And Donaire knows full well what is at stake.
“To me, Nishioka is the best. If you want to be the best, you’ve got face the best and try to make the big fights happen. If it doesn’t happen because of money or negotiations, then there’s nothing you can do. But if you’re a fighter, then, to me, you have to find the fighters who can challenge you and who will put you at risk,” said Donaire.
“You put yourself at risk of losing, at risk of getting hurt, at risk of losing your life. That’s all part of boxing and that’s all a part of challenging yourself. It makes you or breaks you. That’s the kind of mentality that you need and the kind of mentality that I try to have.”
A Tokyo resident who turned 36 in July, Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 knockouts) has not lost since falling by unanimous decision to long-reigning WBC bantamweight titleholder and Thai legend Veeraphol Sahaprom in March of 2004 — a span of eight years and five months.
During that time, Nishioka is riding a 16-bout winning streak that includes 10 knockouts and a 12th-round stoppage of Genaro Garcia in January of 2009. The win over Garcia was the first defense of the belt Nishioka earned with a unanimous decision over Napapol Sor Rungvisai in September of 2008.
Although he will be making only his fourth appearance in the United States when he meets Donaire, 29, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on Oct. 13, Nishioka’s skills and familarity with longevity and durability rank him with dignitaries such as 35-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr., 37-year-old Sergio Martinez and 47-year-old Bernard Hopkins.
“Not only does he have speed, power and experience, but he’s also a southpaw. So there are a lot of factors as far as his style that I have not seen in other opposition,” said Donaire.
“With his being a southpaw, I’ve not seen this much of a combination of that and other things about his skills all in one fighter and who is a left-hander like Nishioka. I mean, he’s strong and he’s fast and he hits hard.”
But Nishioka will be ending a nearly year-long absence from competition against Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs), having last been in the ring for a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Rafael Marquez in defense of his WBC belt on Oct. 1 of last year.
Nishioka made history by defeating Marquez (41-7, 37 KOs), becoming the first man from Japan to successfully defend his crown on American soil in what was his seventh defense at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Nishioka is the last man to defeat WBC featherweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez (52-7, 45 KOs), of Mexico City, who will pursue his 13th straight win and his 12th knockout during that run in his fifth defense against former 122-pound titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon (43-4, 35 KOs) on Sept. 15.
In order to defeat the hard-punching Gonzalez, Nishioka rose from a first-round knockdown to both drop and stop him in the third round of their fight in May of 2009.
Nishioka was equally impressive during two other appearances in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino respectively, where he stopped Evangelio Perez in the first round in December of 2002, and Jose Alonso in the fourth round in November of 2006.
“Nishioka has beaten other guys in their territory and on their home turf,” said Donaire. “He’s defeated some good people by knockout, so I know that he’s very, very dangerous.”
Donaire, meawhile, has not ended a fight within the 12-round distance since February of last year, when his second-round knockout dethroned Fernando Montiel as WBO and WBC bantamweight titleholder.
The win over Montiel was the second for Donaire as a bantamweight, following a fourth-round knockout of Volodymyr Sydorenko in December of 2010. Sydorenko’s nose was broken during a bout in which he was dropped once each in the first, third and fourth rounds.
Donaire dropped Montiel, meanwhile, with a stunning left hook, followed by a short right uppercut that left the loser’s arms outstretched over his head and both legs twitching. Montiel rose on unsteady legs, fell back down, and then rose yet again and stumbled into referee Russell Mora, who waved an end to the fight.
Donaire’s win over Montiel was his fourth straight by stoppage and his 10th in 25 consecutive triumphs. Since then, however, Donaire has not looked as menacing, having to grind out three straight decision victories.
In his final bout in defense of his WBC and WBO bantamweight titles in October, Donaire was frustrated by a defensive-minded Omar Narvaez, a previously unbeaten WBO junior bantamweight titleholder.
“Nishioka is the most complete fighter I’ve faced other than, maybe, Montiel. Montiel was a complete fighter and stuff like that, but this guy is even more of a veteran. Like I have said, Nishioka has been a good fighter all around. But I am a fighter who seeks challenges and who seeks to fight the best out there,” said Donaire.
“The only reason some of the other fights didn’t come through were because of negotiations. I try to fight the best out there, even with this opportunity that I’ve got against Nishioka. He’s a tough opponent. You don’t become a better fighter by not stepping up and challenging other people out there, and to me, Nishioka is the best guy out there.”
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com