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Nonito Donaire ready to beat Ryan Burnett

Image: Nonito Donaire ready to beat Ryan Burnett

By Mike Smith: Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24 KOs) will be back in his old weight class at 118 lbs this Saturday night to challenge WBA Super World bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9 KOs) in the quarterfinal of the World Boxing Super Series tournament at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.

Not much has been said about Donaire having a chance of winning the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, but he’s got a chance to surprise all of them due to his punching power. This isn’t a knock on Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete, but Donaire is clearly the biggest puncher in the tournament. Those guys don’t have Donaire’s freakish power. At bantamweight, Donaire is a devastating puncher with one-punch power. At super bantamweight and featherweight, Donaire is still a huge puncher, but he’s not as lethal as he is at 118.

If Donaire can recapture the form he showed when he fought in the bantamweight division in 2011, Burnett isn’t going to have much of a chance of winning no matter what sly tactics to try and win a decision. Donaire was a dynamo at 118 seven years ago. Had Donaire stayed at 118, he would likely still be a world champion today. But with Donaire moving up all the way to featherweight, it’s going to be hard on him on Saturday from having to make weight.

Although Donaire was a dominating force when he competed at bantamweight in 2010 and 2011, he might be drained at the weight now that he’s dropping down from 126 to compete against the 26-year-old Burnett on Saturday. Donaire is 35-years-old now, and he’s taken a lot of punishment in his recent fights against Jessie Magdaleno, Carl Frampton, Cesar Juarez and Nicholas Walters.

“After the Frampton fight, I realized I didn’t belong in the [featherweight] division,” said Donaire to “Not just my physicality, but I was so small for the weight.”

At this point in Donaire’s career, he doesn’t belong at featherweight or super bantamweight. Whether Donaire can fight at bantamweight and not be dead at the weight remains to be seen. Donaire has to have a pretty good idea how he feels sparring against bantamweights during training camp. However, Donaire obviously didn’t do the sparring after having made weight at 118 lbs like he’ll need to do to make weight for the Burnett fight this Friday. Donaire is going to have to take the weight off, and then rehydrate by Saturday without it hurting him for him to have a chance of beating Burnett.

The good news for Donaire is Burnett is not a big puncher like Magdaleno, Walters and Frampton. Burnett is more of a boxer, who grapples and roughs up his opponents in order to negate their power advantage over him. It’s likely possible that Burnett will maul Donaire, tie him up, and try to tire him out with his holding like he did against Zhanat Zhakiyanov. Burnett is a different type of fighter. He’s not afraid to wrestle his opponents if he feels he doesn’t match up with them in the power department, which is likely to be the case against Donaire on Saturday night.

“I’ve been fighting at featherweight against these bigger guys and I just thought, you know what, I can go back down,”

It’s easier said than done moving back down to bantamweight for Donaire. He’s complained in the past about how he felt weak at super bantamweight. That’s why he moved up to featherweight after his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2013. Obviously fighting at featherweight wasn’t the answer for Donaire, as he struggled in his fights against Simpiwe Vetyeka, Nicholas Walters, Carl Frampton and Vic Darchinyan. Donaire beat Vetyeka and Darchinyan at featherweight, but he was far from impressive in those fights. Donaire quit because of a cut in the Vetyeka fight, and he suffered a cracked cheekbone against Darchinyan before halting him in the 9th. It wasn’t an easy win for Donaire like it had been in his first fight with the slugger back in 2007.

If Donaire isn’t weakened from making weight, he’s got a good shot of beating Burnett, because he can’t punch at all. Burnett has been winning, but against lower level opposition, and that includes his victories over deeply flawed champions Lee Haskins and Zhanat Zhakiyanov. We don’t know how good Burnett is because he still hasn’t fought anyone good. What we do know is Burnett did not look good against Haskins and Shakiyanov. He looked like he had a better game plan against them, but he wasn’t technically gifted to the point where you would favor him against Naoya Inoue, Zolani Tete or Emmanuel Rodriguez. Fortunately for Burnett, Rodriguez is facing Inoue next, so he’ll likely be eliminated. Tete is going to be a big problem for Burnett if the two of them meet up.

Burnett is younger than Donaire, but not more talented and clearly not as powerful or as fast. Given his complete lack of power, there’s little chance that Burnett will knockout Donaire. If Burnett is going to win the fight, he’s likely going to do it by slowing the action down to a crawl by holding, wrestling and roughing Donaire up. The referee will likely take a hands off approach to enforcing the excessive clinching rule and mostly likely do nothing about fouling. If Donaire isn’t willing to play Burnett’s game, he could wind up losing an MMA type of fight on Saturday. Donaire has got to know what he’s going to be up against on Saturday from having watched Burnett’s past fights.

Donaire will need to take advantage of the times where he’s not being grabbed by Burnett and wrestled. If Donaire can land his power shots before Burnett turns the fight into a long 36-minute stall, then he has a chance to win the fight. Donaire has the power, speed, size and experience advantage in this fight. As long as Donaire doesn’t have to deal with Burnett holding him and wrestling, he wins this fight if he’s not weight drained from making weight.

“I’m in a division where I’m scary with my power, with my size, with my experience,” Donaire said via I can take big punches but I can throw big punches at the same time. So I’m just excited about this. I think I’m gonna be a big force to be reckoned with.”

When Donaire did fight in the bantamweight division from 2010 to 2011, he picked up three impressive wins in stopping Volodymyr Sydorenko, Fernando Montiel and Omar Andres Narvaez. It’s quite understandable why Donaire did move out of the bantamweight division. There was more money for him at super bantamweight initially and then featherweight. Donaire wasn’t cut out for featherweight, and he should have cut his losses and moved back down after he was beaten by Nicholas Walters in 2014. Donaire stubbornly stick it out at 126, and it cost him a loss to Carl Frampton in April of this year. Donaire lost to Jessie Magdaleno by a 12 round unanimous decision in 2016. Magdaleno is a fighter who is basically a featherweight, who is good at melting down to 122 to campaign at super bantamweight. It’s not surprising that Donaire lost to Magdaleno, as he didn’t have the size to deal with him. That’s why Donaire could do well in moving back down to bantamweight, as long as making weight doesn’t weaken him.

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