Nonito Donaire has spent 20 years in boxing daring to be great. On Saturday, the four-weight champion will attempt to add more history to his celebrated career when he takes on WBC bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
It’s a tough challenge, but Donaire is no stranger to confounding the odds. The Filipino puncher is currently a 21/10 outsider with Betfred, but the 38-year-old veteran feels revitalised by a 19-month lay-off since giving Naoya Inoue 12 testing rounds in the World Boxing Super Series final in Saitama in November 2019.
“It’s been frustrating at times but it has given me the time to recover and refresh my body. I feel great right now and felt amazing going into training camp. I have been able to get closer to my kids, my wife, and get closer to myself through spirituality,” said the 38-year-old Donaire. “The time has given me a chance to heal and be youthful all over again. The layoff really refreshed my mentality and my body. I feel great. I don’t expect any ring rust on Saturday.
“When I got back into the gym for this fight, I could feel that the power, the speed, the explosiveness was all there again. I felt like my body had time to heal properly for this training camp. I am very confident going into Saturday night.
“For the past four or five years, maybe even longer, I have been sparring to just work with guys. The mindset was not about destroying someone. But in this training camp, I have had great sparring where I am going at my pace and no longer holding back. I have been going all out. This has been the biggest key in reclaiming the killer instinct that I had in the past. I was very aware after the Inoue fight that I needed to make a change in sparring. When I would hurt a guy, I would step back. That showed in the ring when I hurt Inoue, I stepped back a little bit instead of going for the kill.
“[Oubaali] very technically sound. You can’t underestimate a guy like him who has that amateur pedigree and who has worn that belt on his waist. We are not underestimating him. He is smart and sound, but I have the experience, the power, the speed and all the motivation to beat him. I will be looking for the knockout like I do every fight.
“I have been an underdog a few times. It’s a challenge for me and it motivates me a little bit but do I really care about being an underdog? No, because in my career I just make things happen. It’s not to prove anyone wrong but just to prove that I am still here. All that talk just flows past me and it doesn’t get into my head. The motivation for me is defeating this guy.”
Victory this weekend would see Donaire become the oldest world bantamweight champion in history surpassing friend and fellow Filipino Gerry Penalosa.
“Gerry is a good friend of mine,” said Donaire. “It would be so significant to me. I am still competing. I am still performing at a very high level and it proves that age is not a factor when you are healthy. When you keep yourself motivated and healthy, it all counts. I am really proud of where I’m at and what I can still achieve.”