Filipino legend Nonito Donaire has shocked the boxing world by becoming the sport’s oldest champion at the age of 38, dethroning WBC bantamweight ruler Nordine Oubaali via a brutal knockout victory in Carson, California.
Demonstrating why fans call him the Filipino Flash, Donaire was lightning quick to the punch from the offset.
Keeping his 34-year-old opponent at bay with a stiff right jab, he also stung Oubaali with a sharp left hook in the first couple of rounds.
In the third, Donaire made Oubaali taste canvas with two knockdowns, the second of which came just after the bell.
And in the fourth, when an uppercut felled the French for the third time, referee Jack Reis had seen enough and ended the bout a minute and 52 seconds into the round.
Sending the crowd in his adopted home state into raptures, Donaire sentenced a stunned Oubaali to his first defeat and declared that “The king has returned”.
“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,” he claimed.
“What I learned from the [2019 loss to pound-for-pound candidate Naoya] 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,” Donaire stressed.
“I came in here and I felt really good,” continued Donaire. “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.
“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.”
Coming into the clash at the Dignity Health Sports Park, the four-weight champion had warned of an upset.
“[Oubaali’s] a technically sound guy from the amateurs, an intelligent fighter. But I’ve seen everybody, from the most powerful to the slickest, and I know I have all the tools to counter what he’s going to bring,” he told The Athletic in the build-up.
“There’s no question I can get this guy. That’s going to be my belt. He’s never faced a guy with my power.”
“Oubaali’s never going to be hit as hard as I’m going to hit him. As soon as Oubaali feels my power, he won’t be a tank. I break people down. I don’t have [any] doubt at all,” he predicted, his premonition proving true early in the fight.
Probed on whether he wants a rerun of his and IBF and WBA champion Inoue’s World Boxing Super Series final and Fight of the Year, Donaire answered: “This is why I wanted to win this fight.”
“That’s my next goal. That’s the only thing I haven’t accomplished in boxing… becoming undisputed.
“That’s my goal this year until I get there. I’m going to make that happen. The next phase is getting that rematch.”
Over in Las Vegas, before Donaire put the finishing touches to his record-breaking performance, 35-year-old Venezuelan Jorge Linares fell short of pulling off a similar feat facing Devin Haney.
Against the slick 22-year-old WBC lightweight champion known as ‘The Dream’, Linares looked to be losing on the cards by some distance, but then gave Haney the scare of his life by wobbling him at the end of the 10th round.
Haney returned to the action bow-legged in the 11th and, while also taking some good shots in the 12th and final round, managed to hold on for dear life and grind out a unanimous decision win with scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113.
“It was a good shot. I was never hurt, I boxed smart,” Haney insisted. “It was a good shot but it didn’t hurt.
“When you get hit with a good shot, you’ve got to be smart. That was the game plan.
“You’ve got to continue to do what the game plan was. I did that and I got the win.”
Asked whether he wishes to get in with the division’s king Teofimo Lopez, who holds its other four straps after besting Vasyl Lomachenko in 2020, Haney responded: “Of course, I want to make the biggest fights happen.
“If Teofimo Lopez is next, let’s make it happen. If Teofimo wants to get it next, let’s do it for all the belts.”
As Lopez posted a simple emoji of a plate and cutlery to Twitter – perhaps implying he would have Haney for dinner – contender Ryan Garcia, who holds the WBC interim crown and should by logic be Haney’s mandatory, was just as unimpressed by the display.
“I would’ve slept you,” he warned via an Instagram story which shared a short clip of the action.
With their respective stables, Matchroom and Golden Boy, both exclusively signed to show their fights on DAZN, an in-house clash should be easy to make.
Thanks to the WBC’s meddling, though, in promoting Lomachenko to ‘Franchise Champion’ before Lopez beat him, and making Haney the world’s youngest regular champion, boxing politics have once more complicated matters – even before the fighters and promotors bicker over purse splits.
Also on rt.com ‘I never expected anything from him’: Ex-champ Khabib Nurmagomedov plays down remarks by UFC’s Chimaev and Chechen leader Kadyrov