The WBSS semi-finals finally kick off this coming weekend, and in regards to Asian boxing we'll get the first of the two Bantamweight semi-final bouts, as WBA "super" champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) takes on WBO king Zolani Tete (28-3, 21). The winner will not only unify the titles but also advance to the WBSS Bantamweight final, later in the year, where they will face either Naoya Inoue or Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Whilst the WBSS has stalled losing it's shine shine and momentum this year, the competition is still something that has got fan interest and this bout certainly looks to be one of the most interesting of the tournament so far. It pits established names against each other, both men who are in their 30's, both of whom will know that winning the WBSS tournament will be the biggest achievement of their career. It gives both the chance to not only unify two titles with this bout, but also add the IBF title in the final, and really stamp their mark on the Bantamweight division.
The 36 year old Donaire is a modern day legend. He has not only been one of the most genuine, classy and likable fighters in the sport, but also a lower weight superstar. Since shocking Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 for the IBF Flyweight we have seen Donaire as one of the faces of the lower weight classes. Over the last decade or so he has scored notable wins over a real who's who, including Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and most recently Ryan Burnett. Whilst the level of performance varied it's hard to doubt the level of wins Donaire has picked up.
Despite a host of big wins Donaire has picked up losses in recent years, losing 4 of his last 12 bouts. Those losses have however come to world class fighters Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton. Those losses have shown that Donaire, at times, wasn't a master boxer, wasn't lightening quick and was event fighting above his best weight. Despite those issues he was always a very dangerous puncher, with one of the most devastatings hooks in the sport.
In the ring Donaire isn't as quick or as sharp as he once was, but he is a strong, powerful, skilled fighter. If he boxes at 118lbs he won't have the sharpness to hold his own, but if he applies an intelligent pressure style, he will be able to impose his will on most opponents. Although Ryan Burnett made him look slow in their bout last year Donaire's pressure was having success and we suspect to see that type of game plan from him again here.
Donaire's opponent is 31 year old South African Zolani Tete, a rangy, tall and skilled fighter who really is a phsyical freak at 118lbs. Like many top South African fighters it took a long time for Tete to get much international attention, that's despite fighting for a world title way back in 2010, when he lost to Moruti Mthalane. Tete would in fact go 3-2 following his first loss, losing razor thin decisions to Jaun Alberto Rosas and Roberto Domingo Sosa, both on the road. Since those 3 losses he has won 12 in a row, become a 2-weight champion and finally got some respect as a top fighter.
The recent winning run of Tete has seen him defeat Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, Teiru Kinoshita, who he beat for the IBF Super Flyweight title, Paul Butler, Arthur Villanueva, Siboniso Gonya, Omar Andrez Narvaez and Mikhail Aloyan. Against Butler he looked sensational, against Gonya he looked destructive, but those bouts aside he has left himself open to criticism, as lack a killer instinct, and being too happy at winning, rather than wanting to win and look good. There's been a bit of a "fighting in third gear" feel about his recent showings, and they have seen him look less than great.
Despite not looking amazing Tete is a quick, sharp fighter, with solid power, a great judge of distance, accurate punches and good movement. He lacks a real spitefulness to his work, in general, but is a hugely skilled fighter who has the sort of size rarely seen at Bantamweight. He's very tall and very long.
Coming in to this we're expecting a pretty clear stylistic match up. Tete will look to use his reach, his speed and his jab, he will look to keep Donaire at range and rack up the rounds. Donaire on the other hand might begin as a boxer but will revert to being a pressure fighter as the bout goes on, bringing the heat and looking to beat down Tete with heavy leather.
We can see both men winning. We can clearly see Tete putting on a boxing class, fighting safely and racking up the early rounds before cruising to a closer than it should be decision. We can also see Donaire's vicious power and physicality breaking down Tete in the middle rounds.
We'd love to see a Donaire win, and we'd obviously love a Donaire Vs Inoue final, but it would be an upset for him to do it at his age. Instead we're going with a Tete decision win, with the South African staying sharp, on his toes and alert of the danger Donaire brings. He'll not put on a show, but he will get the win.
Preduction UD12 Tete.
