Donaire eyes unification bout vs Japanese star Inoue after beating Gaballo to keep crown
Nonito Donaire Jr., appears to have his retirement figured out. First, he made sure he kept the money inside the family by tapping his wife, Rachel, as his head coach and his father, Nonito Sr., as his cut man.
More importantly, he knows exactly how his career should end.
Midway in the postfight interview, the 39-year-old Donaire pulled out his phone to read a long list of sponsors and benefactors before speaking about the one fight that would secure his biggest pay check to date—the rematch against Japanese star Naoya Inoue.
“Me and Naoya have much respect for each other, I believe Richard [Schaefer of Probellum Promotions] is gonna make it happen,” said Donaire after his spectacular fourth-round knockout win over fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo to retain his World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight title on Sunday, Manila time.
He engaged the erstwhile unbeaten Gaballo early on, with the challenger fending off Donaire’s dreaded left hook. But a furious exchange in the fourth opened up Gaballo’s body, which Donaire took advantage of with a jarring blow to the liver.
It was a fitting finale for the evening at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, which also witnessed Filipino Marlon Tapales stopping Japanese Hiroaki Teshigawara in the second round for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior featherweight title eliminator.
“He didn’t expect that from me. But I knew that was a tremendous punch I landed on him,” said Donaire of his fallen rival, who tried to stand up before buckling down to one knee in pain, prompting the referee to stop the fight.
Now Donaire, the 2012 Fighter of Year, is looking for a mega fight against Inoue, who narrowly beat him in 2019.
“Unified! That’s what we’re looking for,” said Donaire. “That’s what we’re going for, [to become the] unified champion of the world.”
Inoue holds the WBA and IBF titles in the 118-pound division and has the crowd pull to become the A-side of every fight he’s in.
If and when the World Boxing Organization strips Filipino world champ John Riel Casimero of his title, that fight between Donaire and Inoue could be a full-pledged unification bout for the undisputed championship.
Casimero pulled out of his fight against Paul Butler at the last minute allegedly due to gastritis.
Donaire, already the oldest bantamweight world champion in history, knows that he can’t rely on Sunday’s fight to gauge his readiness against a knockout artist like Inoue.
Gaballo, though showing courage in going all-out against Donaire, is nowhere near Inoue by all accounts. Moreover, it was evident that Donaire clearly isn’t as quick as before and had to compensate for it against Gaballo with his power, which he has still retained.
“You just have to believe in yourself, training hard and having the lifestyle that suits you,” said Donaire. “Healthy eating, healthy training. No cheat day. That’s the lifestyle I choose.” Donaire, who improved to 42-6-0 with 28 knockouts, handed Gaballo his first defeat for a record of 24-1-0 with 20 KOs.