NONITO DONAIRE may no longer be the force he once was, but the 33-year-old Filipino hero is out to prove he can still prove himself one of the best super-bantamweights in the world.
Tomorrow night [April 23] he defends his WBO bauble against mandatory challenger Zsolt Bedak at the Cebu City Sports Complex in his home country.
While no slouch, Bedak is not the type of name to vastly improve Donaire’s standing but a win for Nonito could open the door to bigger fights in the summer against the likes of former WBA champion Scott Quigg.
The Hungarian’s only brush with world level opposition came when Wilfredo Vazquez Jr stopped him in 10 rounds to retain the same belt Donaire defends tomorrow. That came in 2010, and Donaire went on to drop and outpoint Vazquez Jnr two years later.
Indeed 2012 was a huge year for Donaire. Having already won world titles at flyweight and bantamweight, his victory over Vazquez Jnr made him a three-weight world champion. He added the IBF super-bantam crown in his next fight when he outpointed Jeffrey Mathebula before blitzing Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce inside schedule.
By the end of the year, Donaire had confirmed his status as, pound for pound, one of the best fighters on the planet. He then faced Cuban magician Guillermo Rigondeaux, and things took a serious turn.
Rigondeaux dominated Donaire over 12 – though was dropped in the 10th – and Nonito’s reputation took a serious hit. He moved to featherweight where he picked up the WBA belt after his fight with Simpiwe Vetyeka went to the cards after five rounds because of a cut he suffered from an accidental headbutt.
Heavy-handed Jamaican Nicholas Walters then flattened Donaire in six rounds, and the career of ‘The Filipino Flash’ looked to have a bleak future.
A couple of wins later however and Donaire earned himself a crack at the vacant WBO super-bantam bauble, which he claimed after a gruelling 12-round struggle with Cesar Juarez in December.
Conversely, Bedak has not beaten anyone of note since his sole career loss in 2010. He took a three year hiatus after losing to Vazquez Jnr and fought four times each in 2013 and 2014, before making two appearances last year.
In his pomp, Donaire was a whirlwind of power who crashed rapid combinations into his foes, most of whom were unable to stand up to the onslaught. Naturally, his hands have slowed. His timing is not what it was, but Donaire is a level above Bedak.
A European bronze medallist and 2004 Olympian, Bedak enjoyed a stellar amateur career but his transition to the pro game has not been quite as successful. A decent technician, Bedak is let down by his serious lack in power.
Expect Donaire to force the stoppage in the second half of the fight.