When Top Rank CEO Bob Arum announced that Nonito Donaire could face WBA featherweight titleholder Simpiwe Vetyeka on Saturday in Macau, he mentioned that Donaire might not be the favorite, even as the former RING junior featherweight champion was coming off a ninth-round TKO of ex-beltholder Vic Darchinyan in November.
The 31-year-old Donaire (32-2, 21 knockouts) is indeed facing a difficult challenge against THE RING's No. 4-rated Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs), a 33-year-old South African who broke onto the world scene in December when his third consecutive stoppage win upset long-reigning titleholder Chris John by sixth-round technical knockout.
Donaire suffered a broken bone in his right cheek during his victory over Darchinyan, a rematch of Donaire's fifth-round stoppage victory from July 2007. Prior to the return bout with Darchinyan, Donaire was dethroned as RING 122-pound champion following a unanimous decision loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux last April.
RingTV.com sought the opinions of 19 insiders for their thoughts on what will transpire in Donaire-Vetyeka on Saturday.
Simpiwe Vetyeka W 12 Nonito Donaire: We keep hearing about how the next fight will be Nonito Donaire at his best and his most exciting. The Fil-Am boxer-puncher was one of the best in the lower weight classes for the past seven years, but I believe his time passed.
Simpiwe Vetyeka is a handful for any top featherweight, and one that Donaire won't be able to bully. There exists the possibility of a controversial decision, but in the spirit of optimisim, I see Vetyeka's superior performance being properly rewarded.
Record: 8-4 [Last pick: Marquez TKO Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire, TKO 9 Simpiwe Vetyeka: It's hard to know what to make of Nonito Donaire anymore. Is he overrated or just over-the-hill? Both questions combine into a hefty burden of proof against another fighter, South African Simpiwe Vetyeka, who is not as well known, yet just as hard to figure.
Vetyeka is a proven road warrior. He also beat Chris John. It's hard to pick against him. At 33, however, he might be a little shopworn, meaning he's an opportunity for Top Rank to resurrect Donaire and turn the featherweight of Filipino descent into an Asian main event in Macao.
Record: 10-5 [Last pick: Alvarado TKO 10 Marquez]
Nonito Donaire UD 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: "The Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire may have looked like a fading star the last time out in his rematch with Vic Darchinyan, but his vaunted power bailed him out, and that's the last thing to go on any puncher.
Superlatives aside, the boxing world doesn't know very much about new WBA featherweight titleholder Simpiwe Vetyeka, and if Donaire had trouble getting himself motivated for Guillermo Rigondeaux, it's hard to imagine him being very "up" for this fight.
Still, for an obscure overachiever like Vetyeka, it's one miracle per lifetime, and he already pulled his off against a then-48-0 Chris John by retiring him in the corner last year. The Ghost of Rocky Marciano has no stake in this fight's outcome. Donaire wins by unanimous decision.
Record: 11-4 [Last pick: Marquez UD Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire UD 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: Nonito Donaire is still among the very best fighters in the world, and although he is new to the featherweight division, my hunch is that he knows too much for Simpiwe Vetyeka.
The lethargy that crept in during Donaire's rematch with Vic Darchinyan should be replaced by ample motivation, given that a world title in a fifth weight class is on the line. I think the "Filipino Flash" wins this fight convincingly because he is levels above the opposition.
Record: 12-2 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire W 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: The late-blooming Simpiwe Vetyeka is a good fighter who will enjoy height and reach advantages, but Nonito Donaire was once elite, and elites, even when they haven't been their best as of late, usually have one more big performance in the tank. The guess — and it's strictly a guess — is that it will come here.
Record: 5-3 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire UD 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: It's obvious that Nonito Donaire isn't the same fighter who was considered the heir to Manny Pacquiao's throne and had a stellar 2012 campaign. However, does that mean Donaire's done? Not by any means.
Less-than-impressive outings against Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vic Darchinyan may motivate "The Filipino Flash" to find that explosiveness he once had. Simpiwe Vetyeka is a long fighter who has never been stopped and is coming off a stoppage over Chris John.
But I have a gut feeling that Donaire is going to show up well aware that he can't look bad against a tough fighter that the general public has never heard of.
It won't be easy, but I think the speed and power come into play once Donaire finds a rhythm, and fighting in China will fuel Donaire to the close but unanimous decision victory.
Record: 12-2 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire W 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: Based on recent form, you'd have to give an edge to Simpiwe Vetyeka. However, I'm not ready to write off Nonito Donaire, who not that long ago was Top 5 on a lot of pound-for-pound lists.
Sure, Guillermo Rigondeaus made him look bad, but Rigo makes everyone look bad. I think the styles of the two fighters are going to mix for a good fight, with lots of heavy-hitting.
Simpiwe is a talented kid, and I think he'll make it very tough on Donaire. But he sometimes can get wild, and I think Donaire can take advantage of that.
Donaire will be more focused for this fight than he has been for other recent bouts, and he'll prevail by a close decision in a fight during which both may visit the canvas.
Record: 10-5 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire TKO 10 Simpiwe Vetyeka: This is a very intriguing matchup. Simpiwe Vetyeka is a resilient slugger who will be unafraid to trade leather with Nonito Donaire during the entire fight.
They both have similar styles, and the early going surely is going to feature some serious fireworks. But in the end, the speed and athleticism and not to mention the accuracy of Donaire should give him the victory by a hard-fought stoppage victory.
Record: 1-1 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 10 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire KO 6 Simpiwe Vetyeka: So, just who is Mr Simpiwe Vetyeka? Raise your hand if you know him. Even at this weight, Nonito Donaire has too much class and power to let his opponent pull off a second upset. Donaire has a chip on his shoulder, and right now, that chip is called a Vetyeka.
