One thing that was undeniable about the boxing scene in 2020, was that it was a year that messed up the calendar, significantly, and saw so many bouts being cancelled or postponed. Due to the effects of Covid19 a lot of major names in the sport either didn't fight at all in 2020, or fought just once, as their careers stagnated for a year. Thankfully it appears that 2021 will be the year that things get back to normal, at least in the last few months of the year.
Two men that were massively affected by the Covid19 pandemic were WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12) and his mandatory challenger Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26), who had a planned bout cancelled when Oubaali tested positive for Covid19. Donaire himself would also test positive for the virus, though it appears his positive test was likely a false positive, as he got a negative response in a confirmatory test that he and his team paid for.
With neither man fighting last year, and with Oubaali having a planned March defense cancelled as well, neither man has actually fought since November 2019, when they both featured on the same card over in in Japan. That card saw Donaire lose to Naoya Inoue, in the WBSS Bantamweight final, and Oubaali beat Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue to retain the WBC title. Following those bouts in Japan, and the cancellation of an eliminator featuring Luis Nery who failed to make weight, Donaire was made the mandatory challenger to Oubaali, in what looked like a great bout for early 2020. Before the pandemic left it's mark on the sport's calendar.
Despite the long lay off for both men, and the issues of 2020, we'll get to see the two men clash this coming weekend in arguable the best Bantamweight bout currently on the schedule, and one of the most interesting bouts the division has seen in well over a year. It's a bout neither man can afford to lose, and a bout that sets the winner up for a potential unification bout, possible with Naoya Inoue or Johnriel Casimero.
So with that back story out of the way how do we see this bout? And what can we say about the two men involved?
The defending champion, Oubaali, is a 34 year old southpaw who was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 2014. He started his career well and picked up notable wins over Hiram Irak Diaz, Julio Cesar Miranda, Alejandro Hernandez and Mark Anthony Geraldo in his first on his way to a world title fight. When he finally got his world title shot he beat Rau'shee Warren for the then vacant WBC title, which he has now defended twice, stopping Arthur Villanueva and scoring the aforementioned win over Takuma Inoue in 2019. For a man with just 17 bouts his resume is genuinely solid, not spectacular but really solid. Sadly however for a man who is now in his mid 30's, in a division where most fighters are consider on the slide at the age of 30, his careers underwhelming, and it's clear he will need to not just win here, but rack up other wins to live up to his full potential.
In the ring Oubaali is a solid technician. A really good technical boxer, with under-rated power, a surprising physicality, very good speed, sharp punches and good work rate. He is, however, small at the weight, has questionable stamina, and there are perhaps some questions about his durability. To date he's yet to face an actual world class puncher, and he was hurt against Inoue in the later rounds, as Takuma surprisingly made the very competitive late on, despite what the scorecards for that bout suggest.
When it comes to Nonito Donaire it's fair to say there it little that hasn't already been said about the Filipino legend and future Hall of Famer. He is a legitimate legend and there is no denying that. Aged 38 Donaire has been there, done that and got the T-shirt. He made his professional debut way back in February 2001, when his first world title in 2007, when he upset Vic Darchinyan, and became one of the few major stars of the lower weight classes. He managed to win world titles at Flyweight, Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight and Featherweight, while scoring notable wins over a who's who, of who. He has beaten Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Raul Martinez, Rafael Concepcion, Hernan Marquez, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and Ryan Burnett. Despite picking up losses along the way he has one of the best resumes in the sport today. A truly brilliant resume.
In the ring Donaire has changed his style over the years, but some things have remained the same. Over the years he has tried boxing southpaw, and was once very light on his feet, but as he's aged he's become less reliant on his speed, with his legs and footwork both slowing, in fact he's almost a flat-footed fighter. Instead of relying on speed he's relied on his physicality, size, power and strength, and he's a huge Bantamweight. Last year he dwarfed Inoue in their bout and will tower over Oubaali here. He's strong, tough, with a dynamite left hook, a really impressive chin, thunderous jab, good technical skills and excellent timing. Given he's now 38 it's hard to know what he's got left in the tank, but given his performance last time out, against Inoue, there is a feeling he may well have one more big performance left before he calls time on his career.
