Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs) takes another step towards staking his claim as the best super bantamweight in the world, when he puts his WBO and IBF titles on the line against Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs), the rightful claimant to the WBC super bantamweight title, on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. HBO Boxing After Dark will televise Donaire-Nishioka along with the opening bout featuring Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, starting at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT.
Despite being one of the brightest little stars in the sport, Nonito Donaire comes into Saturday night’s fight having been heavily criticized since his “one for the memory bank” knockout over Fernando Montiel in February of 2011. A legal dispute with his promoter kept Donaire out of action for eight months, and when he came back he failed to impress against the smaller Omar Narvaez. An argument can be made that Donaire’s tepid performance can be laid at the feet of Narvaez, who was unwilling to open up and happy to cruise to the finish line. Donaire followed up a disappointing fight with laborious wins over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Jeffrey Mathebula.
In each fight it was obvious that Donaire was laboring in search of the knockout. The mania and hype following his spectacular knockout over Montiel created an overwhelming demand for a similar result each time out. His combination punching made only scarce appearances while Donaire settled into habits of throwing one and two punches at a time in hopes of a highlight reel knockout.
But Donaire isn’t a stupid fighter, and he recognized the error in his recent approach. Going into Saturday’s fight with Nishioka he has maintained he won’t go looking for the knockout, but rather execute his game plan and break his opponent down.
“When (the knockout) comes, it comes,” Donaire told the media on hand at a recent press conference. “But the proper game plan will show my power, which is what I was known for—lightning-fast counters that were knocking people out because they never saw it coming.
“No matter how tough you are, if you don’t see where it’s coming from, you don’t expect it and it will knock you down.”
If Donaire is serious about sticking to the basics, his physical gifts alone won’t carry him to victory. Nishioka is a well-seasoned southpaw who can make Donaire’s night very difficult. Donaire has shown great ability to drop his hands and slip punches, but he’s struggled at times with punches coming straight down the pike. He’ll have to keep his right hand up and tighter than he’s accustomed to. Donaire has always leaned heavily on his left hook, and it can be a sneaky weapon against a southpaw, but his right hand will need to be huge in this fight. Donaire can throw his right hand – which may be just as powerful as his left hand – straight down the middle as well as throw it wide around his opponent’s guard.
Nishioka comes in with the momentum of last October’s decision win over Rafael Marquez having faded during his period of inactivity, but he’s a solid pro that won’t come in with a great deal of ring rust. He has defended his WBC super bantamweight title seven times, including a stoppage win over Jhonny Gonzalez and a decision win over Rendall Munroe. He is currently classified as the WBC’s “Champion Emeritus”, having never lost his title before it was offered up for Abner Mares and Eric Morel back in April.
Nishioka’s straight left hand, like Donaire’s straight right hand, will have to be a factor. Expect to see a battle of footwork as Nishioka shuffles to his right looking to line Donaire up with his left hand. While he moves he must be mindful of Donaire’s left hook. Nishioka shouldn’t be afraid to touch Donaire’s body with the same straight left hand. Donaire’s legs are arguably his biggest asset, and taking some gas out of his tank will help to slow Donaire and allow Nishioka to go to work. Speaking of work, Nishioka’s work rate should be high in this fight. Donaire will eat him alive if allowed to sit back and settle into a comfortable rhythm.
Saturday night’s super bantamweight title fight should come down to a battle of straight power shots. Given Donaire’s seven year age advantage and foot speed edge, his right hand should prove superior. And when you factor in his explosive left hook, one might expect a late stoppage for the “Flipino Flash”. Expect a stoppage win slightly earlier than what is classified as last, most likely somewhere around the seventh round.