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STILL THE KING: HOW DONAIRE WON IT

Nonito Donaire Wins WBC Title
Esther Lin/Showtime

Age is just a number and power is the last thing to go. Nonito Donaire, also known as the “Filipino Flash,” won the WBC Bantamweight title with a dramatic win on Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Carson, CA. In doing so he proved both of those truisms.

The 38-year-old Donaire became the oldest boxer to win a world title in the bantamweight. Utilizing his power and being healthy after a long-layoff which allowed him “to do what needs to be done” in the ring.                                                                                                                       

The fight wasn’t exactly the first meeting between the two men. When Oubaali had been looking for sparring partners to prepare for a previous fight – Donaire stepped in.

“It was different,” said Donaire. “He fought the same way. It’s just when I sparred him he was looking for southpaw, so I sparred him southpaw rather than orthodox.”

Donaire entered the ring with a t-shirt which read “Stop Asian Hate” in reference to the ongoing discrimination and bigotry many Asian-American’s feel has increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Oubaali as champion was bit of a road warrior. After winning the vacant title via an upset UD over Rau’shee Warren in Las Vegas he went on to defend the title twice. Once in Kazakhstan and Japan. For Donaire returning to Carson, CA where he had suffered one of his worst defeats at the hands of Nicholas Walters but, a venue which to be fair he had also won two previous fights.

After a classic feeling out round. Donaire appeared content to let Oubaali to get comfortable in the second with the French-Moroccan fighter appearing to win that round from ringside. From round three things changed with Donaire catching Oubaali with a hook in the corner with a left hook that dropped the champion.

Indeed, Oubaali at least thus far in his career tends to his telegraph his offense. Oubaali’s rythmn involves him bouncing on the balls of his feet just outside of range of his opponents. When he goes on the attack he usually pauses and resets his stance before throwing a combination.

This makes it easy for him but, also easy for skilled opponents to time. Which is exactly what Donaire did especially after the first knockdown. Oubaali was hurt again by a left hook and fell back into the ropes. He never recovered. Oubaali was put down again with a punch that landed after the bell. The end came in the fourth with another left that sent Oubaali slumping to the canvas.                                               

The two men have tremendous respect for each other and Donaire got on his knees in the corner after Oubaali was dropped. Donaire seeming to think that Oubaali could again become a world champion but, it will be back to the drawing board for Oubaali for now. Though Oubaali was only the second Frenchman to hold the Bantamwieght title after Alphonse Halimi, he wasn’t able to defend his title in France. Alphonse Halimi who held the title from 1957 at least managed one defense of his title before ironically enough loosing it in Los Angeles, CA as well to José Becerra.                                                               

In the two televised undercard fights Gary Antuanne Russell took his 14th fight and scored his 14th straight knockout. It was arguably Russell’s best win to date in part because the fight carried into the sixth round. Russell called out former world champion Adrian Broner for a 140-pound match after the fight but, admitted it might be a few more fights before he is ready for a world title.

Russell is the brother of the better known and current WBC featherweight champion. Subriel Ahmed Matías Matthew scored an impressive stoppage win over Batyrzhan Jukembayev. Like his previous opponent Malik Hawkins, Batyrzhan Jukembayev was 18-0 going into the fight before Matias’s power proved too much for the Kazakh fighter in an entertaining slugfest

With the win Donaire seems focused on getting a rematch with Naoya Inouye latter this year in which will certainly be a fight of the year candidate – as was the first fight. Another intriguing fight looming is a rematch with Guillermo Rigondeaux who defeated Donaire in 2013.  If Rigondeaux defeats Filipino slugger Johnriel Casimero in August and wins the WBO bantamweight title then he would break Donaire’s record – Rigondeaux is 40 years old. A prospect which could set-up a fight between the two oldest bantamweight champions in the history of boxing.

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