Filipino Flashes of Brilliance

By Eric Raskin

Jeffrey Mathebula, Nonito Donaire - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Ring announcer Lupe Contreras noted before the opening bell that the Nonito Donaire-Jeffrey Mathebula fight was dedicated to the memory of LeRoy Neiman, a man who, depending upon whom you ask, was either an iconic talent or the most overrated artist of his time. It was quite appropriate then that the boxing match dedicated to fight fanatic Neiman would feature pound-for-pound lister Donaire, with all of his polarizing qualities on display.

The fans at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California were treated to “Filipino Flashes” of brilliance from the 122-pound titlist, but they also watched the prodigious puncher somehow go the 12-round distance for the third time in row. In the end, Donaire won a clear-cut unanimous decision over Mathebula to unify a couple of alphabet belts, but it wasn’t the statement fight we’ve been waiting for since he shockingly flattened Fernando Montiel in two rounds 17 months ago.

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Donaire-Mathebula/Pavlik-Rosinsky Overview

By Hamilton Nolan

Nonito Donaire - Photo Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Nonito Donaire is one of the most beautiful fighters in all of boxing. He stalks his opponents with the footwork of an NBA guard doing cone drills. He dips, whirls, bounces, dodges and attacks comfortably from a gyroscope’s worth of angles. And he throws a perfectly horizontal left hook that hits like a bowling ball on a chain. It’s why, after some of his more impressive wins, Donaire has flirted with the #3 spot on some pundits’ pound-for-pound lists, right behind the very best.

But few would rank Donaire there now. Not because his skills have eroded or because he’s been in any danger of losing, but because some of his own flaws have become clear. Last October, Omar Narvaez exposed Donaire’s lack of effective body punching simply by covering his head in a stubborn shell for 12 rounds and then leaving the ring beaten but unscathed. And in his last fight, in February, Donaire proved that cockiness does not equal defense, allowing his face to be lumped and swollen by Wilfredo Vazquez, who did not fall for the mesmerizing head movement of The Filipino Flash. In order for Donaire to re-ascend the pound-for-pound rankings, he will need to win a superfight. And there are superfights to be made: with Guilermo Rigondeaux at 122 pounds, or with Yuriorkis Gamboa or Mikey Garcia at 126 pounds. In order to get one of those superfights, Donaire needs another convincing signature win. That means he must direct all of his attention toward destroying Jeffrey Mathebula.

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Compubox Analysis: Donaire vs. Mathebula

By Compubox

If fighters were in charge of matchmaking, fight such as Saturday's 122-pound unification fight between the WBO's Nonito Donaire and the IBF's Jeffrey Mathebula would take place far more often. Elite fighters have a mindset of invincibility fueled by intense pride and they believe fights such as these will bring out their very best performances.

Will Donaire enhance his top five pound-for-pound standing or will Mathebula score the signature victory of his career? Their respective CompuBox histories offer these clues:

The Anti-Rodney Dangerfield: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a monumental one-punch knockout is worth a thousand servings of respect, something the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield yearned for his entire career.

Donaire's chilling two-round stoppage of Fernando Montiel prompted his two subsequent opponents -- Omar Narvaez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. -- to fight far more cautiously.

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