Big names aplenty, but Donaire stuck with few choicesBy Marc Anthony Reyes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
IT’S not very hard to see that even Nonito Donaire Jr., is getting tired of the long wait.
When I asked him last Wednesday over the phone when he is going to get “that big fight against a big name,” the four-division champion, already widely believed to be boxing’s next superstar, brushed it off with a line that has lately become his favorite : “It doesn’t matter who I face as long as they give me tough guys.”
Then later the 29-year-old WBO super bantamweight champion and pound-for-pound A-lister relented and uttered a pointed reply: “You know it depends on the negotiations. There are backgrounds in the
negotiations that some people don’t understand. There are many factors like money and everything, things they don’t know.”
Donaire is busy preparing for his fight against IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula for a unification bout on July 7 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Mathebula, who is listed as 5-foot-10 from Brakpan, Gautang, South Africa, followed a short list of prospective Donaire opponents right after former bantam titlist Cristian Mijares and featherweight Robert Marroquin.
Unlike the other two, Mathebula doesn’t bring much to the table except the promise of an all-out fight for a shot at fame and glory. Mathebula’s only other world title credential was against Panamanian champ Celestino Caballero in 2009 in a fight he closely lost.
“They gave me two names. Mijares and Mathebula,” Donaire told this reporter. “I told them that I want Mathebula because he has a title and I really want to unify the title. Kahit sino (whoever) as long as it’s a good fight and I get motivated,” he added.
Later, he bared that Top Rank probably found Mathebula easier to deal with than the others, meaning the big shots in or around the 122-lb class like unbeaten Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa, Japanese southpaw legend Toshiaki Nishioka, and Mexican warrior Jorge Arce.
It’s hard to see that somebody as exciting and as crafty as Donaire lacking in quality opponents. But he’s not to blame. He came into the scene with sledge-hammer fists fitted into a lean, 5-foot-5 ½ frame
that’s tall even for 122 lb. So he gets pitted against smaller guys. Even 5-foot-2 Arce appeared to be trying to avoid his path when he slipped down to bantamweight.
The fighters that could provide major fireworks are all in the next weight division.
Nishioka previously expressed intentions to fight Donaire, but nothing has come out of it. At 35, Nishioka could be slowing down, having fought last in October 2011 when he beat Rafael Marquez via unanimous decision.
Gamboa, the Olympic champion from Guantanamo, is fighting in the featherweight division and last saw action in September 2011 when he won over Daniel Ponce de Leon via an 8th round technical decision after an accidental headbutt. Juan Manuel Lopez lost some luster after back-to-back KO losses to Orlando Salido, also at 126lbs.
Now if Donaire decides to stay longer in super bantam, his next steps would be against the title-holders who are all aching to get to a piece of him, but whose names probably wouldn’t command a superfight.
WBA belt owner Guillermo Rigondeaux made a shoutout early this year to fight Donaire. But the amateur boxing phenomenon still has yet to prove himself in the pro where he just fought nine times, winning all of them and seven via KO. He’ll face Teon Kennedy this month with his crown at stake.
Undefeated 26-year-old Abner Mares of Mexico, who holds the WBC version, could be a very promising fight but the ward of Ignacio Beristain is under Golden Boy Promotions and striking a deal for a fight with him could pose a problem.
And that probably brought him to Mathebula.
After which, the question will be asked again: When will Donaire get that superfight?