Nonito Donaire kept repeating “The king is back, the king is back” as he paced around the crowded ring with his arms held aloft and indeed he is. “The Filipino Flash” is a little softer around the middle these days, though no one could ever question his heart or hardened desire.
Donaire shocked the boxing world again and defied time, breaking his own record to become the oldest fighter in history to win the bantamweight belt by stopping Nordine Oubaali at 1:52 of the fourth round to win the WBC bantamweight belt on Showtime Championship Boxing presented by Premier Boxing Champions from the Dignity Health Sports Park, in Carson, California.
Donaire (41-6, 27 knockouts) had not fought in 18 months, since his war against Naoya Inoue. Yet, Donaire showed no signs of corrosion. He knocked down Oubaali (17-1, 12 KOs) twice in the third round and ended the fight on the third knockdown with a devastating left uppercut. In winning, the future Hall of Famer broke his own record by becoming the oldest fighter to ever win a world bantamweight champion—38 years and 204 days old.
“The king has returned,” Donaire said. “Being at this age is not the question, it’s about my performance. About my ability to grow. I believe it matters not what your age is but how you are mentally. How strong you are mentally. What I learned from the Inoue fight is that I’m back. I can still compete at this level. The whole time I was not fighting, I was learning. I’m ready for the next one.
“This is why I wanted to win this fight. Unification is my next goal. The only thing I haven’t accomplished in boxing is becoming undisputed. That is my goal. The next phase is the rematch (with Inoue).
“Three decades of being world champion. Nine-time world champion. That’s amazing. I came in here and I felt really good. Today I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I think I was just very focused in the gym. I was very, very focused. I just felt really good coming in and I was grateful to get this opportunity.
Nonito Donaire used left uppercuts to eventually break down, then knock down Nordine Oubaali (Photo by Esther Lin-SHOWTIME).
“Tonight was something that I had to prove to the world that I’m back and I’m stronger than ever. He was a very tough guy. I think ultimately for me, there was a level of should I be more patient? Or should I go for it? Something I learned in the Inoue fight was to go for the kill. And that’s exactly what I did. I was patient but I knew he was hurt enough that I could take him out.”
Oubaali was knocked down for the first time in his career with :44 left in the third round on a blunt, short left hook. What was a controversial knockdown came when the bell appeared to ring ending the third, when Donaire splashed another left hook on Oubaali.
Referee Jack Reiss was trying to direct Oubaali where to go after the round, and the he did not seem to know where he was. It took little time for Donaire to finish the job, knocking down Oubaali a third time and finishing him with a left uppercut.
In what was a great give-and-take fight, junior welterweight Subriel Matias stopped Kazakhstani southpaw Batyrzhan Jukembayev in eight.
“I think this is what everybody expected. Everybody knew it was going to be a great war. This was going to end by knockout whether I was going to get knocked out or Jukembayev was going to get knocked out. I’m just glad it was me who knocked him out.
“After the knockdown, to be honest with you I could see that he was still strong. He was throwing punches that were still strong. I thought the fight was going to go a little bit further. But after the sixth round, that’s when I knew that I had him hurt.
“I’m an individual who studies my opponents very well. We have a great team and we knew from the beginning that we would be able to stop him.
“He knew he had nothing to lose. He came in and was doing everything strong. He knew that all he could do was knock me out to win. I would have done the same thing. That’s a warrior’s heart and he has all my respect.
“After that fourth round, I mean he is a very competitive fighter, so it turned into a war after that point. My hands go up to him as well. It was a great fight. I definitely have had other opponents that were very good but this is the one that has given me the hardest test.”
Matias knocked down Jukembayev with a shot to the temple with 1:41 left in the fourth. The Kazakhstani southpaw was lucky to get out of the round.
Matias (17-1, 17 KOs) through the latter stages of the seventh round out threw Jukembayev, 170-97, in power punches. Jukembayev (18-1, 14 KOs) had his moments. He connected with a left off of Matias’ jaw, knocking him off balance.
At the time of the stoppage, Matias had landed 234/608 (38 percent) total punches to Jukembayev’s 134/409 (33 percent).
Gary Antuanne Russell stopped Jovanie Santiago for the first time (Photo by Esther Lin-SHOWTIME).
Gary Antuanne Russell (14-0, 14 KOs) did something he never did before, while doing something never done before to his opponent, Jovanie Santiago. Russell went over for the first time, breaking one streak, thought Russell kept another streak by stopping Santiago for the first time in his career.
The end came when Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs) failed to answer the bell after the sixth round in the scheduled 10-rounder.
About 30 into the fourth, Russell looked like he was on his way to keep his streak of four-round victories intact when he buried a right hook into Santiago, sending him down for the third time in his career. But Russell could not finish him. Two rounds later, Russell followed up in the sixth with a heavy left uppercut, and again with a right hook. Santiago’s corner wisely ended it after six.
“The objective is to get the man out as soon as possible and come out unscathed,” Russell said. “I just want to say that Santiago was a class-A opponent. A lot of people think he beat Adrien Broner. I want Adrien Broner now.
“The importance to me is to execute round-by-round and round-by-round, I was executing more and more. My father told me to go to the body, right hook upstairs. He was open to that.
“It’s definitely important to me to perform so I’m not just known as Gary Russell’s younger brother. I come from an excellent background of fighters. We’re building a dynasty.
“How soon do I want to get back in the ring? If I could fight on the Deontay Wilder card, that would be great.
“I learned there’s still room for growth. I believe a person that believes he knows it all in his profession is soon going to meet their maker, because it’s all about growing. There’s never a cap to growth. It’s infinite. Especially when you’re dealing with different fighters from all around the world with different types of styles.”
On the undercard, junior welterweight Kevin Johnson (9-2, 5 KOs) knocked out Luis Salazar (15-1, 3 KOs) at :17 of the eighth round. Bantamweight Alejandro Barrios (24-2-5, 13 KOs) stopped Juan Gabriel Medina (12-7, 11 KOs) at 2:59 of the second round in a scheduled eight-rounder. Light heavyweight Atif Oberlton (2-0, 2 KOs) stopped Larry Pryor (14-24, 8 KOs) at :49 of the third round. Lightweight Rey Diaz (5-0, 2 KOs) beat Sergio Gonzalez (3-5, 2 KOs) by four-round decision.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.