WBO junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire has ambitious goals toward being undisputed champion of the 122-pound division.
Although Donaire (28-1, 18 knockouts) has his immediate focus on getting beyond an HBO-televised clash with IBF beltholder Jeffrey Mathebula (26-3-2, 14 KOs) on July 7 at Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif., his long-range plans include 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).
“There is an endless list of guys who will be making tremendous fights with each other. HBO has recognized this, and will concentrate on bringing to the public the best of these 122-pound fighters in a series of battles. We start off with what I’m pretty sure is the No. 1 guy in the division, Nonito Donaire, who will be fighting a unification fight against Mathebula of South Africa,” said Top Rank CEO, Bob Arum, who promotes Donaire, Nishioka, Arce and Rigondeaux.
“Another champion who is waiting out there is Guillermo Rigondeaux, who has two Olympic gold medals to his credit. Also out there is Jorge Arce. And sitting at ringside as I understand it, watching Nonito on July 7, will be another 122-pounder in Nishioka of Japan. So these are really exciting times in the 122-pound division, and it all kicks off on Saturday, July 7, with Nonito against Mathebula.”
ARUM: A DONAIRE-MARES FIGHT MUST BE ON HBO
Missing from Arum’s list of potential rivals for Donaire was Mares, the 26-year-old champion of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament.
Maries is coming off a Showtime-televised unanimous decision over former beltholder Eric Morel in April, but is promoted by rival Golden Boy Promotions.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer has, in the past, said that he believes that a Donaire-Mares bout is doable, although he hinted that the matchup would have to take place on Showtime.
“Showtime has put a lot of money and effort into the bantamweights, and the bantamweight tournament. And Showtime is going to be involved in the future with Abner Mares as well. So Abner Mares has some contractual obligations with Showtime,” said Schaefer in April.
“Showtime has been very, very good to Abner. I certainly want to honor those commitments, but I know that Showtime would be interested in a Mares-Donaire fight. If Nonito would entertain taking a fight with Abner Mares on Showtime, I would certainly be open to that.”
Arum agreed that Mares’ promotional status is not as much an issue in making a bout with Donaire as is his network affiliation.
“First of all, you have to understand that HBO is the premiere network, and to its credit, has embraced this division. Mares is a very good fighter, but he’s got to be willing to fight on the premiere network, which is HBO, and not on the secondary network, which is Showtime. It’s not a question of Top Rank or Golden Boy,” said Arum.
“But it’s the fact that HBO has embraced Nonito and this entire division, and that’s where the future is. Rigondeaux and Nishioka, yes. Nishioka will be at the fight on July 7. Mares figures in there, but he’s got to cut the apron strings and be willing to fight in this whole series of important fights on the premiere network, HBO, which is behind and knows how great this division is.”
MANAGER: DONAIRE IS THE BEST ‘POUND-FOR-POUND’
Manager Cameron Dunkin calls Donaire “pound-for-pound, maybe the best fighter in the world,” adding, “in my opinion, he is.”
“As he grows in weight, he’s just getting better and better and better. Like Nonito has told me, he hasn’t even started working on his body. He just keeps winning and winning,” said Dunkin.
“Now that he’s growing into the weights, he’s going to be terrific. I’m talking five, six, seven titles, who knows where this all comes to an end with Nonito?”
That’s saying a lot coming from Dunkin, who also handles many others such as Tim Bradley, whose split-decision over Manny Pacquiao added the WBO welterweight belt to the WBO junior welterweight crown he already owned on June 9.
In addition, Dunkin has unbeaten featherweight contender Mikey Garcia, former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios and former undisputed middleweight beltholder Kelly Pavlik — all of whom are promoted by Top Rank. Dunkin also has in his stable, southpaw junior middleweight James Kirkland, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Dunkin recently signed unbeaten welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas, who is coming off last month’s one-sided, unanimous decision over veteran Steven Forbes that was contested on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s unanimous decision victory over Miguel Cotto.
A four-division beltwinner, Donaire’s accomplishments include knockouts of three-division titlewinner Fernando Montiel and ex-beltholders Volodymyr Sydorenko and 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.
“Nonito is somebody who is very special to me. He’s more than just a boxer. I’ve known Nonito for so long now, and I’ve watched him come from paying for his fights and fighting for nothing and all of the struggles and things that he’s been through. So it’s very personal for me, and I want to give him these opportunities,” said Dunkin.
“It’s what Nonito wants and I want to give him everything that I possibly can, and I know that Bob [Arum] does to. We really appreciate him and want him to have all of the opportunities that he can to be great. In my opinion, he’s already great. But he wants to be greater, and I want to do everything I can to help make that possible.”
RIGONDEAUX RETURNS ON THE SERGIO MARTINEZ-JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR. CARD
A two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, Rigondeaux is coming off a five-knockdown, fifth-round knockout of Teon Kennedy on June 9.
Arum said that Rigondeaux will next make an appearance on the undercard of an HBO Pay Per View-televised main event featuring between RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and WBC titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. that is slated for the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Sept. 15.
Also on the card will be junior welterweight Mike Alvarado (33-0, 23 KOs) and potentially middleweight Matthew Macklin (29-4, 19 KOs). Alvarado is coming off an action-packed decision over Mauricio Herrera in April, and Macklin, an 11th-round stoppage loss to Martinez that he was leading throughout much of their bout in March.
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Naoki Fukuda, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com