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Nonito Donaire motivated for ‘The Takeover’ at 118

Nonito Donaire

By Max Seitelman: Nonito Donaire wants to take over the 118-pound division in 2021 to become the undisputed bantamweight champion.  When Donaire returns, he plans on challenging WBC bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12 KOs).

The former four-division world champion Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs) is coming off an impressive performance against Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue last November.

What we saw from Donaire in that fight showed that he’s still an elite fighter, capable of beating the best. He didn’t win but he showed that he could have won had he made a few adjustments. Some of the power shots that Donaire missed in the fight likely would have knocked Inoue out if they’d landed.

Some of the ones that Donaire did land had Inoue’s face falling apart. The Japanese fighter had two broken bones in his face and a bad cut.

Donaire gave the superstar Inoue all he could handle in losing a 12 round decision in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament in Saitama, Japan.

Inoue suffered a cut over his right eye in round two. In the fifth, Inoue had Donaire looking on the verge of being knocked out. Donaire hurt Inoue with a right hand that wobbled him in the ninth.

In the 11th, Inoue dropped Donaire with a left to the body. Inoue suffered a broken nose and a fractured right orbital bone in the fight.

Nonito Donaire

Donaire expects to face Oubaali next

“I hope so and believe so, and I believe so,” said Donaire to PBC Podcast when asked if his next opponent was supposed to be Nordine Oubaali. “It was for May 15, and it went out the window [with the pandemic].

“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on with boxing, and how they’re going to go on in the next phase,” said Donaire. “I’m hoping it’s the same thing [Oubaali], and I’m training for that.

“You know me, I’m a fighter, and this is my territory,” said Donaire when asked if he’d like to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux in a rematch. I’m excited about that one as well, just the thought of it.

“I could move up to 122, but there’s unfinished business I’m trying to handle at 118. I feel like this is my territory, that’s my game plan to take over again,” said Donaire.

The 33-year-old Oubaali is champion that Donaire could run over with his power. He’s going to have to because Oubaali is a tough guy that will make it a hard fight for Donaire if he leaves him around for the entire match.

Oubaali recently defeated Naoya Inoue’s brother Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3 KOs) by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision last November. Takuma was ranked highly at the time, which was surprising because he talent was considerably lower than some of the other lower-ranked contenders.

Nonito ready for the ‘Takeover’ at bantamweight

“It was definitely a big learning lesson to show where I am mentally, and how to get myself back in there again,” said Donaire on his fight against Naoya Inoue. “That was the biggest experience for me to see where I’m at and realize where I can be. In life lessons, it’s always bittersweet.

“You always have that taste of bitterness. Me being the underdog and people saying that I wouldn’t last until round four, I gave him hell. It was sweet to be that way.

“That’s why we’re persuing the ‘Takeover’ for whoever boxing opens,” said Donaire. “The experience I had in that fight [Naoya Inoue], I know that I have a lot of gas in my tank. It gives me the motivation and the inspiration to be in the gym.

“Hanging that poster up in the gym and seeing that face, and when I wake up in the morning, I think it’s better motivation for me. That’s my game plan, you know? To try and take over the division.

“Again, that was an experience [against ‘Monster’ Inoue] that I’ve got a lot in me, and I’ve got to do it again and stop making excuses and stop making stories,” Donaire said.

It’s good that Donaire is choosing to stay at 118 rather than moving back up to 122 or 126. His power is better at bantamweight, but he needs to let his hands go. In Donaire’s fights against Inoue and Stephon Young, he was waiting too much and that led to him taking heavy shots.

Nonito Donaire

Naoya Inoue fight gave Donaire renewed confidence

“After 20 years of boxing, it can drain a lot of your motivation, but I was very motivated after the fight,” said Donaire in talking about his clash with Inoue. “I know what I have left in me. I have a lot left in me. Not just the power and the speed, but the overall aspect of an elite fighter.

“It’s just treating the mind and getting the body going. After the fight, we came back into the gym to try and get that mental motivation and inspiration to kick in for 2020. That was the game plan.

“I knew I had a lot left because when I sparred, and I trained, I felt really good,” said Donaire in talking about how he knew he was still in top form while training for the Naoya Inoue fight.

“And I even promised my kids, ‘I’m going to bring that trophy to you guys,’ because I felt like I was in tremendous shape. I felt like I was in great body, mind, and spirit. And I felt like I was unstoppable. What I realized in that fight was, I was pulling my trigger.

“Instead of when I was younger, I didn’t go. In that fight, I realized where my trigger was. And I kept holding on and never pulling that trigger, and that was something I was working on coming into that fight,” said Donaire.

The performance by Donaire against Inoue was nothing short of remarkable last November. Although Donaire was hurt in the fight from a body shot, he came back strong and punished Inoue with powerful punches.

Nonito wants to become the undisputed champion

“I’ve fought everybody, and when I see him, and I look at fights, I dissect a fight,” said Donaire when asked what his thoughts are of ‘Monster’ Inoue. “I look at where their feet stand, and the way they turn their body and how I can break them down and where their power is.

“Can I smother their power, and can I use counters? I saw that counter that I was trying to land and hurt him; I knew that was something he was susceptible to. That’s how I look at things and study things. I’m pretty smart in looking at how a fighter works.

“I think what I want to do in this division [118] is to become the undisputed champion,” said Donaire. “That’s always been my goal before I hang up the gloves. The last fight proved that I’ve got a lot left. The mindset is in tremendous shape, and I just need to get the body into it now,” said Donaire.

The 37-year-old Donaire has the punching power and the experience to become the undisputed 118-pound champion, but it won’t be easy for him to beat all the champs. These are the belt-holders at bantamweight that Donaire must beat to become the undisputed 118-pound champion:

  • Nordine Oubaali – WBC
  • Naoya Inoue – IBF & WBA
  • Guillermo Rigondeaux – WBA secondary title
  • John Riel Casimero – WBO

Inoue and Casimero are planning on fighting in a unification match after the lockdown, which means the winner will hold the IBF, WBA, and WBO belts. If Donaire can beat Oubaali to capture the WBC belt, then all he would need to do to become the undisputed champ at 118 is defeat the Inoue vs. Casimero winner.

That’s easier said than done obviously, but it’s possible. It Donaire can beat Oubaali in the fall of 2020, then he can potentially fight for the undisputed bantamweight championship in the first half of 2021. Donaire will be 38 by then, but still young enough to win if he can beat the powerful Casimero-Inoue winner.


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