NONITO “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr. won a 12-round unanimous decision over Jeffrey Mathebula of South Africa to add the International Boxing Federation to his World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title in an HBO-televised Saturday night (Sunday noon in Manila) at the Home Depot Arena in Carson, California.
Donaire was the aggressor, stalking the taller Mathebula throughout the fight to win the nod of the judges by scores of 117-110, 118-109 and 119-108.
Donaire hurt Mathebula with powerful left hooks and straight right hands in the opening round but Mathebula weathered the onslaught.
In the next three rounds, the 29-year-old Filipino-American champion continued to relentlessly attack Mathebula, throwing haymakers that made the South African retreat.
With about 10 seconds left in the fourth, Donaire decked Mathebula with a counter left hook to the chin. For a while it appeared that the glassy-eyed Mathebula might not beat the count, but he got up in the nick of time and was saved by the bell.
Donaire improved to 29-1, 18 by knockouts, and hinted after the fight that he is likely to fight Japanese World Boxing Council titlist Toshiaki Nishioka next. Mathebula dropped to 24-4-2, 4 by KOs.
Donaire’s faster hands and superior power plus his sheer aggression kept Mathebula on the defensive through most of the fight.
In the 11th round, a crunching straight right hand by Donaire cracked a tooth of Mathebula, prompting the latter to cover his face in the last two rounds which added to the lopsided scorecards.
Donaire said he was going for a knockout but admitted that Mathebula’s jab often took away his momentum.
“I didn’t realize [Mathebula] is that tough. His jab took out my knockout power,” Donaire told HBO’s Max Kellerman in a post-fight interview.
“He was a tough guy, I didn’t expect him to be. He was faster than I thought,” he said. “It was difficult to counter him with the right. If it would have been easy to counter him, it would’ve been an easy fight. He got me off that jab really well,” Donaire added. “He’s a great champion.”
Mathebula fell to 26-4 with two drawn and 14 knockouts. He was making the first defense of the IBF title he won in March in South Africa with a split-decision triumph over compatriot Takalani Ndlovu.
The bout was the first step in what Donaire hopes will be a unification march through the division.
The World Boxing Association super bantamweight belt is held by Guillermo Rigondeaux, a 31-year-old Cuban who is 10-0 as a professional and won Olympic gold in 2000 and 2004.
Mexico’s Abner Mares owns the World Boxing Council super bantamweight crown but Donaire has voiced an interest in taking on the man Mares replaced as champion, Japan’s Nishioka.
Nishioka, a 35-year-old southpaw, is 39-4 with three drawn and has won 16 fights in a row since last losing in 2004 to Thai legend Veeraphol Sahaprom.
Donaire said he is aiming for another title to become undisputed champ before moving up in weight to featherweight (126 pounds).
Apart from Nishioka, Donaire said he is also open to fighting beltholders Guillermo Rigondeaux and Abner Mares.