At a time when everybody is loosening up for the season of booze and merriment, former world boxing champion Nonito Donaire Jr. is sweating it out in a gym looking to get in the best shape of his career.
Donaire is booked to return to the squared circle this weekend for a 12-round gloved sortie with Mexican Cesar Juarez at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The fight was originally set for 10-rounds with Juarez’s World Boxing Organization International junior featherweight (122 lbs.) title on the line. At the last minute, the head honchos of the WBO decide to make it a fight for the vacant WBO junior featherweight crown. The move actually makes sense considering that Juarez and Donaire are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, by the WBO in the 122-pound class. When a title is declared vacant (in this case, it became up for grabs after Cuban Guillermo Rigondeux was stripped of the title), it is customary for the top 2 contenders to mix it up for the vacant throne.
Donaire (35-3, 23 knockouts) was originally eyeing a showdown with World Boxing Association (WBA) junior featherweight champ Scott Quigg, but when negotiations did not get off the blueprint stage Juarez emerged as a viable option. Not only is Donaire again in a position to become a world champion, he may end up figuring in a lucrative unification showdown with Quigg next year.
Juarez (17-3, 13 knockouts) may be ranked ahead of Donaire in the WBO’s ratings, but it is the ‘Filipino Flash’ who is more technically proficient and experienced inside the ring. The 24-year-old Juarez has not fought anyone with a decent pulse and offers a fighting style that is still unpolished in the opinion of many. Juarez loves to stay in front of his foe with both gloves up, but the moment he feints to the right and awkwardly throws that clubbing left hook, he is wide open for a counter punch. He also tends to drop his guard the moment he lunges and instigates a brawl.
While he has never been knocked out, Juarez’s chin is highly suspect. In July 2011, he absorbed his first pro defeat after a 7-0 start when he was disqualified in the 7th round against Edgar Lozano. Juarez was knocked down in rounds 2 and 3 and avoided the ignominy of a knockout defeat by hitting Lozano on the head after the latter lost his footing. Juarez denied Lozano of an impressive win by having himself disqualified.
A year later, July 2012, Juarez lost by decision to Jorge Lara, but not after getting knocked down three times in the fight, twice in the first round. Juarez was inactive in 2014 before returning this March with an 8-round decision win against Cesar Ceda. Five months ago, Juarez outpointed former IBF super flyweight champ Juan Carlos Sanchez to collar the WBO International junior featherweight crown.
The 33-year-old Donaire should have no problems breezing past the limited Juarez. The former four-time regular division champ (one title was interim only) has been training like a monk, pushing himself to the limit against young sparring partners Fidel Navarrete and Fred Bowen. Tennessee-native Bowen is a 27-year-old lightweight (135 lbs.) while Navarrete is a once-beaten super featherweight (130 lbs.) from Indiana. Ranged against heavier sparring partners, Donaire had one of his best training camp in years and is looking to show it by way of a smashing performance against Juarez.
All things going according to plan, Donaire figures to pick up his third straight victory since getting bamboozled by Jamaican Nicholas Walters in October 2014. The fight with Quigg is still on the horizon, particularly if the Briton beats Carl Frampton in their unification showdown in February 2016. A return match with Rigondeaux is also in the cards, but from where this writer sits Donaire is better off facing the winner of the Quigg-Frampton scuffle instead of figuring in another dreadful 12-rounder against Rigondeux.
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