Nonito Donaire rubber-stamped his future place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame with a stunning fourth-round stoppage of Nordine Oubaali to claim the WBC bantamweight crown and become the oldest ever 118lbs champion in history at 38, amid sensational scenes at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on Saturday night.
The ageless Filipino was simply irresistible, dropping the shellshocked French title holder twice in the third, courtesy of his trademark left hook, before finishing matters with a left uppercut in the fourth. The four-weight champion became a bantamweight world title holder for the third time of asking with the momentous victory.
“The king has returned,” said a jubilant Donaire, who turned pro way back in February 2001. “I just love the crowds. All my friends, family, all the boxing fans that came out thank you so much. You guys are wonderful.
“Being at this age is not the question, it’s about my performance. About my ability to grow. I believe it matters not what your age is but how mentally strong you are. What I learned from the [Naoya] Inoue fight is that I’m back. I can still compete at this level. The whole time I was not fighting, I was learning. I’m ready for the next one.
“Three decades of being world champion. Nine-time world champion. That’s amazing. I came in here and I felt really good. Today I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I think I was just very focused in the gym. I was very, very focused. I just felt really good coming in and I was grateful to get this opportunity.
“Tonight was something that I had to prove to the world that I’m back and I’m stronger than ever. He was a very tough guy. I think ultimately for me, there was a level of should I be more patient? Or should I go for it? Something I learned in the Inoue fight was to go for the kill. And that’s exactly what I did. I was patient but I knew he was hurt enough that I could take him out.”
Despite his nickname, the Filipino is no ‘Flash’ in the pan, having campaigned at world title level for an astonishing 14 years. Only legendary countryman Manny Pacquiao can eclipse that run among active fighters. Donaire has enjoyed many glory nights, but this may well be the sweetest.
The power of Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs) began to tell in the second before being unleashed to full effect in third. He dropped Oubaali (17-1, 12 KOs) with a left hook and the Frenchman, never previously floored, rose on unsteady legs. Oubaali was in dire straits and decked again by the same shot just as the bell rang to end the round.
Referee Jack Reiss cleared the ring to issue the count, but Oubaali was still badly stung by the venom in Donaire’s shots. It was all over in the following session as Donaire detonated a left uppercut that dropped Oubaali along the ropes with referee Reiss waving it off without issuing a count.
“The king is back! The king is back!” exclaimed Donaire to an exultant and partisan crowd. What a night, what a career.
On the undercard, Puerto Rican banger Subriel Matias (17-1, 17 KOs) prevailed in a war to outgut Batyr Jukembayev (18-1, 14 KOs) before the Kazakh’s corner halted a compelling clash after the eighth round in an eliminator for the IBF title held by undisputed 140lbs king Josh Taylor.
“I think this is what everybody expected. Everybody knew it was going to be a great war,” said Matias. “This was going to end by knockout whether I was going to get knocked out or Jukembayev was going to get knocked out. I’m just glad it was me who knocked him out.”
Matias floored his foe in the fourth, but withstood some rough moments of his own. After Jukembayev was felled by a right hand, the Kazakh southpaw rose to hurt Matias to the delight of the crowd. But the heavier hands of Matias eventually told as the overwhelmed Jukembayev retired on his stool after a one-sided eighth.
Meanwhile, former US Olympian Gary Antuanne Russell (14-0, 14 KOs) forced a sixth-round retirement win over the dogged Jovanie Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs) in a 140lbs clash. The Puerto Rican had given Adrien Broner all he could handle in February, but was dropped by a right hook in the fourth and demoralised by a ceaseless Russell.
“The objective is to get the man out as soon as possible and come out unscathed,” said southpaw Russell, younger brother of WBC featherweight champion Gary who helped work his corner.
“I just want to say that Santiago was a class-A opponent. A lot of people think he beat Adrien Broner. I want Adrien Broner now.”
Main image: Esther Lin/Showtime.