This coming Saturday we find out who will be the fourth of the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Semi-Finalists, as unbeaten Northern Irish fighter Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9) takes on Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24) in the final bout of the quarter final stage. Not only is the bout a WBSS bout, to decide who faces Zolani Tete in the next round of the competition, but it will also see Burnett defending his WBA "Super" Bantamweight title, in what will be his second defense of the title.
Of the two fighters Donaire is the more well known, and in fact he is one of the few lower weight fighters who has made a mark across the globe. He's well known in his native Philippines, he's fought much of his career in North America, often fighting Latin Americans and has also managed one to fight in Europe, losing to the popular Carl Frampton last time out. Whilst he is very well known he is unfortunately a faded star, and he actually turns 36 in just a few weeks time. He's not a young 36 either, having been a professional since 2001 and fighting at world level pretty consistently since his 2007 upset win over Vic Darchinyan. Donaire has also been matched against a veritable who's who from Flyweight to Featherweight, sharing the ring with the likes of Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fenando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters and Carl Frampton, just to name a few. His career has seen him rise from a fresh faced young Flyweight champion to a Featherweight champion as a veteran.
In the ring Donaire is a fighter who has been blessed with brutal power, a good ring IQ and solid boxing fundamentals. Sadly in his prime he wasn't the most active and often seemed to be the type of fighter who looked to land the perfect punch, even when he moved up in weight his power was devastating, though his activity never really impressed and at times he could be made to look very predictable by defensively minded fighters, with the older, smaller Narvaez making him look 1 paced and Rigondeaux making him look clumsy. Now, in his mid 30's, he's lost some speed, his mobility isn't what it once was and with his low work rate doesn't allow him to chip away at opponents. He also has a huge question mark over his ability to safely make Bantamweight, and what he will have left in him when he gets in the ring. That's a major issue given he hasn't made the weight in over 7 years!
At 26 years old Burnett is one of the youngest fighters in the Bantamweight WBSS and is also one of the more accomplished from the young bunch, having won the IBF title in June 2017 and unifying it with the WBA "Super" title just a few months later. Sadly mandatory obligations for the WBA and IBF saw him vacating the IBF title, which is now held by fellow WBSS competitor Emmanuel Rodriguez. Not only is he an accomplished fighter but Burnett is a former amateur standout who has a fantastic boxing brain, a good engine and a brilliant awareness in the ring. He's slippery, awkward, sharp and a great mover. Sadly however Burnett does lack power and has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, whilst showing little killer instinct and no real interest in hunting a stoppage. One wonders whether he has that extra gear and spitefulness that he'll need to win the WBSS, or whether he's simply too nice and lacks the teeth to get past the likes of Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete. Despite the criticism few can doubt his ability and wins over the likes of Jason Booth, Lee Haskins, Zhant Zhakiyanov and Yonfrez Parejo really do prove that.
The key for the champion here is to out manoeuvre, the Filipino veteran. Burnett has the speed to make this look very easy, as long as he can avoid the power of the Filipino. Donaire will however be dangerous through out the bout, and if the Filipino has made weight without harming himself too much that power will be as devastating as ever, if he can land a perfect counter. Burnett is the naturally smaller man, giving away notable height and reach to the Filipino, but his edge in speed, activity and youth should be enough for him to take home the win, and retain his title whilst moving on to the next round of the WBSS.
We'd love to see one more great performance from Donaire, who has been a key figure in the lower weights for a decade. The reality however is that his great career is coming to an end, and although he might have one great performance in him we don't think that'll come here against a man who could make the Filipino look very old if he wishes. Donaire's toughness should keep him in the bout, and his power will always make him dangerous, but we see him losing a very lopsided decision to the baby faced Burnett.
November 5th is a hectic day with numerous significant bouts and title contests taking place during day, from an OPBF title bout in Japan to the ring return of a boxing icon. With so many action it's hard to pick one bout and suggest it should be the best of them, but if pushed it does seem likely that WBO Super Bantamweight title bout will be the most intriguing of the bunch.
That bout sees reigning world champion, and modern day boxing legend, Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24) making the second defense of his title and taking on the unbeaten, and very highly touted, Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17).
