Nonito Donaire enters WBSS bantamweight tournament
By Chris Williams: Former four division world champion Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire (38-5, 24 KOs) has officially entered the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament season II to go after the Muhammad Ali Trophy. It’s going to be interesting to see whether the 35-year-old Donaire is able to find success in the tournament, as he hasn’t competed in the 118 lb. division in seven years since his 2nd round knockout victory over former world champion Omar Andres Narvaez in October 2011.
Donaire moved up in weight to the super bantamweight division after that fight to that fight, and he’s found success at 122 and a moderate amount of success at 126. Where Donaire has gone wrong in recent years was his decision to move up to featherweight. He clearly didn’t have the size to compete against the stronger fighters in that weight class.
“I’m really looking forward to the tournament,” Donaire said. “People always asked about my goal and I said to be undisputed. With this tournament, that goal is now attainable.”
Going back down to bantamweight is a move that Donaire should have made four years ago when he lost to Nicholas Walters by a 6th round knockout in an ill-advised move up to featherweight. Donaire instead moved back down to super bantamweight and captured the vacant World Boxing Organization title in beating Cesar Juarez by a 12 round unanimous decision in a tougher than expected fight . The main question for Donaire is whether he can still make 118 without draining himself completely.
When Donaire moved up to 126 in 2014, he did it after complaining that he was having a hard time making weight at 122 and that it was weakening him to melt down to the division. For Donaire to have to lose eight additional pounds to melt down to 118, it might be too much weight for him to lose at this stage in his career. I think Donaire can get down to 118 if he tries hard enough, but I have doubts whether he’ll be strong at the weight like he was when he was younger in his 20s.
There’s no question that a prime Donaire would have an excellent chance of winning the World Boxing Super Series [WBSS] bantamweight tournament, but it’s been so long since he was at his best. Donaire’s punching power is still there. He can still punch with a ton of bricks, but his stamina and reflexes aren’t what they were back in 2011.
“Entering the tournament gives me an opportunity to showcase my capabilities against the best in this division. This division is stacked with talent and that’s really exciting!”
Entering the WBSS tournament gives Donaire a chance to turn his career around to give him a resurge if he wins it.
As of Thursday, these are the confirmed fighters in the WBSS bantamweight tournament:
– Nonito Donaire
– Zolani Tete
– Emmanuel Rodriguez
– Ryan Burnett
– Jason Moloney
Donaire will be favored against the likes of Jason Moloney, but it’s going to be tougher for him when he goes against Tete, Burnett and Rodriguez. The class of the tournament right now is Tete and Emmanuel Rodriguez. Those two are very talented fighters with youth and punching power. WBA Super World bantamweight champion Burnett is arguably a paper champion with decent boxing skills but nothing special. Burnett recently swerved his IBF mandatory Emmanuel Rodriguez by vacating the title rather than facing him. Rodriguez is now the IBF 118 lb. champion. Burnett and Moloney are the weak links in the WBSS tournament right now.
If Donaire wins the WBSS 118 lb. tournament, he’ll be a three belt champion in holding the IBF, WBA and WBO bantamweight titles. It would be huge for Donaire to leave the tournament with three of the four titles in the bantamweight division. The only title that wouldn’t be in Donaire’s possession is the World Boxing Council strap. That title is currently vacant. Donaire would have an excellent chance of grabbing that one if he can win the other three titles. It would be a major comeback for Donaire if he can win the WBSS tournament because e a lot of boxing fans see him as being past his best and done with the sport. Of course, it’s impossible to know if Donaire is done or not because he’s moved up so many weight classes since he captured his first world title at flyweight in 2007. Donaire skipped the super flyweight division entirely and went to bantamweight in 2011 in beating Fernando Montiel by a 2nd round knockout to grab his second division world title. If Donaire had stayed at flyweight or bantamweight, he likely still be a world champion even now. Donaire’s decision to keep moving weight classes has made it hard for him.
“I believe my size, experience and most of all my power will give me the edge over my opponents,” Donaire said.
Donaire has the edge over most of them with his punching power and size, but Tete and Rodriguez are big punchers as well. They’re younger than Donaire, and strong at the weight. We don’t know what kind of power Donaire will have in going down from 126 to 118. That’s a huge weight loss for a fighter who walks around in the 140s. If Donaire needs to drain 18 to 20 pounds of water weight to make 118, I don’t think he’s going to do well against the younger bantamweights like Tete and Rodriguez. Donaire will likely have the power advantage over everyone in the tournament. If he’s able to land enough of his big shots against those guys, he can possibly win the tournament. Rodriguez and Tete both look like super bantamweights though. Those aren’t natural bantamweights. Donaire’s size advantage over them will be minimal. The thing that Donaire has going for him is Tete and Rodriguez haven’t fought anyone with nearly the same kind of power that Donaire has going for him, so it could be somewhat of a shock for them when they get inside the ring with him. Once Donaire starts bouncing his hard right hands and left hooks off their chins, they may fold.
Donaire recently lost to former two division world champion Carl Frampton by a 12 round unanimous decision on April 21 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Frampton (25-1, 14 KOs) was able to use his boxing ability and superior stamina to wear Donaire down to win a decision. Donaire put in a game effort, but ultimately the youth and size of Frampton came into play in the later rounds to carry him to victory.
In the last three fights, Donaire has lost twice in losing to Frampton and Jessie Magdaleno. Donaire’s wins in the last three years have come against these fighters: Zsolt Bedak, Ruben Garcia Hernandez, Anthony Settoul, Cesar Juarez and William Prado. Even the Hernandez fight was a tough one for Donaire.
That was no walk in the park for Donaire despite the fact that the judges gave him a wide 10 round unanimous decision victory. Donaire won but he knew he’d been in a fight afterwards. Hernandez wasn’t an easy out for Donaire.
If Donaire loses to one of the contestants in the WBSS tournament, it might be time for him to retire from the sport. If he loses really badly to one of these smaller fighters, the writing will be on the wall for Donaire to hang up the gloves. Of course, if Donaire wins the tourneyman, as I mentioned, he’ll be on top once again and looking like the new star in the bantamweight division.