Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula preview & prediction
Published Jun 22 2012 by: Scott Levinson
On July 7, budding boxing superstar Nonito Donaire takes on visiting South African Jeffrey Mathebula in a 122-pound unification match. Fans might not be overly-thrilled with this choice of opponent for Donaire, but Mathebula is also a world champion and should provide Donaire with a tough night’s work.
Mathebula is up against it--make no mistake. Not only is he facing the “house” fighter, but Donaire is one of the very few top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. As if that were not enough, he faces an excruciatingly long road trip. It’s hard to think of a more draining trip than going from South Africa to L.A. Mathebula has left South Africa only once, losing in Panama to the excellent Celestino Caballero by split decision.
- Date: July 7, 2012
- Site: Home Depot Center, Carson, California
- TV: HBO at 10:00 p.m. EST
- Division: WBO/IBF Junior Featherweight Title: 122 Pounds
Nonito Donaire, 28-1 (18 KOs), San Leandro, California, WBO Super Bantamweight Champion
Jeffrey Mathebula, 26-3-2 (14 KOs), Brakpan, Gauteng, South Africa, IBF Junior Bantamweight Champion
Donaire is in his prime--a 29-year old with titles in 4 different weight classes. He last tasted defeat almost a dozen years ago. His ambitions are big, as he continues rising in weight in search of titles. One potential concern is that unlike his countryman Manny Pacquiao, he might move up too far. He was a big and wiry flyweight, but as he begins surging up to featherweight waters, his size will no longer be an advantage.
Luckily for Donaire, he doesn’t rely on size. His skills are immense. He is the total package, with a unique ability to turn the lights off on his opponent. In his pair of biggest wins, against Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, the night ended on one punch. So even if a fighter is able to hang in there with Donaire, “The Filipino Flash” always carries an equalizer.
Mathebula is an interesting study. He fits the profile of a guy who could potentially surprise. The 2000 Olympian is a battle-tempered 32. Fighting in South Africa his entire career might make it appear that he has been coddled in terms of opposition. But there have been a slew of good fighters around that weight coming out of that part of the world in recent years. One such opponent, Takalani Ndlovu, was the IBF world champion until Mathebula snagged his belt in March in South Africa. Mathebula’s win avenged a loss to Ndlovu in 2010.
Not to generalize, but a lot of South African fighters come over to the states and do about the same. They’re as game and solid as you can find. There is seldom any quit in a South African fighter. Their performances are usually very rugged and earnest. But there is a certain proletariat nature to all of them. They are not to be taken lightly, but there isn’t that “something special” you want to see when betting on an underdog.
One thinks of Malcolm Klassen (with whom Mathebula fought a draw) against Robert Guerrero or more recently--Leo Santa Cruz’ win over Vusi Malinga. It seems like a lot of South Africans are put in awfully tough spots. And when fighting the best in the world, there is a palpable gap in ability. Not to lump Mathebula in with all over South African fighters of recent note. No one is saying he can’t improve. He might be better than Klassen and Malinga. But by how much? And Donaire is probably better than Guerrero and Santa Cruz.
Donaire vs. Mathebula Prediction
Sometimes when a fighter is on the way to bigger things as Donaire is, they encounter an unexpected speed bump. Then that begins the new rivalry. If that were to occur with Mathebula, it would be a giant surprise. Donaire might be caught looking ahead, but even if Mathebula had his Rocky Balboa moment in this fight, he might still be up against it. Donaire should win and look for it to happen inside the distance against a gallant Mathebula.
Prediction: Nonito Donaire wins by 10th-round TKO.