MANILA, Philippines - Interim WBA superflyweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. is pencilled to fight on Feb. 13 in Las Vegas but no opponent has been confirmed by his manager Cameron Dunkin and promoter Top Rank.
A plan to move Donaire up to bantamweight was scuttled and it now appears certain that he will continue to campaign in the 115-pound superflyweight division.
Although Donaire is not considered a world champion at the moment as he holds only the “interim” version, Top Rank will give him the minimum $250,000 purse in his next bout. Under the terms of his contract with Top Rank, Donaire will receive at least $250,000 for every fight as a champion.
There is confusion as to whom the WBA recognizes as the superflyweight titlist. Australian Vic Darchinyan, whom Donaire knocked out for the IBF flyweight crown two years ago, is listed as the “super” WBA champion - an elevated category for a “unified” titleholder since he also owns the WBC belt. The “regular” WBA superflyweight champion is Japan’s Nobuo Nashiro who was held to a split draw by Mexico’s Hugo Cazares in his second title defense in Osaka last month.
Darchinyan was the IBF superflyweight champion, too, but relinquished the throne when he challenged Joseph Agbeko for the IBF bantamweight diadem. He will defend his “super” WBA and WBC titles against Tomas Rojas in Rancho Mirage, California, on Dec. 12.
Donaire said Darchinyan, Nashiro and even Agbeko are in the list for his possible next opponent.
“I don’t mind fighting Darchinyan again but he’s so hard-headed,” said Donaire. “He can’t make up his mind whether to fight me or not. So I leave it up to Bob (Arum) and Cameron to decide whom I’ll fight next. I’ll fight anybody they put in front of me.”
The list also includes IBF superflyweight champion Simphiwe Nonggayi of South Africa and Mexican warrior Jorge Arce.
Nonggayi would be a perfect opponent as he is a legitimate world titleholder but the problem is he’s not a box office draw. Last September, he outpointed Arce to claim the vacant IBF crown given up by Darchinyan in Cancun. The South African has a 16-0 record, with six KOs, but isn’t marketable as a pay-per-view attraction.
Arce may be more of a crowd drawer because of his come-forward style. Donaire said he would take on Arce anytime, anywhere. Arce has never lost to a Filipino, so far victimizing Juanito Rubillar twice, Carmelo Caceres and Fernando Lumacad. His record is 52-6-1, with 40 KOs, compared to Donaire’s 22-1, with 14 KOs.
Nonggayi, Arce and Nashiro are not booked for a fight and should be open for negotiations. Agbeko will stake his crown against Yonnhy Perez in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Donaire, who turns 27 on Nov. 16, said he was recently informed that Golden Boy had offered Mexican bantamweight Abner Mares as an opponent to Top Rank. Mares, 23, boasts a 19-0 record, with 12 KOs, and once knocked out Filipino Diosdado Gabi in two rounds. He is coming off a sixth round stoppage of Carlos Fulgencio in Los Angeles.
If Mares is being foisted as an opponent, Donaire said why not Agbeko. “Mares and Agbeko are both bantamweights,” he said. “If I’m fighting a bantamweight, I’d rather fight the champion. I saw Abgeko’s fight against Darchinyan on TV and I’ve studied how to beat him. But if the decision is for me to stay as a superflyweight, then that’s it.”
Donaire said it’s difficult to find an opponent in the superflyweight division because the fighters are avoiding him.
“There are guys in the heavier divisions calling me out but none in the lower categories,” said Donaire. “Mares is one. Another is WBC superbantamweight champion Israel Vazquez (who just ended a 19-month layoff to stop Angel Priolo a few weeks ago).”
Donaire was initially set to fight on Dec. 12 in another Top Rank “Pinoy Power” promotion in Las Vegas but had to back out after he was diagnosed with dengue. He has been cleared to fight again in February.
Donaire and his wife Rachel are scheduled to leave Manila for the US on Nov. 6. He is expected to train for his Feb. 13 fight at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos near his wife’s home in San Mateo, California.