Lem Satterfield

Q&A: Donaire wants to be undisputed junior featherweight champ


WBO junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire wants to be the undisputed champion of his division, a quest he says will begin with an HBO-televised victory over IBF beltholder Jeffrey Mathebula on July 7 at Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.

A three-division beltholder, Donaire (28-1, 18 knockouts) has his sights on Mathebula (26-3-2, 14 KOs) and then high-profile bouts against the likes of former titleholder Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs), WBA counterpart Guillermo Rigondeaux  (10-0, 8 KOs), WBC beltholder Abner Mares (24-0-1, 13 KOs) and perhaps four-division titlewinner Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs).

Donaire’s accomplishments include knockouts of three-division titlewinner Fernando Montiel and ex-beltholders Volodymyr Sydorenko and Vic Darchinyan in the second, fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, as well as a split-decision over Wifredo Vazquez Jr. and a decision over previously unbeaten WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Omar Narvaez.

Donaire said that Nishioka has vowed to be ringside for his bout with Mathebula, a 5-foot-10 South African on a three-fight win streak.

Like Donaire, Nishioka, Arce and Rigondeaux are promoted by Top Rank. Mares, meanwhile, is promoted by rival Golden Boy, and is coming off a unanimous decision over former beltholder Eric Morel in April.

Over more than a 20-month span through December of last year, the Mexican-born Mares of Los Angeles faced elite oppponents in four 12-round title bouts, going 3-0-1 and overcoming intense moments of adversity in the ring.

During that time, Mares, 26, twice defeated ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko, earned a decision over Darchinyan and battled to a draw with then-beltholder Yonnhy Perez.

A two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, Rigondeaux is coming off a five-knockdown fifth-round knockout of Teon Kennedy on June 9.

Donaire discussed the potential fight with Mathebula as well as his future beyond that fight.

altRingTV.com: What do you know about Mathebula?

Nonito Donaire: Well, he’s very tall. He’s 5-10 [Donaire is 5-foot-5 1/2] and he’s IBF champion. He knows how to box and he knows how to use his reach. We just have to learn how to go around that.

There are a lot of things that we can do, going back to history. You have Ray Leonard who fought the taller guy in Thomas Hearns. Or Floyd Mayweather who fought the taller Diego Corrales.

So we can try to get a little bit of that from those fights. How to move your head to get out of the way of the jab, or, just using basic speed like Mayweather did against Corrales. We’re working on a lot of that in the gym.

I think that he will definitely use his height and his length. I just have to get past that jab, and then, once I get beyond that jab, then that’s pretty much it.

I think that I can exploit any angles after that and I’ll be in my zone. That’s pretty much it. No matter what type of style, I’ve been able to box guys in sparring who are 5-10, 5-11, and we’ve been able to work with that.

We have a lot of options, but I can’t say for certain what type of fight we’ll be fighting, because I’ve never fought a guy this tall or with this much range.

Never fought a guy who is taller than me or who is significantly taller. So it will be interesting. I’m anxious to see what sort of fight that he’ll try to make it.

RingTV.com: Will the body attack be important?

ND: I think so, definitely. That’s the easiest target. But I’m a head-hunter and I always want the knockout. I’ll use the body, sure, because it’s there to give me a better chance. I always use what’s given to me.

I’ll take whatever is there to give me a chance, so, definitely, the body is going to be one of the keys to doing it. But getting beyond that jab is going to be the first thing for me to do.

I don’t think that I’ve ever fought a guy where I had to be the aggressor coming forward throughout the whole fight, but this may be the first time, and I may have to go the distance. 

I’ve always been the counter-puncher or the boxer and backpedaled and used my legs. So this is going to be an interesting fight. It’s a territory where I’ve never been before.

RingTV.com: Are you looking beyond this fight?

ND: Usually not. But we do have Jorge Arce and Nishoka. We have a lot of guys. There’s Guillermo Rigondeaux or Abner Mares even. The guys who hold the belts.

My longtime dream has been to become the undisputed champion. So if everything goes well with Mathebula, then we can go and get the WBA or the WBC belt.

RingTV.com: What was your assessment of Mares against Morel?

ND: Morel is not a strong fighter. He’s a good boxer, but he stays in front of you as well. He’s a little bit older. So altgive him credit where credit is due. But as far as Morel, I don’t think that he was on the level of Nishioka and I.

RingTV.com: Your thoughts on Rigondeaux?

ND: That’s an intriguing fight because of his accomplishments. But I think that in the pro level, he’s very inexperienced. He’s never fought a guy like Fernando Montiel or Vic Darchinyan.

I think that even Darchinyan would give him hell if he fought Rigondeaux. So would Montiel. Those guys are just on a different level. But I’m going to aim for that belt, because that’s what I want to do.

RingTV.com: Is there an order of preference with these fights?

ND: With Mares or whoever has the belt and is willing to negotiate the fight, that’s who I want to fight. I think that a Mares fight is a good possibility.

But I think that the best guy in this division that I want to prove myself against is Nishioka. I think that Nishioka is the better guy of all of these guys.

He’s proven himself above all of these guys, and I promised him that I would fight him. So maybe if everything goes well this year, then maybe I can fight him in another fight.

I’m hoping. I did promise Nishioka, but I just definitely, after Nishioka, want to fight guys who have the belt. I’ve told my manager, Cameron Dunkin, that we want to fight all of those guys. I want to be undisputed.

So if those guys want to fight me, then, please, just hold on to your belts, because I want to come after them. I’m fighting for the IBF belt, and then I want to fight another champion.

altWhoever can make it an easy negotiation, that’s who I will fight. If Mares makes it a difficult negotiation, then I’ll go with Rigondeaux. If Rigondeaux makes it hard for me, then I’ll go with Mares.

So I have my plans, and that’s to fight Nishioka after Mathebula. But plans don’t always go the way you want them to. I’m eager to fight anybody out there. If everything goes well, I want the WBA and the WBC champion.

Either one of them. I want to accomplish my goal of being the undisputed champion. Before I get to 126, that’s what I want to do.

And then, I’m not waiting. I’m going to move up soon after that. I’m not waiting for anybody else, so it’s up to them to make it happen.


Read more:

Photo gallery: Nonito Donaire workout

Q&A: Donaire commits to year-round random drug testing


Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime

Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank

Lem Satterfield can be reached at lemuel.satterfield@gmail.com

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