Japanese Boxing Scene: Toshiaki Nishioka Challenges Nonito Donaire
By Masatoshi Ueda
The super bantamweight unification bout between Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire and Jeffrey Mathebula, which took place on July 7th at the Home Depo Center in Carson, California, was watched by many boxing fans in Japan, not only because this was a unification fight, but because Donaire is one of the known figures in boxing around the world.
WBC Super bantamweight Emeritus champion Toshiaki Nishioka was in attendance at the Home Depo Center providing commentary for Japanese TV, which broadcast the fight. He has been giving out statements on his blog and in press conferences in Japan saying that he will call out Donaire face-to-face to fight him at some point. The Japanese boxing fans are looking forward to when and where this will happen.
Nishioka has wanted to fight Donaire since his last fight against Rafael Marquez, which Nishioka won by unanimous decision last October in Las Vegas. Nishioka, who will turn 36 years old on July 25th, is thinking of making his last appearance in the ring, and wants the Filipino Flash as his final opponent.
As a token of his determination, Nishioka has gave up his WBC super bantanweight belt to be an “Emeritus champion” so as not to be forced in to fighting anyone other than Donaire. But this could have been a wrong move for Nishioka. As the Filipino Flash stated before the Mathebula fight, “I chose to fight Mathebula over Cristian Mijares because he has the belt.” Donaire is aiming to unify the belts in the division.
Nishioka was at the WBC office in Mexico before he traveled to California to receive his new “Emeritus champion” belt, and also received support from WBC president Jose Sulaiman that the fight with Donaire could be for the “Diamond belt”. But there seems to be a difference of opinion between Japan and the US with the value of the many belts like “super champion” “diamond belt” and “emeritus champion”. Many of the Japanese are taking these titles as being of more value than those of a regular champion, which is quite the opposite of what is thought in the US.
After arriving in LA, Nishioka and Donaire were coincidently in the same restaurant the night before the fight, with both fighters showing respect to each other by saying they are the best at 122 pounds. It was the first time for Nishioka to be in attendance for a Donaire fight: “I believe the fight with me and Donaire will happen this year, so I will be watching and studying his fight very closely at ringside” he said before he left Japan.
After winning the fight with Mathebula, Donaire mentioned Nishioka’s name as a possible opponent he would like to face in the future; Nishioka took his commentary headset off to walk towards the ring to congratulate and to challenge Donaire in front of the camera. As he came down from the ring, Nishioka said with a smile, “I felt Donaire wants to fight me as well. But with Bob Arum was mentioning other names like Jorge Arce and Abner Mares I don’t know if the fight will be finalized smoothly, but I did what I aimed to do, which is to challenge Donaire face to face, so it was worth the trip.”
The Filipino Flash is also hoping for this fight to happen possibly in December, after his rumored fight with Jorge Arce in October. But it will be up to the promoters and HBO to look into it from the business side, and decide whether Nishioka’s name will be printed on the contract for Donaire to sign, since Nishioka’s name value is not that high in the US.
There is no doubt that if this fight takes place, it will be the biggest fight in Japanese boxing history.