The 33 year old champion might not be “Manny Pacquiao” but he is pretty much the #2 Filipino in boxing circles right now, perhaps only challenged by 2-weight world champion Donnie Nietes. Like Pacquiao he has gone through the weight classes, and claimed titles from Flyweight up to Featherweight, though has settled back at Super Bantamweight. Also like Pacquiao he is a fighter coming to the end, he might have one or two fights left in him, or 3 or 4 years but we have certainly seen the best of Donaire.
At his best Donaire was a huge fighter in lower weight classes who had real size advantages, power, skills, speed and appeared to have all the tools for a long and lengthy reign at Super Flyweight, Bantamweight or Super Bantamweight. Instead he rose through the weights looking for challengers and scored wins against a veritable who's who, including Vic Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce. Some of those were under-sized, other were over the hill, but they were top names and helped make Donaire a major lower weight attraction.
As he moved up the weights he hasn't continued to be as amazing as he once was. He is however still a big puncher, he's got solid skills and impressive skills. Over the 12 round distance he has got questionable stamina, and that was shown notably against Cesar Juarez. Saying that however making it to the latter parts of the fight with Donaire has been a challenge in it's self and 3 of his last 4 opponents have failed to hear the bell to end round 3, and it's worth noting Juarez himself was almost stopped in round 4 before mounting a brilliant fight back.
Whilst Donaire is a true veteran, and had his world title fight more than 9 years ago, the same cannot be said of Magdaleno, a 24 year old prospect who is getting his first world title bout. In fact not only is the bout set to be his first world title bout but also his first 12 round bout of any variety. That's a surprise when you consider that Magdaleno has had 23 bouts and been a professional for close to 6 years, with his team raving about him from incredibly early in his career. In fact part of the reason he was so highly touted was because he was a decorated amateur with 120 and including US and national Gold Glove titles.
Through out Magdaleno's career he has shown all the traits of a fighter heading towards a world title. He has impressed with his power, speed and skills whilst his calmness in the ring has been incredible and it's clear that he's a natural. Sadly though he's not been able to shows those abilities against particularly testing opponents, with his best opponents being Raul Hirales and a shop worn Luis Maldonado. Not only has he failed to fight decent competition be he is also very unproven over the longer distances, with only 2 scheduled 10 rounders on his record and he has only been 7 rounds, or more, on 5 occasions.
On paper this could be a passing of the torch bout, with Magdaleno picking up the proverbial torch from Donaire, but he would need to prove so many things to do that. He would need to prove that he's as good as hyped, he'd need to avoid Donaire's power and probably prove he himself can do 12 rounds. If he can't do those things then it's hard to imagine how he can beat someone like Donaire, or any other world class fighter.
Although Donaire is coming to the end of his career we think that he's still too much for Magadaleno given the way the American has been matched so far. And whilst we can see Magdaleno's youth being an issue for Donaire we don't think he'll manage to cope with the power and speed of Donaire in the early rounds. If Magdaleno can survive the first 5 rounds then things will be interesting, but we'll be honest and say that we doubt that'll happen with Donaire such a heavy handed fighter at Super Bantamweight.
This coming weekend is a busy one for Asian fighters with a trio of Asian's fighting in world title fights. One of those is current WBO Super Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (36-3, 23), who makes the first of the title he regained last year, who faces little known Hungarian challenger Zsolt Bedak (25-1, 8), who is getting his second world title shot.
The talented, and popular, Donaire has had a brilliant career and turned a 1-1 start into a career that has seen him claim world titles from Flyweight to Featherweight and likely secure a place in the HOF. Sadly however he is coming to the end of the road and has shown a clear deterioration over the last few years, with poor performances against the likes of Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Jeffrey Mthebula, Vic Darchinyan and Cesar Juarez, as well as losses to Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters.
Although Donaire is on the slide, and has been for a while, he is still better than most fighters and can still show touches of brilliance. That was seen in the early rounds against Juarez, with round 4 being a particularly good one from Donaire, and against Anthony Settoul, who was dominated by Donaire last year. He still carries impressive speed and power, is sharp early on and can be very dangerous, though does look like a fighter who lacks the stamina to go 12 rounds at a good pace, and has started to become a bit predictable with his dangerous left hook.
When it comes to Bedak there is very little on his record, other than his loss in 2010 to Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. That loss was in a world title fight and although Bedak showed some ability early on he did get broken down and was stopped in the 10th round. Since that loss Bedak has scored 10 successive wins, though the competition has been terrible with the most notable win of that run coming against Kenyan tough guy Nick Otieno last September.
