It was all respect with a lovely chocolate cake on the side in downtown Los Angeles last week when IBF/WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire met with Toshiaki Nishioka to announce their October 13 showdown at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. On the undercard is a potentially all-time classic junior welterweight clash between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, two hardnosed, take-no-prisoners fighters.
“As fighters, we know what we go through. We put our bodies and lives on the line being in that ring. That is why I respect fighters unless they don’t respect me,” Donaire told Maxboxing.com. “But you get a guy like Nishioka, he’s been dominating this division, to have him respect me the way he does, I have to respect him.”
While Toshiaki doesn’t bring his WBC super bantamweight belt to the unification party, the WBC has offered its vacant “Diamond” belt, a fact that had even Top Rank CEO Bob Arum confused at the podium. But it doesn’t matter; belts don’t matter to anyone but the fighters in this situation. Why? Because it’s a fight with potential for greatness.
“What Nishioka has done in this division, he has been number one in this division and that is why I chose and dreamed of this fight,” Donaire told the assembled media. “Because Nishioka, not only do I have great respect for a fighter like him, who has been number one in this weight class for so long and leading the way, on October 13, I will do my best to show I am better. May the best man win. He will come and give his best. I will come in and give my best. And hopefully, Japan and the world will enjoy this fight.”
It’s rare that fights like this - especially ones hardcore fans have clamored for - actually happen. Both men realize how special it is to have two promoters risk their high-quality fighters like this.
“There are no words that can describe how grand this fight is,” Donaire said. “This is the best of the best. And I thank Nishioka for taking this fight. This fight is where my dreams can come true. Or I can still be waiting. I have always dreamt of being undisputed [and] with the WBC ‘Diamond’ belt, that dream can be realized. Nishioka’s dream can be realized. So this is an all-out war between Nishioka and myself and we will definitely give our best because that is all that we can do with the respect we have for each other.”
“I have been winning at super bantamweight for a long time now,” said Nishioka. “Donaire has been winning and has proved himself to be a great fighter and he currently has two belts in the super bantamweight division. I believe this will probably be the best fight at the 122-pound weight division. I would like the both of us to be in the best of condition and put on the best fight possible. I plan on it.”
Nishioka is a southpaw technician natural to the weight class with a record of 39-4-3 with 24 knockouts. He hasn’t lost since 2004 and that was by decision. Last October, he won a decision over Rafael Marquez but has not fought since. If there is a strike against him, that rust might be the place to look. The 36-year-old Nishioka disagrees, citing the fact that he went right back into training soon after that win with the hopes of landing a Donaire bout.
Donaire has gone the distance in his last three fights while taking criticism and praise in equal measure. Some say he needs to be more exciting. Some argue he is just fine and the “number three” on mythical pound-for-pound lists is appropriate. To Donaire, the best is always yet to come.
“The last two fights I had were purely experimental,” said Donaire. “We just get better from it but we are not going to experiment with this fight. We will have to bring our very best with Nishioka. Different approaches, technique. Like with [Jeffrey] Mathebula, I was the smaller guy. I had to move a little bit like [Julio Cesar] Chavez or [Marvin] Hagler or be aggressive. You never see me fight like that. This is purely experimental but we get better at it as we face each type of fighting style.”
Donaire is a student of the game and understands that with Nishioka, a technician coming from the southpaw stance with speed and power, his game must be firing on all cylinders.
“I think we are going to have to do everything. We are going to have to do a lot of things. Creative or whatever it may be, we want to find an opening for it and he will do the same thing,” acknowledged Donaire. “We are the same, you know? We have similar advantages,” said Donaire. “We can say that our speed is our advantage or our power is our advantage because it can be at one point. It depends on what kind of fight is out there and what kind of fight is given to us.”
The fight itself is a mixture of interesting styles. Donaire likes to freestyle out of either stance. Nishioka is a smooth southpaw technician who is not afraid to get after it. Both men will have to do what they do best to win but also step outside the box at times.
“We will start looking at videos and start figuring that out,” Nishioka said of Donaire’s style and how best to neutralize it.
“For this division, he is the top guy and that is the guy I want to fight. That is the climax,” said Donaire, who still feels a featherweight campaign is a possibility. “But going to a different division maybe a different story. Whatever I can. If I move up or stay here and keep going, that remains to be seen in the future.”
This fight brings two champions together to celebrate what is best in boxing.
“To win a match with a great fighter and being satisfied with that,” said Nishioka. Yes. This is best in boxing.