By Chris Robinson
On July 7th, junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire offered up another victory, this time over former IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula. Fighting inside the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, Donaire scored a knockdown in the 4th round off of a wicked counter left and came on strong down the stretch to pull out a unanimous decision by scores of 119-108, 118-109, and 117-110.
One interested spectator who had a close glimpse of Mathebula leading into the fight was five-time Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach, who opened up the doors of his Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles to the rangy South African.
“Mathebula was training at my gym four days before the fight and he looked like the real deal,” Roach would tell me recently. “He was in shape, he made weight, tall guy; I thought he might give him a little trouble because of his height and so forth, but I think overall Donaire was just too strong for him.”
Asked what has stood out about Donaire to him over the years, Roach shared a few things he has observed about the Fil-Am star.
“Well, he’s a big puncher,” Roach would state. “If you throw a lazy punch at him, he’s a great counter-puncher, he’s a solid guy. I think he’s one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world today.”
Donaire looks to be lined up with an October date against fan-favorite Jorge Arce, but without even seeming to acknowledge that fight, Roach instantly turned his attention to WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, who he trained briefly from the fall of 2009 to April 2010.
“I’d like to see him fight the Cuban to be honest, Rigondeaux,” Roach continued. “Rigondeaux's one of the best fighters I’ve ever trained technique-wise. He’s very skillful, he’s a great counterpuncher, and I think those two guys together would be a great fight.”
Asked if he could take us behind the scenes a bit, Roach revealed some uncommon tendencies of the 31-year old champion.
“Working the mitts and stuff,” Roach recalled. “When I’m trying to get shots in and show him his mistakes, seeing the openings and so forth, he’s the only fighter in the world that I’ve never hit once. I’ve never caught him. One time I was going to go to the body after a right hand and he stuck his elbow in there and bruised my arm for a month. I’ve never got to him in like six months of training.”
As for his prediction on a Donaire-Rigondeaux meeting, Roach sees a firefight going down and is unsure on whom to side with.
“The thing is, they’re both great counterpunchers,” said Roach. “Rigondeaux’s more strictly a counter puncher and I think Donaire would have to take the lead and be a little more aggressive. It’s a great fight and the thing is, whoever lands the big shot first is going to win.”
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