As an amateur Bedak was very good and competed at the 2004 Olympics, scoring a notable win over Abner Mares at the Olympics, sadly though his professional career has been a frustrating one, with Bedak, or his team, happy to go along the path of least resistance. Despite that he has scarcely managed to impress and we can't see him impressing this weekend in what is a high pressure situation for the Hungarian, who knows it is now or never.
We don't want to slate world title bodies, but before we get on with our prediction we do need to make a comment in regards of the WBO who should be forced to explain how Bedak has got a world title fight and how he's managed to get a #4 ranking. The ranking is among the most inexplicable in the sport and sadly we suspect that will be shown when the men get in the ring on Saturday.
Whilst we think Donaire is coming to the end he's not a shot fighter, and he does still possess that deadly left hook. We think that will be too much for Bedak who won't see out the first half of the bout. We understand Donaire having an easy first defense, and a homecoming in the Philippines, so won't criticise him too hard given his willingness to face top fighters through his career, but the WBO deserve all the criticism they get for allowing this bout to go ahead.
Unification bouts in boxing are very rare and generally they are worth getting excited about. Champion Vs Champion, the best vs the best. Sadly however with the WBA having 3 titles we seem to have seen more WBA unification fights recently than real unification bouts and we see another WBA unification bout this coming Saturday as WBA Featherweight super champion Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21) attempts to unify his title with the WBA Featherweight "regular" champion Nicholas Walters (24-0, 20) in what will be the second WBA unification bout in as many days.
Of the two men in action it's Donaire who is better known due to the fact the Filipino has long been one of the stars, and cash cows, of the lower weights. The American based fighter first made his name on the back of a scintillating win over Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 and since then has gone through the divisions picking up both world titles and notable scalps, such as Fernando Montiel, Toshiaki Nishioka and Omar Andres Narvaez. The success, and power, or Donaire has seen him become a favourite of the US boxing media and although he has struggled in recent years it does seem like there is still a lot for Donaire to achieve if he can get himself up for fights, which appears to be his biggest problem.
At his best Donaire is a counter punching destroyer as she showed against Montiel and Darchinyan. Sadly however when a fighter doesn't give Donaire some pretty clear openings he has struggled, as seen in the Narvaez fight and his somewhat recent loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux. At his core Donaire is a powerful and quick counter puncher who adds an air of excitement to every bout he's involved in with fans hoping to see him detonate a bomb on his opponent. Sadly though when an opponent is an unwilling dance partner Donaire can be made to look fundamentally limited and at times lost in the ring.
As for Walters he's a hard man to get a real read on. We've only seen a handful of his bouts and although the Jamaican has serious power he also seems to be developing in terms of timing, general skills and, worryingly for Donaire, patience. In the first few fights of Walters that we've seen he looked like a slugger and offensive mindset, the sort of guy that Donaire would typically feast on with no issues due to the openings that he used to leave.
Whilst he's a big puncher Walter's also has a few tricks up his sleeve. He's willing to take the 1/2 step back, he's willing to let the other man lead and he's capable of unleashing thunder from both hands. He's one of those fighters that others don't take risks against, in fact in many way's he's a lot like a younger version of Donaire albeit a cruder version of a young Donaire. Like a young a young Donaire Walters also appears big for the weight in which he's competing, something that certainly helped the Filipino fighter move up the weight classes. That size is likely to tell here and Walters is likely to look bigger than Donaire, by quite a margin.
Donaire at his best was brilliant. His stoppages against Darchinyan and Montiel were sensational and really made him a huge star and a real pound-for-pound fighter. Sadly those performances look to be well behind him and in recent fights he has looked like a man who is missing his sparkle and confidence. He's still talented but that lack of magic and desire is the difference between a world class fighter and an elite level fighter. and that lack of magic could cost him here.
What we think will happen is that both men will fight as counter punchers and neither will be willing to open up. This will lead to a very slow but tense fight with both men believing they have the power to stop the other. They style of fight won't be great to watch for the most part but as soon as one man leads the other will answer and we will get some very exciting exchanges between the two who will be trying to counter each other. When they do exchange Donaire will have the speed edge and Walters will have the size and power edge. It's a matter of who has the chin edge as to who will come out on top here. We tend to feel the size will be the difference and help Walters take the win however if Donaire connects clean there is every chance he will stop Walters.