It's hard to know what both men will be bringing to the ring here. Both have been out of the ring for more than 18 months, both old are for Bantamweights and whilst Oubaali is younger it'll be interesting to see how he looks following his legitimate bout with Covid19.
At their best it would be almost impossible to favour Oubaali. Even now it's hard to pick the Moroccan born French fighter, who's key advantages are being younger than Donaire and being quicker. We suspect he lacks the fire power to get Donaire's attention, he'll be the much smaller man, he'll have to work incredibly hard to get in and get without eating Donaire's stiff jab and potent left hooks. Especially if he tires again as he did against Takuma Inoue. If a tired Oubaali, perhaps even an Oubaali feeling the effects of his 2020 illness, show up, this could be a very, very tough night for him.
That's not to say Oubaali can't win. He could out work and out fiddle Donaire early on, then see out the 12 rounds fighting on the retreat. We can see that happening, but we're not expecting it. Instead we see Oubaali starting well, but tiring through the fight and then being stopped late as the power, size, and strength of Donaire wears him down.
Predictionm - TKO10 Donaire.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 7th, at the Saitama Super Arena, the undefeated Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali clash for the unified WBC Bantamweight World championship.
Takuma Inoue (13-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of Japanese phenom Naoya Inoue. He took up boxing at a very young age, after watching his sibling compete. During his amateur days, he won several tournaments, including the National Sports Festival in 2011, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event. Takuma also placed second the following year, losing only to future 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka. His record stood at 52-5.
Showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer.
The Japanese rising star’s sound skills and technique brought him victory once again over another worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (38-7). After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-3), in just his fourth bout.
Takuma would fight Mark Anthony Geraldo (38-9) in 2015, to capture the vacant OPBF title and also to make 2 successful defenses. He then met Filipino standout Froilan Saludar (31-3) at the Sky Arena in Japan, where despite getting dropped early in the first, he returned the favor in the later rounds.
Missing an entire year due to a hand injury, Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. Since then, he has defeated Kentaro Masuda (27-9), Waldo Sabu (13-14) and John Yap (30-14).
Finally, on December of last year, Takuma fought Tasana Salapat (52-1) for the interim WBC Bantamweight World title. Undefeated at the time and with 37 KOs under his belt, the Thai knockout artist couldn’t figure out a way to take his opponent out this time. The Japanese fighter used his speed and put together some excellent combinations to dominate the match, even hurting Salapat on a few occasions in the later rounds, after landing some crisp right hooks and straights. When the final bell rang, Takuma was the clear and decisive winner. He now has the chance to become the unified WBC champion, in his home country, but his next fight won’t be an easy one.
Nordine Oubaali (16-0) spent almost a decade competing in amateur boxing, gaining experience and honing his craft. He participated in 2 Olympics (2008 & 2012) and also won bronze at the World & European Union championships.
The Frenchman finally turned pro in 2014, winning 10 bouts in the span of 2 years, 7 of them via (T)KO. He then squared off with Julio Cesar Miranda (42-14), on December of 2016, for the WBA Intercontinental title. Oubaali overwhelmed the former World champion with a plethora of punches, scoring 3 knockdowns in the process.
Half a year later, he fought former interim WBO titlist Alejandro Hernandez (31-13), with the WBC Silver crown on the line. Oubaali was in complete control throughout the entire time. He dropped Hernandez thrice, once in the 1st after landing 3 back to back straight lefts, then in the 3rd with a thunderous right hook and again in the 8th. The referee finally stopped the contest in the 10th due to a nasty cut over Alejandro’s left eye.
After delivering a stunning knockout over Mark Anthony Geraldo (38-9) and easily dispatching world title challenger Luis Melendez (47-13) in just 2 rounds, Oubaali eventually earned a shot at the big one.
This past January, he took the former WBA (Super) champion Rau'shee Warren (16-3) the distance, to claim the vacant WBC Bantamweight World title for his own. It was an even fight at the beginning. Oubaali started taking over as we reached round 7, throwing more punches than his opponent, as well as the more significant ones. That was the first time in 3 years that a fight of his had gone to the judges’ scorecards. His inaugural title defense was a one sided affair against Arthur Villanueva (32-4), whom he knocked down 2 times, before retiring on his stool. The Frenchman will now travel to Japan in order to unify the WBC titles.
