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Nordine Oubaali vs Nonito Donaire preview: Can Donaire become boxing’s oldest bantamweight champ?

A preview of Saturday’s Showtime Boxing tripleheader, headlined by the legendary Nonito Donaire against WBC bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali.

Nordine Oubaali v Nonito Donaire - Press Conference
Nonito Donaire and Nordine Oubaali speak to media during a press conference before their WBC World Bantamweight Championship bout at the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport hotel on May 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

WBC bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 13 KOs) faces future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs) on Saturday. Oubaali won a bronze medal for France at the 2007 world championships and was a 2 time Olympian. He turned pro after the London games but his career stagnated until the Rio Games, in which the French team won six medals which boosted interest in boxing in France and meant more opportunities for a fighter of Oubaali’s caliber.

Oubaali won the vacant WBC belt against fellow Olympian Rau’shee Warren, whom he’d beaten in the London games. He defended it twice, most notably against Takuma Inoue, the brother of divisional kingpin Naoya Inoue. Donaire, one of the best lighter weight fighters in recent memory, has won titles from flyweight to featherweight and is coming off the 2019 fight of the year against Naoya Inoue. Donaire lost the fight but defied expectations by making it to the final bell and pushing the Monster further than anyone else had before. However the fight was already 18 months ago and at 38 years old, worries that Donaire squeezed his last drops of greatness in the Inoue fight are legitimate. An athletic specimen in his prime, the ‘Filipino Flash’ has aged more gracefully than other blazing fast fighters. His speed isn’t what it once was but his solid technique, tactical sense and great eye for counters has allowed him to remain a top fighters even as his physical gifts waned.

Assuming Donaire still has something left in the tank, this should be an excellent fight. Oubaali is a competent boxer due to his amateur background. He’s a southpaw who’s comfortable fencing and potshotting at distance with his jab and straight left but is at his best on the front foot, making his opponent back up with short body-head combinations. Donaire will have to withstand the pressure and stand his ground but he’s shown that his defensive craft was on point against one of the best offensive fighters in Inoue.

This should be an entertaining competitive fight that will likely make the winner the next challenger for Naoya Inoue. I’m leaning towards Oubaali winning on points but Donaire putting in a valiant effort, as he did against Inoue and Carl Frampton in recent years.

In the co-main event, knockout machine Subriel Matias (16-1, 16 KOs) takes on Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0, 14 KOs) in a super lightweight IBF title eliminator. This should be a very exciting fight between two excellent punchers. Matias is a high volume pressure fighter who likes to batter opponents on the inside. Jukembayev isn’t the type to back off from a fight either but is a bit more subtle and prefers to fight at mid range. I’m expecting Matias to make it an action packed fight but Jukembayev is a better technician and thus I’m picking him to win the fight.

The highlight of the undercard is prospect Gary Antuanne Russell (13-0, 13 KOs) against Jovanie Santiago (14-1-1, 10 KOs). Russell, a 2016 Olympian, has beaten every opponent he’s faced so far in under 4 rounds and Santiago, who is coming off a 12-round loss to Adrien Broner, will hopefully provide the opportunity to see Russell go rounds and handle deeper waters.

Oubaali vs Donaire airs on Showtime on Saturday, May 29th at 10:00pm ET / 7:00pm PT.