the ropes near his own corner.
That stunning performance was voted "Knockout of the Year" and "Upset of the Year."
The next time Donaire duplicated the feat was in February 19, 2011 at the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel and Casino when he blasted veteran Mexican World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization bantamweight champion Fernando "Cochulito" Montiel in two rounds.
It was an almost identical left hook counter that sent Montiel crashing to the canvas, his legs quivering similar to Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton when Pacquiao separated him from his senses also in the second round with a devastating left hook.
Donaire added the World Boxing Association Interim super flyweight title to his trophy room with a solid showing over Panama's overweight Rafael Concepcion who obviously didn't want to shed off the excess poundage believing he could use that to bully the lean-looking Donaire and give his own career a boost, not minding the title itself.
Donaire played it smart, refused to be drawn into a slugfest and out-boxed Concepcion to win. He then solidified his status as the WBA champion with an 8th round TKO over the highly touted Hernan "Tyson" Marquez who has since dropped down to flyweight and holds the WBA title.
Donaire was thrilled at the prospect of fighting at famed Madison Square Garden against undefeated, two-division world champion Omar Andres Narvaez and was hell-bent on putting on a show for the fans. But Narvaez proved to be a killjoy.
After tasting the power of Donaire in the opening rounds Narvaez decided to cover up and backpedal all night long, eliciting boos from the fans by the middle rounds.
Donaire scored a shutout 120-108 win on the scorecards of all three judges and although he accepted the win he was utterly unhappy over the way the fight went.
Chasing five or six world titles, Donaire went after his fourth when he was pitted against former WBO super bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, son of the all-time greats, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr.
Vazquez did some talking with his wife getting into the act and calling Donaire a coward which set-off a verbal exchange with Nonito's taekwondo champion wide Rachel getting into the fray.
Donaire exacted his revenge in the ring also for fellow Filipino "Marvelous" Marvin Sonsona who was knocked out in the 4th round of a title fight against Vazquez.
Donaire dropped Vazquuez in the 9th round en route to a comfortable victory except for the ridiculous scorecard of Dr. Reuben Garcia who turned in a 115-112 score in favor of Vazquez to the utter dismay not just of Nonito but even WBO president Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel and fights fans at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texs who booed the announcement of Garcia's scorecard.
Nonito has always wanted the so-called big name such as Jorge Arce, Abner Mares and Toshiaki Nishioka, the classy WBC super bantamweight champion among others. But to get at these fighters isn't that easy and he, together with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, is doing next best thing — that of striving to unify the titles by taking on IBF champion Mathebula and making a statement.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.