Donaire seeks IBF crown vs taller foeBy Marc Anthony Reyes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CARSON, California—Skill, speed and power.
These are the things Nonito Donaire Jr., will reach for in his deep bag of tricks when he faces South African Jeffrey Mathebula in the first step of his attempt to unify the super bantamweight crowns Saturday at the Home Depot Center here.
Fighting for just the second time in the 122-lb division, Donaire, the WBO champion, has been tagged the favorite against the IBF titlist Mathebula, and vowed for an impressive win to cement his status at a heavier division and open doors to megabuck fights.
Despite the overwhelming edge, Donaire will be wading in uncharted waters when he tangles with the relatively unknown Mathebula, who at 5-foot-10 will be enjoying a four-inch advantage in height and reach.
“I have set my goal very clear which is to clean up the division,” said Donaire. “I’m taking a step in that direction.”
After Mathebula, Donaire hopes to tangle next with other super bantamweight superstars including Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux, the WBA king, and Mexican toughie Abner Mares, the WBC titleholder in pay-per-view bouts
Dubbed “the next Manny Pacquiao,” Donaire has done well in sparring and Top Rank chief Bob Arum, who promotes the “Filipino Flash,” says his ward will need to make use of the full set of his arsenal.
“I don’t know, I think Nonito’s advantage is in his power and speed,” Arum said. “But we don’t know how he is going to deal with a guy that he will punch up on rather than punch down.”
Donaire tipped the scales Friday at 121.4 lb, stripping before a big, adoring crowd at the Parkville Hall of Marriott Manhattan Beach to reveal his newly acquired muscles. He still did an hour on the treadmill and sauna the night before but otherwise showed no problem making the weight.
Donaire is also looking to add more sheen to a star power that dimmed somewhat when he failed to send his last two opponents—Omar Narvaez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.—to dreamland the way he did to Fernando Montiel last year and Vic Darchinyan five years back.
“People are used to seeing me knocking out my opponents, the past few fights that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to knock people out,” said Donaire, who will try to fight his way inside Mathebula’s long reach, inflict as much damage with sharp combinations and get out of range fast enough to avoid getting hit.
Gangly and with an awkward fighting style that could throw off his opponent’s rhythm, Mathebula—only on his first outing in the United States—will also be climbing the ring very hungry for global recognition.
“Nobody knows me, nobody has seen me train and fight, and that makes me very dangerous,” said Mathebula, who tipped the scales officially at 121.8 lb. “Nonito is a great fighter, believe me, but I’m better. I came here to the US to get his title.”
Mathebula, who Arum claims came from the legendary Zulu tribe, will attempt to become his nation’s first unified champ. He won his belt last March via split decision over Takalani Ndlovu, who beat him a few months before. Mathebula has lost two of his last six fights.
Donaire’s manager Robert Garcia said Mathebula will be fighting from the outside, try to win the fight round by round and put the pressure on Donaire to come inside.
“But Nonito is stronger than before. He trained very hard and just had the toughest training camp ever in his career,” added Garcia.
The third man in the ring will be 68-year-old Pat Russell of San Diego, California. The judges are Steve Morrow and Jonathan Davies of California, and Deon Dwarte of South Africa. Dwarte’s appointment raised concerns regarding fairness in the light of Manny Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Timothy Bradley last month.
IBF and WBO officials would not confirm if that’s the reason they put in Davies, who was born in Cebu, Philippines, instead of California’s Lou Morret, who was earlier reported to be among the fight officials.