By Jake Donovan
Simpiwe Vetyeka is out to prove that his current stay atop the featherweight division is no fluke, while Nonito Donaire battles to make his way back to the top. The two collide for Vetyeka’s portion of the featherweight title Saturday evening at The Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena in Macau, China, which airs via same-day tape delay on HBO (Saturday, 4:00PM ET/PT).
Vetyeka and Donaire saw their respective careers head in polar opposite directions in 2013.
Donaire (32-2, 21KO) came in as the 2012 Fighter of the Year, having scored four wins in racking up titles in the 122 lb. division. However, the Fil-Am star ran into the blazing fists of unbeaten Guillermo Rigondeaux, decisively outboxed as his 30-fight win streak came to a crashing halt.
Less than a day later and on the other side of the world, Vetyeka (26-2, 16KO) announced his arrival as a featherweight. The South African boxer scored a massive upset on the road, stopping perennial Top 10 contender Daud Cino Yordan in the 12th round of their title eliminator in Indonesia.
The performance came right on time, as it served as the chief support to long-reigning unbeaten featherweight titlist Chris John, who escaped with a three-round technical draw versus Satoshi Hosono. It would be the final defense of his 10-year long reign.
That’s because Vetyeka scored his second consecutive major upset, forcing John’s corner to stop their Dec. ’13 contest at the end of six rounds, propelling Vetyeka’s career to new heights.
Meanwhile, Donaire’s arrival as a featherweight was anything but a splash. In fact, the 31-year old nearly fell flat against Vic Darchinyan, whom he’d violently knocked out six years prior for his first world title win. In their Sept. ’13 rematch, Donaire was outboxed for much of the night before rallying and catching a careless Darchinyan to force a 9th round stoppage.
The win wasn’t pretty, but it’s the ending that counts. The ending helped lead to the featherweight title fight that takes place this weekend in Macau.
Can Donaire muster up at least one more great performance, thus resurrecting his career? Or is Vetyeka truly that featherweight to be reckoned with, as proven in his most recent bouts?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes this weekend’s title fight will go down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: SIMPIWE VETYEKA vs. NONITO DONAIRE
“Donaire bounces back with a win here.”
- Damien Acevedo (Donaire by decision)
“There are many that are doubting Donaire's desire for boxing at the moment, but even with that and a move up in weight I still believe he's a level above Vetyeka. Even though the South African is improving with age it will have to be the performance of his career and more to beat Donaire, I just can't see 'The Filipino Flash' surrendering future big pay days to someone he really ought to outclass. A lot are actually forgetting how good Nonito actually is. His fall hasn't been as dramatic as some would have you believe. Competitive for the first half but the second half I can see Donaire pulling away.”
- Shaun Brown (Donaire by decision)
“I think we see a refreshed Filipino Flash who is simply in another class than Vetyeka when motivated.”
- Ryan Burton (Donaire TKO9)
“Donaire was riding high before he was schooled by Guillermo Rigondeaux, and followed that up by looking utterly pedestrian against Vic Darchinyan. Can Donaire turn it around as goes for a title in yet another weight class? I say no. Donaire is facing a man coming off a career-best win, a shocking stoppage of Chris John. With Donaire seemingly less interested in boxing than ever, Vetyeka could box his way to yet another upset.”
- Michael Coppinger (Vetyeka by decision)
“We keep hearing about how the next fight will be Nonito at his best, his most exciting. The Fil-Am boxer-puncher was one of the best in the lower weight classes for the past seven years, but I believe his time passed. Vetyeka is a handful for any top featherweight and one that Donaire won't be able to bully. There exists the possibility of a controversial decision, but in the spirit of optimisim I see Vetyeka's superior performance being properly rewarded.”
- Jake Donovan (Vetyeka by decision)
“Vetyeka was a surprise in beating a long-running champ in Chris John, but he wasn’t pursue here because Top Rank expects him to provide too big a hurdle for their “other” Filipino.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Donaire TKO7)
“I think being in the Philippines might help Donaire re-energize a career that had been called into question after his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux. Having his father Nonito Sr. might also ignite Jr. back into what made him garner so much accolade. I think he shows glimpses of this and wins comfortably.”
- Ernest Gabion (Donaire UD)
“Neither man is a robust Featherweight, both rising in weight from Bantamweight and below over the years. Vetyeka comes in off a career best stoppage of Chris John while Donaire looked bad in both his 2013 outings. He won one clear round in a loss to Rigondeaux. He was losing to Darchinyan before a saving bomb. Vetyeka has never been stopped, is long, and throws well. He has the style to give Donaire fits. Can he handle his explosiveness? Even if the champ does handle it, the thinking here is fighting in China will see close rounds go Donaire's way and we might have a little controversy in the scoring.”
- Cliff Rold (Donaire by decision)
“After the lesson Rigondeaux gave Donaire, the Filipino Flash came back against Darchinyan. Nonito in my opinion, was losing that fight until he was able to knock out Vic in round nine. This time, Donaire will face one of the least solid champions, in a weight division where he has not been dominant. If Simpiwe can withstand Nonito's attacks during the first half of the fight, maybe he can get a result in their favor. My guess is that he won’t. Nonito by controversial split decision.”
- Reynaldo Sanchez (Donaire by decision)
“Vetyeka is a brilliant but well overshadowed and well underestimated fighter. He showed his poise in Hasegawa fight, then proved his world class in road wins in Mexico and Indonesia. However, against Donaire he will face an elite competitor. At featherweight Nonito doesn't have a smashing punch (but who knows...) but he is still too polished for Vetyeka. He will overcome early difficulties to snatch a very close but a deserved win.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Donaire by decision)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox