South African promoter Branco Milenkovic says that he has been in discussions with Top Rank to match newly-crowned IBF junior featherweight titleholder Jeffrey Mathebula against WBO 122-pound beltholder Nonito Donaire Jr. in a title unification bout on July 21.
Milenkovic, who promotes the 32-year-old South African, tells THE RING that he had spoken with Top Rank’s VP of boxing operations Carl Moretti about putting the two together for a fight in the United States, where Mathebula (26-3-2, 14 knockouts) has never fought before. Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs), of San Leandro, Calif., is rated no. 4 by THE RING’s pound-for-pound rankings and has won titles in three divisions.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum recently told Ronnie Nathanielsz of BoxingScene.comthat former super flyweight champion Cristian Mijares (44-6-2, 20 KOs), of Durango, Mexico, is also in consideration for Donaire’s next bout. Arum said that he would be meeting with HBO Sports executives in New York next week to discuss Donaire’s next move.
“We are looking very forward to the possibility of fighting Donaire,” said Milenkovic, who also promotes IBF flyweight titleholder Moruti Mthalane, who gave Donaire his hardest fight at 112 pounds in 2008 before being stopped on cuts in the sixth round.
Milenkovic says that there is a bit of a revenge factor involved in matching his fighter with Donaire after what he feels was an unjust decision made by referee Joe Cortez to stop the Mthalane fight four years ago.
“Based on Moruti’s performance against Nonito, without a doubt Jeffrey will have better chance as he is bigger and stronger,” said Milenkovic.
“No disrespect to Mijares, but in my opinion his best days are past. While he is fighting now for some kind of silver international title, Jeffrey is a legitimate IBF champion.”
Mathebula won the title last month when he avenged a prior decision loss to defeat countryman Takalani Ndlovu by a split-decision in South Africa. Mathebula had fought unified 122-pound champion Celestino Caballero in 2009, losing via a split-decision loss in Caballero’s home country of Panama.
Donaire, 29, is coming off of a split-decision victory of his own after upending Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in February to win the vacant WBO title at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.