CARSON, Calif. – Nonito Donaire’s victory over Jeffrey Mathebula on Saturday at Home Depot Center wasn’t a thing of beauty.
The South African’s looooooooong jab and awkward style would drive any opponent crazy, as it did Donaire, who had to get creative – bobbing, weaving, leaping – to get inside the nearly 6-foot Mathebula’s pesky left fist.
And while Donaire didn’t give his fans a spectacular victory – the Vic Darchinyan or Fernando Montiel kind – he was able to land more than enough hard punches to beat a difficult foe handily on the scorecards.
In the process, he unified two of four junior featherweight titles, adding Mathebula’s IBF belt to his WBO version.
Not a bad night’s work.
“My goal is to be a unified champion. I want to unify all of the belts at 122,” Donaire said after the decision – 119-108, 118-109 and 117-110 – was announced.
Mathebula (26-4-2, 14 knockouts) did his best to spoil Donaire’s plans. The South African, who at 5-foot-11 is an unusually tall 122-pounder, peppered the winner with his jab all night and landed almost as many power shots as Donaire (91-102) according to CompuBox stats.
Mathebula outpunched Donaire by more than 400 punches (919-515) and connected on 80 more (231-151). However, Donaire clearly landed the more eye-catching blows and was the aggressor throughout, both of which put him over the top.
One punch that was impossible to miss found Mathebula’s face in the fourth round, a perfect left hook that sent the taller man to the canvas a second or two before the bell to end the round. Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs) never landed another punch similar to that one but Mathebula wasn’t quite as active after that, allowing Donaire to outwork him the remainder of the fight.
Donaire acknowledged that it wasn’t an easy night.
“It was tough,” he said. “… That jab really took me out of my power range. He’s a great champion. He wouldn’t let me get in there and let me work.”
Mathebula was gracious afterward, saying: “The better man won.”
Donaire has made a habit of being the better man. The native of the Philippines, who lives in San Leandro, Calif., hasn’t lost since the second fight of his career, in 2001. That’s 28 consecutive victories (with 17 KOs), many against top-flight opponents.
And, of course, there are more elite opponents to come. Donaire and his promoter, Bob Arum, said he probably will next fight either former WBC titleholder Tokiashi Nishioka – who was present on Saturday in Carson – or all-action veteran Jorge Arce.
Donaire would like the fight to take place in the Philippines, where he has many followers. Arum said he hadn’t heard about that possibility but wasn’t necessarilyi against it. He said HBO is willing to television a fight from there.
“I’m open to it being in the Philippines,” Arum said.
And the fight undoubtedly would be nothing like that of Saturday night. Nishioka and Arce are only 5-6½ and 5-4½ respectively.
Meanwhile, on the undercard, Kelly Pavlik continued his comeback with a one-sided decision over plucky Will Rosinsky of Brooklyn, N.Y., in a 10-round super middleweight fight.
Rosinky (16-2, 9 KOs) had his moments, outworking Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs) at times and proving to be an elusive target.
However, Pavlik, the stronger of thet two, charged forward the entire fight and did considerable damage. The former middleweight champ from Youngstown, Ohio, threw a healthy 661 punches (connecting on 227) to 564 for Rosinsky (159).
Rosinsky went down from a short right in the second round but wasn’t hurt. Meanwhile, Pavlik suffered a deep cut below his left eyebrow – the result of a punch, according to a Top Rank spokeman.
Pavlik has now won three consecutitve fights since returning to the ring full time early this year, although none of his three opponents – Aaron Jaco, Scott Sigmon and Rosinsky – are considered elite fighters.
Pavlik said a big-name opponent should come next, probably in the fall.
“I don’t need that many … I shouldn’t need that many of those type of fights,” said Pavlik, referring to tune-up opponents. “… (Carl) Froch, (Lucian) Bute, (Mikkel) Kessler, (Andre) Ward. Those are the big names. Is it realistic? I don’t know.
“I gotta make a move, though. If not these guys, it’s gotta be someone close to them.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org