Carson, CA -- In front of more than 3,200 of his enthusiastic fans, Nonito Donaire dominated super bantamweight champion Jeffery Mathebula with a variety of power shots to win via unanimous decision Saturday night at the Home Depot Center.
Mathebula, a little-known fighter from South Africa who entered the bout as the IBF champion, presented an unusual challenge for Donaire because of 72-inch reach and 5'11" height. As such, he had a 4 1/2 inch height advantage over Donaire, the WBO champion.
But whatever Donaire gave up in size, he more than made up for in athleticism, quickness, and power.
Donaire (29-1) opened the bout swinging for the fences with a series of left hooks and uppercuts from multiple angles in an effort to overwhelm his opponent and end the fight quickly.
Mathebula (26-4-2) responded by wisely keeping his right glove glued to the side of his face to protect against Donaire's onslaught. However, at the end of Round 4, Donaire found an opening and caught his opponent with a left hook clean on the chin, dropping Mathebula. Mathebula managed to get up as the bell sounded.
Despite his height advantage, Mathebula looked somewhat like a drained fighter, displaying slow hands, less-than-sturdy legs, and no power or snap in his punches.
But perhaps that apparent "sluggishness" was a mere trick on the eyes caused by seeing a good fighter, such as Mathebula, in the ring with an elite athlete. In this case, the talent deficit was so obvious between the two fighters that Mathebula simply looked ordinary by comparison.
Mathebula gamely stayed on his feet for the remainder of the bout, trying to create distance with his jab while Nonaire charged forward, pressing the action.
Donaire, still relatively new to this weight class, was able to walk through Mathebula's shots with relative ease. He also displayed impressive head movement and footwork, evading Mathebula's punches despite standing within his range.
Although the judges scored the fight 117-110, 118-109, and 119-108, those scorecards failed to convey the true lopsided nature of the fight, as Donaire appeared very comfortable in the ring and never once was in trouble.
Nevertheless, Donaire still showed some holes in his game that could use further refinement from his trainer.
Throughout the bout Donaire was in straight headhunting mode, looking to end the fight with one punch rather than throwing combinations or putting in early work to the body.
In addition, Donaire struggled to finish off his opponent when he had him in trouble after Round 4, as he looked to land one shot and underutilized his jab.
After the fight, promoter Bob Arum mentioned Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, and Guillermo Rigondeaux as possible future Donaire opponents, before also throwing Abner Mares' name in the mix, almost as an afterthought.
In a perfect world, Mares should have been the first name that popped into his head.
The problem with Mares, of course, is that he is promoted by Golden Boy, Arum's rival. As such, it appears that boxing politics will again interfere with making the one fight in the division that fans most want to see.
In other words, Arce has a fan following, but is past his prime. Matching Arce with Donaire would likely produce the same sort of dull blowout observed with Mathebula.
A fight with Rigondeaux, the Cuban with the accomplished amateur background, would be more interesting, but he has a small fanbase and is still adjusting to the pro style.
Nishioka might have the professional qualifications, but is a relative unknown in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Mares has a significant California fanbase and is a recognizable name from his bantamweight days, similar to Donaire himself. Professionally and monetarily, Mares -- who attended Saturday's fight -- is the best fight out there for Donaire, and should be a priority over any outdated goals of trying to unify the belts.
Time will tell whether Arum and Golden Boy can put aside their differences and put on the fight fans want to see. Donaire could accelerate the process himself, demanding to fight Mares rather than passively falling in line with Top Rank's plans.
Kelly Pavlik Earns Unanimous Decision Win Over Wil Rosinsky
Former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik continued his comeback from alcohol-related troubles, defeating a scrappy Wil Rosinsky via unanimous decision in a ten-round super middleweight undercard bout, 97-92, 98-91, and 98-91.
Pavlik's best moment came in Round 2, when he put Rosinsky on the canvas with a flash knockdown from a short right hand. Rosinsky, however, got to his feet quickly, and did not appear to be seriously hurt.
Although Pavlik had trouble landing consistently on the defensively-slick Rosinsky, he did press the action and got some much-needed rounds under his belt.
Pavlik's unspectacular, grind-it-out win left many questions unanswered as to his power at 168 pounds. Still, the victory was Pavlik's fourth consecutive "W," and continued his path toward another big name fight.
Rosinsky, meanwhile, had his moments, moving and staying busy against the stalking Pavlik. Unfortunately, his potshots lacked the power to hurt Pavlik, as he was unable to fully exploit Pavlik's cut left eye.
Heavyweight Andy Ruiz Shows Promise
On the undercard, 255-pound heavyweight Andy Ruiz won by TKO in Round 8 over Jonte Willis when the referee stopped the bout at the :54 second mark.
Although Ruiz appeared to be in poor condition with a build more similar to Cristobal Arreola than the Klitschko brothers, that first impression was deceiving, as Ruiz proved to be a fast-handed counterpuncher. He repeatedly nailed Willis with clean shots throughout the bout before eventually closing the show in the final round.
By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald