They say that every great fighter has one last big performance left in them. At 38, former five-weight world champion Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire 41-6 (27) proved he may have a few more left than that.
In what some might call a stunning upset, Donaire claimed the WBC bantamweight championship from previously undefeated French southpaw Nordine Oubaali 17-1 (12) by fourth round knockout at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California on Saturday night.
After a close feeling out round Donaire started timing his counters in the second, making particularly good use of his right hand. The shorter Oubaali stayed on the outside, trying to pick his moments with his right jab to disrupt the veteran’s rhythm.
Although the champion had his moments in spurts, it was Donaire’s poise, patience and command of the ring that was the story of the fight. He knew when to engage and when to sit off and catch his opponent coming in.
Late in the third round a scintillating left hook from Donaire smashed into Oubaali’s jaw while his back was on the ropes and sent him down for the first time in the fight. Although he beat the count Oubaali was on wobbly legs and Donaire immediately went on the offensive, dropping him again right at the bell.
Referee Jack Reiss applied the mandatory eight count before Oubaali staggered around the ring looking for his corner.
The champion might have survived the round, but the writing was on the wall.
Donaire wasted no time going in for the kill in the fourth, working over Oubaali before landing a left hook, right uppercut combination that crumpled the short-priced favourite again. This time referee Reiss decided he had seen enough, waving off the contest at the 1:52 mark.
“I knew what his pattern was, so I knew what he was going to do,” Donaire said. “My wife in the corner was telling me you know your distance, you know what you need to do, and that was countering him with the left hook.”
It is remarkable to think that it was 14 years ago that Donaire first burst onto the scene when he stopped Armenian-Australian wrecking machine Vic ‘The Raging Bull’ Darchinyan with a single left hook to claim the IBF flyweight belt in his first world championship fight.
Donaire is now chasing a unification bout Japan’s WBA and IBF bantamweight champion Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue 20-0 (17), to whom he lost a competitive decision to in November 2019. Their thrilling clash was awarded Fight of the Year honours.
“I believe that it matters not what your age is, it matters how you are mentally, how strong you are mentally,” Donaire said.
“What I learned from Inoue is I’m back. I knew I could compete with him, and I was not fighting, I was learning. I’m ready for the next one!
“That’s what I wanted to win this fight, because that’s my next goal. The only thing I haven’t done in boxing is become undisputed and the next phase is getting the rematch [with Inoue].”
In an all-out war on the undercard junior welterweight Subriel ‘Browny’ Matias 17-1 (17) weathered an early storm against the hammer fisted Batvrzhan Jukembayev 18-1 (14) to take over the fight in the mid-rounds en route to an eight-round stoppage in their scheduled 12-round clash.
The 29-year-old Matias from Fajardo, Puerto Rico wore some big shots from the Kazakhstani southpaw in the opening two rounds but began to wrest control in the third before dropping Jukembayev with a left hook in the fourth.
Matias continued to pressure Jukembayev through the mid rounds but was caught with a hard right hook that shook him up late in the seventh stanza. Matias returned to his corner to be admonished for not clinching when hurt.
The pep talk seemed to fire up Matias, who went to town on Jukembayev in the eighth and kept targeting his opponent’s rapidly swelling eyes. Jukembayev’s corner stopped the fight before the bell to start the ninth.
“I have definitely had some other opponents who were very good, but he has given me the hardest battle,” Matias said after the fight.
The scores at the time of the stoppage were 77-74 twice and 76-75, all for Matias.
Junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell 14-0 (14) of Capitol Heights, Maryland kept his unblemished record intact with a dominant sixth-round stoppage of 31-year-old Puerto Rican Jovanie ‘El Lobito’ Santiago 14-2-1 (10) in their scheduled 10-round bout.
The 24-year-old southpaw, who represented the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games, was dominant throughout the contest, throwing punches in bunches and sinking Santiago to the canvas with a right hook early in the fourth round.
Russell continued the punishment for the next two frames, forcing Santiago to retire on his stool at the end of the sixth. It was the first time he had been extended past the fourth round.
“The object is to get the man out as soon as possible and come out unscathed,” said Russell. “I’m looking for Adrian Broner, I want Adrien Broner.”
On the untelevised portion of the undercard bantamweight Alejandro Barrios 24-2-5 (12) knocked out Juan Gabriel Medina 12-7 (11) in the second round of a scheduled a scheduled eight.
Junior welterweight Kevin Johnson 9-2 (5) upset previously undefeated Luis Salazar 15-1 (3), stopping him in the eighth and final round. Salazar was down four times before the fight was stopped at the 0:17 mark.
Light heavyweight Atif Olberton 2-0 (2) knocked out journeyman Larry Pryor 14-24 (8) at 0:49 of the third round. Pryor was down twice in their scheduled six round bout.
In the opener super featherweight prospect Rey Diaz 5-0 (2) claimed a unanimous decision victory over Sergio Gonzalez 3-5 (2) in a four rounder. Diaz was down in the final round but held on for a 38-37 victory on all three judges’ scorecards.