The only thing we know for sure here is that we are looking forward to this fight and that either man can pick up the win in what promises to be a very interesting contest even if it's unlikely to be the most exciting bout of the weekend
Over the past year or so Top Rank and Bob Arum have made a home away from home in Macau making the most of the luxurious conditions at the amazing Cotai Arena in the Venetian Resort. The cards, which have split opinions with many fans, have been great for us as they have helped draw extra attention to some Asian fighters such as Yasutaka Ishimoto, Genesis Servania, Harmonito Dela Torre, Zou Shiming, Rex Tso and Kuok Kun Ng.
One of the few Asian fighters that American audiences are fully aware of, with out the need for a Macau showcase, is the "Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire (32-2, 21). Donaire, once considered as a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter, is a man in a bit of a career crisis. A few years ago he was the rising star at Top Rank, the next Manny Pacquiao. He was stopping great opponents like Vic Darhcinyan and Fernando Montiel with single punches, he was looking sensational with power, speed, the ability to box from either stance and an unnerving ability to time his opponents with fantastic counter.
Since then those glory days Donaire has struggled with the likes of Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Jeffrey Mathebula, Vic Darchinyan-in a rematch, and been defeated by Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux. He has basically gone from being a top pound-for-pound fighter to a man that many feel may be so far on the slide that he perhaps only has one or two good fights left in him.
At his best Donaire really was brilliant. He often looked untouchable with a mind blowing combination of speed and power. He was often making top fighters look like also rans and his record genuinely reads like a who's who with names like Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Montiel, Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce. Unfortunately however he seemed to fall in love with his power in later years, ignoring the skills that had gotten him to the top level and relying solely on counters rather than finding his own openings. He'd gone from wonder kid to frustration almost over night and has struggled to re-find the tools that made him one of the sports must watch fighters.
Unfortunately for Donaire he'll almost certainly have to find his aggressive mindset as he attempts to become a 5 weight world champion and takes on WBA Featherweight super champion Simipiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16) who has gained a real reputation over the last year as a man who enjoys fighting Asian fighters and is a real king of upsets.
Hailing from South Africa Vetyeka has become a road warrior and fought in his first notable bout 7 years ago in Japan when he lost a decision to the then WBC Bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa. That bad was a horrible clash of styles with neither man willing to open up for vast parts of the bout. From that contest however Vetyeka has learned to make the most of his ability and scored wins over Giovanni Caro, Daud Cino Yordan and, most recently, Chris John.
The victories over Yordan and John have both been played down by some fans. For some Yordan was weight drained and John was old though in all honesty they are detracting from two excellent performances that showed the different sides of Vetyeka. Against Yordan we saw Vetyeka the boxer who bounced on his toes, used the jab and allowed Yordan to eat numerous straight shots. It was a game plan designed to beat Yordan. Against John we saw Vetyeka bide his time, start slowly and then strike breaking John down in rounds 5 and 6 before forcing the stoppage. By then John looked like a broken man, he was busted to the mid section, forced to take shots upstairs and beaten into retirement.
Whilst Donaire is the favourite, and rightfully so, he's in a very, very tough contest here. He's not looked "right" in a while and although he's only lost, in recent bouts, to the excellent Rigondeaux we can actually see an upset here with Vetyeka having all the tools to beat Donaire, if not he'll certainly give Donaire a head ache.
We're expecting to see the counter punching Donaire in the ring. By it's self that's fine but against another relaxed counter puncher we think Donaire will struggle and when he opens up his defensive flaws will be taken advantage off with quick and hurtful shots from Vetyeka. Those shots will take it's toll on Donaire and make things very difficult for the Filipino who will feel what it's like to fight a real Featherweight.
We think that whilst Donaire will start the favourite he will really struggle to hurt Vetyeka, he will struggle to land clean on Vetyeka and in the end he will just flat out struggle. We don't mean to sound harsh but we'd not be shocked if Vetyeka managed to score a third successive upset with a hard fought decision. Unfortunately we think Donaire is about done.
(Image courtesy of Toprank)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.