Both men’s pro careers began with only a few months difference from each other, and in that relatively short time, they already have become champions. It’s easy to spot the similarities as well as the differences between the two. They both share a successful amateur background, but undoubtedly, Oubaali has had the better run. Experience is definitely on his side, with approximately 15 years into the sport. On the other hand though, Takuma is way younger than him, a decade younger to be exact, which makes him the fresher and faster athlete. Both have been in the ring with accomplished opponents, although the level of competition might be slightly higher in Oubaali’s case. Moreover, Takuma, even though he’s a crafty fighter, he lacks the knockout power his brother possesses, whereas Oubaali has a 75% KO ratio and is known for scoring multiple knockdowns in his matches, preferably with the left, which has put away most of his former rivals. To sum this up, for all of his impressive performances in the past, Inoue has never faced a boxer, the caliber of Oubaali. He’s outmatched and outgunned. But that has been pretty much the story of his entire career. So can Takuma survive the “French invasion”? We are about to find out.
The WBC world title picture at Bantamweight is a series mess with the body having one of their more confusing title pictures, with a world champion, and interim champion and a silver champion. The title scene really is a mess due to issues caused in 2018 by Mexican fighter Luis Nery, who failed a drug test and subsequently failed to make weight. Despite his issues Nery is actually the #1 ranked and current Silver champion.
Rather than going into detail about Nery, and his various issues, it's worth noting that him and Takuma Inoue, the interim champion, are both vying for a future world title fight, likely later in the year. They do however have to wait, and next up for the main title will be the first defense of unbeaten French champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11), who takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) on July 6th. The bout isn't the most interesting, given the talent in the division and the long line of WBC challengers, but it's a notable bout headlining an MTK card in Kazakhstan, and certainly deserves some real attention.
The unbeaten champion, a French fighter with Morocan heritage, was an outstanding amateur competing at 2 Olympics and 3 world amateur championships. Although his best result was "only" a bronze medal, at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he was clearly talented and that showed in his consistency and success in the World Series Boxing, where he fought for the Paris United Franchise. That experience in the amateurs and WSB saw Oubaali turn professional with some pretty lofty expectations 2014 and since then the southpaw has impressed picking up minor titles before claiming the WBC belt last year.
As a fighter Oubaali is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher with excellent skills and solid punching power. He turned professional in 2014 and was kept busy early on in his career against mostly limited opponents, but in 2016 he stopped both Iran Diaz, who later went the distance with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Julio Cesar Miranda, a former world champion from Mexico. Those wins put him on the map before he added stoppages against very tough Mexican veteran Alejandro Hernandez, skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo and tough Colombian Luis Melendez. Most recently he defeated Rau'shee Warren, over 12 rounds, for the WBC title back in January. Notably that bout in January is his only contest in the last 12 months. With a number of good wins he is really one of the top, and most under-rated, Bantamweights out there, with a resume comparable to better recognised fighters at the weight, like Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Ryan Burnett, and would have been a good addition to the WBSS.
The Filipino challenger was once regarded as a bright hope, though has sadly failed to live up to the expectations on his shoulders. He began his career with 28 straight wins whilst working his way up the world rankings. In 2015 he would then face McJoe Arroyo in a bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title, losing a technical decision in what was a truly stinking bout. He was much more competitive than the score cards suggested, though in reality neither man did much of anything in a truly disappointing match up that never clicked. Since then Villanueva has gone 5-2-1 (4), and not looked particularly good, even in his wins.
At his best he was a methodical fighter, a thinking mans fighter, with good timing, patience and counter punching. He was a chess player in the ring, but unfortunately his skills haven't shown themselves at the top level, and losses to not only Arroyo but also Zolani Tete and Luis Nery, who he dropped before being stopped by, have shown he's a level beneath world class. He's a very capable fighter, but no world beater, and unfortunately fighters will need to be world beaters to beat Oubaali.
We're expecting Villanueva to put up a good effort early on, though as the fight goes on Oubaali's class, clean punching and accuracy will be the difference and by the middle rounds Villanueva will be getting broken down, before being stopped in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - Oubaali TKO9
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.