CARSON CITY, Calif. – Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (28-1-0 win-loss-draw) will have a solid partisan crowd support when he climbs up the ring Saturday, July 7, to face Jeffrey Mathebula (31-3-2) of South Africa in the featured title unification match of the HBO boxing card at the Home Depot Center, this city.
Carson, a city 17 miles south of Los Angeles, is home to 24,000 Filipino expats, and it is expected that a great number of them will show up at the sports arena to support Donaire, considered the next best thing in Philippine boxing right now, next only to the hall of fame-bound Pacman.
Boxing pundits, though, are still ambivalent as to whether or not Ring Magazine’s No. 5 pound-for-pound boxer in the world really deserves the mantle of superstardom that he has attained with Top Rank.
The problem with Donaire is that he has to become very successful inside the ring to come out from the shadow of the Pacman, who is right now the virtual face of boxing. Also a GenSan boy, Donaire cannot escape being compared to the great Pacquiao. And although he did not experience the marginalized life that Pacquiao went through, Donaire also had a very tough time growing up in the Philippines, and later in Northern California.
But in matters of inspiration, Pacquiao definitely gives him a boost. “He is definitely an inspiration how I want to be in my (boxing) career. He wants me to keep moving my feet to see how far can I go,” said Donaire.
At the office of Carson Councilmember Elito Santarina, where the GenSan prizefighter made a late morning courtesy call Thursday, Donaire told Pinoy Watchdog that he is ready and confident coming into this fight. “I have trained so hard knowing that the guy I am going to face is a very tough fighter. He is a tall guy, the tallest guy I will have to face,” said Donaire. “But we (Team Nonito) will be equal to the task. Yes, we are ready and very confident.”
Donaire is excited that he will be seeing action before a predominantly FilAm crowd who love their boxing heroes. “It means a lot to me to get the support of the FilAms in Carson. I appreciate that. These guys (Fil-Ams) are great boxing fans.”
For those who were not looking, Donaire (pronounced do-nigh-reh) started punching his way to the elite boxing league with big victories tucked under his belt. He pulled off a big upset win over erstwhile undefeated Aussie/Armenian champion Vic Darchinyan in July 2007, winning the IBF and IBO Flyweight world titles. His stoppage of Darchinyan went to the record books as “Knockout of the Year.”
Then on December 4, 2010, Donaire shocked the boxing world with another huge victory over Wladimiro Dydorenko at the Honda Center, Anaheim, California. Donaire kayoed the Ukrainian in the fourth of the scheduled 10-round title fight for the WBC Continental Americas bantamweight belt.
In between Darchinyan and Dydorenko, Donaire defeated all but one of his six opponents in abbreviated bouts. Only Rafael Concepcion of Panama lasted the distance, but still lost to the Filipino Flash in a unanimous decision. With that victory, Donaire also won the vacant WBA Super flyweight Interim world title.
The Darchinyan and Dydorenko were statement victories that were quite impressive by any measure. That made the 28-year-old Donaire a certified headliner, and subsequently, earned for him a tiff with Fernando Montiel (44-2-2) in the mainer of another Top Rank boxing card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Feb. 19 last year. Again, Donaire stamped his class over Montiel with a second round TKO victory, and captured the WBC and WBO bantam belts.
But the question boxing fans are asking now, “Is the Saturday Home Depot gig versus the South African going to be another cakewalk for the Filipino Flash? Will the taller, more experienced, Mathebula be an easy prey for the fleet-footed Donaire?”
During a Top Rank conference call, Donaire expressed his thoughts , saying: “The motivation is in my heart to work toward my goals and my dreams. To be a unified champion then challenge anyone out there and make it undisputed is a dream and hopefully I can make it happensaid, there are incredible fighters in this weight class and we are going to take them. And I am going to keep all the belts. Mathebula is the IBF guy and he is an incredible fighter and we can’t look past him.”
Mathebula, for his part, is not intimidated one bit by whatever Donaire may bring inside the ring. He said he is just as good as the Filipino rising star. “My confidence is sky-high. With this fight against Donaire, I am up to the challenge,” he said.
The Donaire-Mathebula fight will be telecast on HBO Boxing After Dark (10 p.m., ET/PT), meaning, the fight will be seen slightly delayed on TV.
Tickets to the fight are pegged at $100, $50 and $25, and can be purchased online at AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849. Tickets are also available at the Home Depot Center Box Office. For more ticket information, please call 1-877-234-8425. (David Casuco was assistant sports editor for the defunct Philippine Journalists Inc. He is now a contributing writer for PWD)