Nonito Donaire has been a pro fighter for 20 years, winning world titles at flyweight, bantamweight, super bantamweight, and featherweight. He was part of the 2019 Fight of the Year against Naoya Inoue falling short of becoming a unified bantamweight champion. With the level of competition that he has faced over the years, it was certain that he would be in the Hall of Fame once he decides to hang up his gloves.
That decision may not come for a while.
At the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson California, “The Filipino Flash” overwhelmed Nordine Oubaali in four rounds scoring three knockdowns en route to a KO victory to win the WBC bantamweight championship. That registered as the 27th knockout of Donaire’s career, and the third time that he won a bantamweight title. At 38 years old Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs) is now the oldest world champion ever at 118-pounds.
The first round had both fighters measuring each other and seeing if they could score with combinations, with Oubaali fighting off his back foot and throwing the right jab. Donaire was calm while coming forward as he was trying to connect with power shots before the end of the round. In the second, Donaire did a better job in timing the Frenchman as he countered the combinations thrown by Oubaali. Though Donaire was getting hit by uppercuts and other power punches, he still came forward until he was able to land his patented left hook to put down Oubaali in the third round with 47 seconds left. Referee Jack Reiss gave the count to Oubaali who got up quickly, but the momentum was on the side of the 20 year veteran. The power shots from Donaire had more success, and at the end of the round he landed another left hook to knock down Oubaali again. It took more time for the defending champion to get up this time, and it was a precursor to what was to come in the following round.
Oubaali was game to engage at the start of the fourth round, but Donaire stayed patient and landed to the body and upstairs with efficiency. A few counters landed for Donaire over the course of the round before landing another left hook in the 1:12 mark of the round. Jack Reiss started a count on Oubaali before waiving it, giving Donaire the victory.
“I came in here and I felt really good,” Donaire said after the bout. “Today I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I think I was just very focused in the gym. Tonight was something that I had to prove to the world that I’m back and I’m stronger than ever.”
The new champion felt that the bout against Inoue gave him new life and the confidence that he can still compete at a high level in the bantamweight division.
“I can still compete at this level. The whole time I was not fighting, I was learning.”
That learning experience led him to this bout against Oubaali, which was scheduled for last December but delayed due to positive COVID-19 tests from both fighters. With this performance by Donaire in winning the WBC title, it places him in position for a potential rematch with Naoya Inoue which would be for three of the four major titles at bantamweight. If he does get that fight and wins, then the next bout could be for the undisputed title.
“My main goal is to get the rematch,” Donaire said. “After that it is undisputed.”
Cover photo by Esther Lin of Showtime