By Ivan G. Goldman
Ringside from Carson, California –Nonito Donaire accomplished most of what he was supposed to on Saturday night, dominating the tall, barely known Jeffrey Mathebula over twelve rounds and picking up his IBF super bamtamweight title by lopsided decision.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
What he couldn’t do was get the impossibly rangy fighter out of there. Mathebula, who’d never fought in the U.S. before, proved to be a tough, canny opponent who wouldn’t quit, and he was five foot 10 at least, impossibly tall for a man who weighed in just under 122 pounds. Sometimes you hear about people with legs that look like sticks. This guy walked around on twigs. When he entered the ring he looked like someone who ought to be whisked off for an emergency feeding. But he was durable, threw plenty of punches, and used his quick, long jab to hang in there. He was also an adept counterpuncher. He often made Donaire pay a price for wading in with a combination.
Donaire threw big shots with both hands, mixing in lots of uppercuts in an attempt to cut the night short. He showed early on that he was quicker and stronger, as expected. At the end of round four Mathebula, 26-4-2 (14), went down hard from a big left hook and looked like he might not make it up. But he did, referee Pat Russell allowed him to go back to his stool and try again, and he started round five looking fairly steady.
Donaire, 29-1 (18), now holds both the IBF as well as the WBO title and will huddle with his handlers to figure out his next move. He competes in a white-hot division where he shares top billing with Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The three have yet to be matched against one another.
When titlists fight each other, as Mathebula and Donaire did, it usually means they really wanted to.
They don’t face mandatories against each other because the alphabet gangs don’t rank each others’ champions. And when a lesser titlist like Mathebula goes in against someone he probably can’t beat, he’s staking out his title for a better payday, making it a kind of sacrifice. When the belt holder is a 33-year-old super bantam like Mathebula, you can assume he and his team decided it was time to cash in and move on. Not that he didn’t try to pull out a win, but deep in his soul, he almost certainly knew the score before he got on the plane. When it was over the judges had it 117-110, 118-109 and 119-108.
“The better man won,” Mathebula said, adding that he thought he proved himself a “warrior,” and he was right, walking into the strange land of the outdoor Home Depot Center lion’s den of 3,200 fans, many of them Filipino-Americans. Donaire, Philippines-born, has lived in California since age 11.
On the undercard of the HBO Boxing after Dark event, Kelly Pavlik, 40-2 (34), won a comfortable super middleweight decision victory over the very game Will Rosinsky, 16-2 (9), of Queens. Pavlik put him down in round two with a short right hook over a lazy jab, and Rosinsky got up wiser than he was 10 seconds earlier. Pavlik, who still has the cement fists that made him a fan favorite, had trouble hitting cagy Rosinsky flush. “He’s a very good, solid fighter, very busy,” Pavlik said. “He gave me good work.” Pavlik, 30, who’s been fighting a winning battle against the bottle, has moved from Youngstown, Ohio to train with Robert Garcia in the boxing Mecca around Oxnard, California. Garcia also trains Donaire.
Donaire has volunteered to submit to surprise testing at any time under the auspices of the Volunteer Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), but he also uses Victor Conte as a physical trainer. Conte, who has poisoned basically every major sport with his outlawed performance-enhancing drugs regimen, once did four months in the slammer for dispensing his wares to clients that have included Shane Mosley and almost certainly Evander Holyfield. He claims to be running an angelic program these days, but he’s also an expert at masking PEDs with other substances so they won’t show up in tests. Is he really on the up and up? Possibly.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE