Nordine Oubaali vs. Nonito Donaire: The Drive to Greatness

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Two warriors with everything on the line will face off when Nordine Oubaali defends his WBC World Bantamweight title against legendary four-division world champion Nonito Donaire Saturday night on SHOWTIME.

Achieving greatness or affirming greatness, what’s the greater drive? 

This Saturday, May 29, from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, that question may be answered as future Hall of Famer and four-division former world champ Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs) meets current WBC World Bantamweight Champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12 KOs) in a Premier Boxing Champions clash of 118-pound elites.

This SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING event begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and will also feature heavy-handed KO artist Subriel Matias taking on undefeated Batyr Jukembayev in an IBF junior welterweight title eliminator. In the telecast opener, unbeaten 2016 U.S. Olympian Gary Antuanne Russell meets Jovanie Santiago in a 10-round super lightweight battle.

The Story 

Postponed from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this one is a long-awaited showdown between the Frenchman of Moroccan descent, Oubaali, who aspires to worldwide stardom and the “The Filipino Flash” Donaire, native of Talibon, Bohol, Philippines, who looks to add even more heft to his considerable legacy.

In his last fight, Oubaali earned a unanimous decision over Takuma Inoue in the second defense of his world title. Prior to that, the two-time Olympian scored impressive victories over Rau'shee Warren, Arthur Villanueva, and Alejandro Hernandez to make a name for himself as one of the more dynamic fighters in the lower weight classes.

Donaire, in his last bout, lost a decision to Naoya Inoue in a spirited battle that won 2019 Fight of the Year honors. Before that, the former world champ at flyweight, bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight was riding high on a career renaissance of sorts following a move back down to bantamweight and victories over world titlist Ryan Burnett and Stephon Young.

The Stakes

At stake is Oubaali’s WBC World Bantamweight title and a possible shot at the winner of the Guillermo Rigondeaux-John Riel Casimero WBC title clash on August 14. 

The Matchup

Oubaali is a short, compact fireplug of activity with solid pop in both hands who fights with the confidence of an established superstar. A high-energy southpaw, the 34-year-old relies on exceptional conditioning to maintain activity throughout a fight and throws most every punch with bad intent. 

Although just a seven-year pro, his ring savvy is bolstered by world stage experience in the amateurs, which included participation in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. 

On defense, Oubaali’s short stature and bouncy activity keep him safe from some incoming fire. He also employs decent head movement and manages to pick off punches with his gloves.

The 38-year-old Donaire is basically the same fighter now that he was throughout his professional career. Tall and athletic with outstanding hand speed, he is a superb offensive fighter with KO power in both hands. His explosive left hook is especially potent and still among the pound-for-pound best one-punch offensive weapons in the sport.

The 20-year veteran has picked up considerable experience over the years and has added a degree of savvy and a more refined sense of pacing to augment his physical prowess.

Donaire is not a defensive fighter by nature, but his athleticism keeps him from taking too many shots. The threat from his offensive weapons also keeps opponents from being too aggressive in attacks.

I am capable of knocking him out. Four-Division World Champion - Nonito Donaire

The Words

Nordine Oubaali

“Donaire is a legend in the sport and I respect him a lot, but I am the champion of the world and there is no doubt in my mind that my hand will be raised. I am fighting for my family and my country and by beating Donaire I will put my name in the history books of boxing. I am extremely motivated and I guarantee fireworks on fight night.”

Nonito Donaire (via Boxingscene)

“I have a be the undisputed bantamweight champion, and at 38-years-old I think I am capable of doing it. The first step is on May 29 against Nordine Oubaali...he's never faced an opponent like me. Then we are definitely going to pursue a rematch with Inoue and gather the rest of the belts. We are ready to give a great fight and show that I am better than Oubaali. Without a doubt I believe that I am capable of knocking him out."

The Breakdown

One of Donaire’s key strengths may also be a weakness. With his vast experience at the world class level comes the reality that he’s 38, an age which is especially advanced among the lower weight classes. Although he’s not shown any real signs of slowing down and has plans to carry on at full speed for at least a few more years, he’s at the point where fighters sometimes age overnight. Not helping matters is the fact that he’ll be facing a fresher high-energy fighter in Oubaali. 

Oubaali, who stands at just a bit over 5-foot-3, will be who he is, bouncing with activity and looking to score with quick, sharp shots. If he can successfully navigate inside and outside of his four-inch-taller foe, he’ll be set for victory. 

Donaire is usually adept at controlling the distance of a fight with his long arms and smart movement. He’s not perfect, though, and can be nullified with the right inside-outside approach, like Guillermo Rigondeaux did back in 2013. It remains to be seen if Oubaali has that level of boxing mastery.

Expect Donaire to try and win Oubaali’s respect, establish a favorable distance, and then gradually walk him down to take him out. His crisp right hand should be a key weapon against the southpaw.

Oubaali will try to gum all that up by being active and hard to pin down. If he can land consistently and solidly on Donaire, moving him back and around, he’ll keep the former four-division world champ from being able to employ his strategy. Then, it’ll be a matter of toe-to-toe warfare where he hopes he can outgun his older foe. 

Oubaali-Donaire is going to be a compelling, pride-fueled clash of strategies that, eventually, will develop into a bombs-away battle. 

For a closer look at Oubaali vs. Donaire, check out our fight night page. 

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