Donaire to face Evgeny Gradovich in April

By Boxing News - 12/23/2015 - Comments

donaire788884443By Chris Williams: Despite newly crowned WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire’s recent talk of wanting to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux in a rematch in 2016 to avenge his one-sided loss to him from two years ago, Donaire, 33, will be fighting fellow Top Rank fighter Evgeny Gradovich (20-1-1, 9 KO) in an in house Top Rank fight on April 16th or the 23rd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Manila..

This was not unexpected news for me, as I never thought for a second that Top Rank promoter Bob Arum would match Donaire against Rigondeaux again, at least not in this lifetime. It is just not a good match-up for Donaire, and he seems to do much better against slow, flat-footed fighters without much punching power like Gradovich.

This is obviously is not the greatest fight you can imagine, as the 29-year-old Gradovich is easy to hit, suffers cuts, and does not have much punching power.

Lee Selby recently stopped Gradovich by an 8th round technical decision earlier this year in May. Gradovich was little more than a punching bag for Selby for 8 rounds until the fight was mercifully stopped in the 8th.

It was not competitive at all, period. It was just one-way traffic with Selby hitting Gradovich at will with shots and enjoying himself fully. As bad as Gradovich looked in that fight, it’s hard to believe he was ever a champion to begin with. In Gradovich’s last fight in October, he struggled badly to defeat Brazilian journeyman Aldimar Silva Santos (19-10, 12 KOs) by a controversial eight round split decision on the undercard of the Terence Crawford vs. Dierry Jean card in Omaha, Nebraska.

I saw the Gradovich-Santos fight and I had Gradovich losing the fight. The judges scored the fight 78-74 and 79-73 for Gradovich, and 77-75 for Santos. In Santos’ next fight earlier this month on December 12, he was soundly beaten by Ukrainian Oleg Malinovskiy (17-0, 5 KOs) by a one-sided 10 round unanimous decision by the scores of 100-91, 100-91 and 100-90.

That rather tells you where Gradovich is in terms of his skills in the featherweight division. Arum has Gradovich signed to his Top Rank stable and obviously has to use him somehow. It’s obviously a good move for him to be moving down to 122 to fight at super bantamweight, because I don’t think he has the punching power, hand speed or the talent to be fighting at 126 in the featherweight division. Never the less, I don’t see Gradovich giving Donaire any problems in this fight.

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I see Gradovich as a copy of Donaire’s last opponent Cesar Juarez, who Donaire struggled to beat on December 11th in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Juarez showed that you don’t need big power to almost beat Donaire. You just need to be able to take his punches for 12 rounds and hit him back. Donaire can dish out punishment, but he seems to be much less able to take the punishment in return, even when not fighting a big puncher.

Had Donaire been in with someone with even moderate punching power in that fight on 12/11, it would have been a problem for him. Donaire took a real beating in that fight and was fortunate that Juarez did not have a shade more punching power going for him because I think it would have ended badly for Donaire. This was Donaire’s first fight against a decent super bantamweight since his loss to Rigondeaux in 2013. Donaire moved up to featherweight after the loss to Rigondeaux, and he struggled in that weight class in losing to Nicholas Walters and taking a beating at the hands of Vic Darchinyan.

The WBO’s rankings are filled with a lot of beatable opposition, so it’s possible that Donaire could hold onto his WBO title for a while if matched carefully. Arum will need to keep Donaire away from champions Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, because I see those guys as too young and powerful for Donaire to handle. The thing is Donaire seems vulnerable against almost anyone now.

Juarez was not a great fighter, yet he almost beat Donaire. Just being able to take his power and hit him back seems to be the blueprint in beating Donaire. I do not think Donaire can take too many more beatings like the one he took from the younger 24-year-old Juarez. I would not be surprised if Donaire has lost something from his game from the punishment he took in that fight. Even a guy like Gradovich might be too much for the 33-year-old Donaire. If Donaire can get past Gradovich, then it’s likely that Arum will match Donaire against Jessie Magdaleno in his next fight. It’s a winnable fight for Donaire unless he can’t Magdaleno out of there.

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