Record: 8-1 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire TKO 11 Simpiwe Vetyeka: There's some mystery surrounding this bout. Who is Simpiwe Vetyeka, and what has become of Nonito Donaire? Vetyeka was supposed to be victim No. 51 for Chris John.
Instead he battered, bloodied, and stopped the defending champion. Donaire hasn't looked like the same fighter since he was defeated by Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2013.
Donaire struggled mightly against Vic Darchinyan before rallying to win the bout by knockout. Is Vetyeka for real? Does Donaire still have the fire to compete? I think he does. I'm picking Donaire to win by stoppage in the 11th round.
Record: 11-4 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire W 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: Neither man is a robust featherweight, both rising in weight from bantamweight and below over the years. Simpiwe Veteyka comes in off a career-best stoppage of Chris John, while Nonito Donaire looked bad in both his 2013 outings.
Donaire won one clear round in a loss to Gullermo Rigondeaux, and he was losing to Vic Darchinyan before a saving bomb. Veteyka has never been stopped, is long, and throws well. Vetyeka has the style to give Donaire fits.
But can he handle Donaire's explosiveness? Even if he does, the thinking here is fighting in China will see close rounds go Donaire's way and we might have a little controversy in the scoring.
Record: 8-6 [Last pick: Alvarado KO Marquez]
Nonito Donaire KO 9 Simpiwe: Simpiwe Vetyeka has stopped respected opponents — Daud Yordan and Chris John — in his last two fights, evidence that he's very good and on top of his game.
I suspect Donaire realizes he has no more room for sub-par performances. He'll be at this best, too. I'm guessing he'll be the first to stop the South African.
Record: 8-3 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Simpiwe Vetkeka SD 12 Nonito Donaire: I think that Simpiwe Vetyeka is an awkward, slick, effective puncher, whose movement will give Nonito Donaire a lot of problems. The champion will bust Nonito up and will win a split decision.
Record: 3-0 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire KO 9 Simpiwe Vetyeka: It's a great fight. Simpiwe Vetyeka is still high off the impressive stoppage of Chris John, a career-best win. But something tells me John has been slipping, and the victory, again though impressive, is not as significant as it looks on paper.
Nonito Donaire has gotten himself right after losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux over a year ago. This will prove that Donaire is definitely back by stopping Vetyeka.
Record: 7-0 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire W 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: I like Nonito Donaire by decision. This will be a very tough fight, as Simpiwe Vetyeka is a physically imposing featherweight with enough veteran tricks to negate Donaire's superior reflexes.
I saw Donaire train in Manila, and the power is still there at 126. It's just a matter of setting it up properly. Under his father's tutelage, I expect to see better decision-making on his part.
Record: 2-0 [Last pick: Marquez W 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire UD 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: The little-known South African fighter, Simpiwe Vetyeka, is exactly what Nonito Donaire needs to get his career back on track. As long as Donaire has trained seriously he shouldn't have a problem with the older and more shopworn Simphywe Vetyeka.
Record: 9-1 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 11 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire UD 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: Nonito Donaire is by far one the most talented fighters on the planet, but Donaire has been criticized with his last two performances. Donaire has taken a loss and not looked very impressive during a win that raised more questions.
Donaire's opponent, Simpiwe Vetyeka, is known for the big upset against the long-reigning former titleholder Chris John. So does Vetyeka have a chance of upsetting the odds yet again? The South African has some length in height, and shows excellent hand speed and power.
The fight will be held in somewhat of a hostile territory for Vetyeka, but the WBA featherweight titleholder has been there before and controlled his destiny.
Donaire will be the hometown favorite, and will get the benefit of most of the close rounds. There is the potential for a controversial decision, but whatever the sentiment, I see Donaire taking a wide decision.
Record: 9-4 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 11 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire W 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: Despite Simpiwe Vetyeka dethroning the long-reigning Chris John in his previous matchup, cries of fluke and John being "due" were amid the relatively shocked voices being heard five months ago.
While Nonito Donaire got schooled by one of the greatest technical boxers of the modern era in Guillermo Rigondeaux, Donaire is still good enough to beat anyone not named Rigondeaux.
Yes, Vic Darchinyan was able to take it to the Filipino Flash for most of the fight in their last outing, but with a new/old trainer in Glen Donaire Sr., and an alleged newfound dedication to the sport, we should see Donaire use his talents to get a points win over a tough fighter who has never been stopped.
Record: 5-4 [Last pick: Marquez UD 12 Alvarado]
Nonito Donaire W 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka: Last December, Simpiwe Vetyeka caused quite a stir when he unseated long reigning WBA 126-pound boss Chris John, forcing the long reigning champion's corner to retire him at the end of the sixth round.
The loss of the former head of state seemed to empower Vetyeka. It'll be interesting to see if he can reach those heights against Donaire, who went from 2012 fighter of the year to something of a let down in 2013.
Donaire lost to Guillermo Rigondeux in a listless performance and struggled mercifully with Vic Darchinyan, leading many to question if his best days were behind him. For me, while Vetyeka is the form guy, I believe Donaire to be well-rested and in a good place now.
I believe that Donaire is the more gifted fighter and will outpoint the South African to become a four-weight world champion. It wont be easy. Vetyeka will give Donaire all he can handle. The heavy-handed champion may threaten to run through Donaire, who will show desire and meet fire with fire.
Record: 10-3 [Last pick: Marquez TKO 10 Alvarado]
By a one-sided 17-2, the insiders favor Nonito Donaire to dethrone Simpiwe Vetyeka as WBA featherweight titleholder.