It’s official—our very own Nonito Donaire Jr. will face Carl Frampton of Ireland in Belfast on April 21.
Donaire (38-4 with 24 knockouts) is coming off a 12-round decision win over Ruben Garcia Hernandez (22-3-1 with 9 KOs) in September while Frampton (24-1 with 14 KOs) also decisioned Horacio Garcia (33-4-1 with 24 KOs) in November. Although Donaire and Frampton were not as sharp in their recent fights, I will bet they will get themselves into more deadly form for April 21.
Donaire, who has held seven world titles in four weight classes, needs to win over Frampton to send a message that he still can deck it out with the top dogs in the featherweight division. If Frampton loses by decision, he still can work his way back to contention. But a loss by knockout or stoppage to Donaire can send Frampton, who won titles in two divisions, to possible retirement.
On paper, Frampton has a higher standing in the boxing world compare to Donaire, because the Irish fighter is ranked at No. 3 in The Ringmagazine’s featherweight (126 pounds) list, and his only loss was by decision to Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1 with 19 KOs) in January last year. So a loss to Donaire by decision won’t hurt much of Frampton’s chances to fight anew, and at 31 years old the Irish boxer still has at least four good fighting years ahead of him.
Donaire, on the other hand, is already 35 years old and may only have two to three years left in his fighting career, and a crushing loss to Frampton can send him to retirement. So Donaire losing via a lopsided decision or stoppage/knockout to Frampton could mean retirement for the Filipino boxer.
But looking at the two fighters’ statures, it looks like Donaire has a significant edge, because he has a six-inch reach advantage over Frampton. Only two smaller fighters, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Jessie Magdaleno, were able to beat Donaire because of their excellent ring movement, skills, and punching power.
So the question is, does Frampton have the ring movement, skills, and punching power to upset Donaire the way Rigondeaux and Magdaleno did?
From my repeatedly viewing the Santa Cruz-Frampton fight, it looks like the Irish fighter might be a bit tailor-fit for Donaire, because the Filipino does very well against fighters with limited ring movement. In fact, Rigondeaux and Magdaleno’s excellent ring movements were major factors in Donaire losing to both of them.
But Frampton has been campaigning in the featherweight division since July 2016, while Donaire’s fight against Hernandez was the Filipino’s first foray in the division. Also, it looks like Frampton punches harder than Donaire based on their latest fights at featherweight. I could state though that Donaire’s natural weight may be at featherweight and he looked a bit more muscular in his fight against Hernandez.
The fight being held at Belfast may somehow favor Frampton because the Irish venerate their fighters almost like gods. Just look at how popular mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor is in his homeland. Donaire, however, is used to fighting outside his country and his having more title fights than Frampton may allow him to handle the hostility from a hometown crowd.
In summary, the Donaire-Frampton fight is still hard to predict. And missing this fight would be foolish!