Nonito Donaire expects vintage performance vs. Nordine Oubaali

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Nonito Donaire acknowledged the obvious question going into his title challenge against 118-pound champion Nordine Oubaali on Saturday: Can the 38-year-old still compete against the best in the business?

The answer is “yes” if his last fight is an indication.

Donaire, who turned pro in 2001, gave pound-for-pounder Naoya Inoue the fight of his life in November 2019, losing on the cards but raising the level of respect for the Filipino-American to new heights.

Now, a year and half later, he faces a two-time Olympian for what would be his ninth major title in four divisions and fourth reign at bantamweight. What’s his secret? He credits a healthy lifestyle.

“The biggest question is, ‘How am I still competing with these guys? And am I getting better somehow?” Donaire told Boxing Junkie. “I’m mentally healthy, constantly learning, constantly growing. The biggest thing is that I’m healthy.

“I’m eating the right foods, sleeping well, doing all the things you need to do to be where I am right now. … And I still love it. That’s what motivates me.”

Donaire’s exploits in boxing are legendary, starting with his sensational one-punch knockout of then-unbeaten Vic Darchinyan in 2007. He might’ve peaked in 2012, when he was named Fighter of the Year after defeating Wilfredo Vazquez, Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce at 122 pounds.

However, he hasn’t had the overall success above 118 pounds that he has had at that weight or below. He’s only 11-4 as a full-fledged 122- or 126-pounder, with losses to Guillermo Rigondeaux (122), Nicholas Walters (126), Jessie Magdaleno (122) and Carl Frampton (126).

It was after the Frampton fight in 2018, in which Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs) lost a wide decision, that he made the decision to go back down to 118. He’s 2-1 since but gave Inoue all he could handle, which seemed to indicate he as at his best weight.

And, for the record, he said he has had no problems making weight for Saturday’s fight. He weighed 121 on Monday.

“I’ve always felt good at bantamweight,” he said. “… I just always wanted to do more, I wanted better challenges [at higher weights]. Granted those fights were more lucrative but they were also more challenging. That kept me motivated.

“Then I came to realize, ‘You know what? I can do the best I can in the division I’m supposed to be in.’ This is what it is.”

Donaire, a big puncher throughout his career, couldn’t take out Inoue but he broke a bone in his face. And he was able to take everything the Japanese star threw at him, aside from a paralyzing shot to his liver.

He believes he’ll have size and strength advantages over Oubaali (17-0, 12 KOs) on Saturday.

“I’ll definitely have that advantage,” he said. “I still have the power that knocked guys out at 122 and 126. That’s the biggest thing. And Inoue gave me his best shots. If it weren’t for the liver shot, I would never have gone down. And everyone goes down from liver shots.

“… I took punches to my face and stood firmly. My size, my tenacity allowed me to be as strong as I could be.”

Donaire has had a great deal of time to recover from that fight, which was taxing for both men. That’s both bad and good.

Bad because the fight with Oubaali was supposed to have taken place in December but the Frenchman had to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19. Emmanuel Rodriguez was scheduled to step in for Oubaali but Donaire then contracted the virus.

That was frustrating for Donaire, who was eager to fight after the setback against Inoue.

At the same time, the long layoff allowed his body to fully heal. He said he feels much younger than a man in his late 30s, which be believes will be evident on Saturday night.

“I’ve had nearly two years of resting,” he said. “My body feels amazing. There was some frustration. I did want to fight, I trained so hard. The other side of it is I got time to heal, got time to relax my mind, get it off boxing.

“I’ll come back a lot stronger, a lot more motivated, a lot more ready. … You’re going to ask [on Saturday night], ‘How old is that guy?’”

Related

Fight Week: Devin Haney vs. Jorge Linares, Nonito Donaire's title shot

Nonito Donaire to take on Nordine Oubaali for bantamweight title

Good, bad worse: Inoue vs. Donaire to whatever Paul vs. KSI was

Nonito Donaire borrows trophy from Naoya Inoue to fulfill promise

Naoya Inoue, Nonito Donaire: What do their performances say?

Naoya Inoue outlasts Nonito Donaire in fight of the year candidate