LOS ANGELES – Nonito Donaire has always sought to make history, though never really the kind to where he would be defined by his age.
The former four-division champion is at that point in his career heading into his title bid versus WBC bantamweight champ Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12KOs). A win on Saturday will ignite a third title reign for Donaire, who—at age 38—will also break his own record in becoming the oldest boxer ever to claim a piece of the bantamweight throne.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Donaire admitted to BoxingScene.com. “To be honest, I’ve never really thought about anything like that. I’ve always been the type of guy to just take my next step and kind of bask in that moment.
“This is that moment for me right now.”
Donaire (40-6, 26KOs) enters as the betting underdog ahead of this weekend’s main event, which airs live on Showtime from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The Fil-Am superstar has fought long enough as a pro to have been through every name change for the venue, beginning with his having unified two titles at junior featherweight and then becoming lineal champ in back-to-back fights in 2012 when it was the Home Depot Center.
A less fond memory came two years later when Donaire was stopped in the 6th round of his WBA featherweight title losing effort to unbeaten Nicholas Walters in Oct. 2014. By that point, Donaire—who hails from Las Vegas by way of San Leandro, California after relocating from the Philippines at age 10—won titles in four weight divisions and his legacy long ago established.
Donaire continued to move down and back up in weight, reclaiming a title at junior featherweight in a Fight of the Year-level war with Cesar Juarez in Dec. 2015. A controversial points loss to Jessie Magdaleno ended his reign the following November, before moving back up to featherweight for two fights.
A win over Ruben Garcia was followed by a hard-fought defeat to former two-division champ Carl Frampton before Donaire would enjoy his second bantamweight title reign. It came courtesy of a 4th round injury stoppage of Ryan Burnett to claim the WBA title in what was easily the most significant upset in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament. The Nov. 2018 win came two weeks prior to his 36th birthday, as Donaire—at 35 years, 11 months, 18 days old— surpassed countryman Gerry Peñalosa who had just turned 35 when he upended Jhonny Gonzalez at the time of his WBO bantamweight title win in Aug. 2007.
The second run at 118 lasted just more than a year, ending with a heartbreaking 12-round decision defeat to pound-for-pound entrant Naoya Inoue in Saitama, Japan. The bout—which was hailed by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the 2019 Fight of the Year—saw Donaire’s reign close just nine days shy of his 37th birthday.
Saturday will mark his first ring appearance since that night, having since turned 38 but of the belief that there are plenty of big years ahead in his storied career.
“I don’t feel like anything right now,” Donaire says of the potential to once again make history this weekend. “I feel good right now. It’s nice to achieve something historic like that, but I feel weird claiming to be the oldest anything. If anything, it makes me feel even prouder of my conditioning that I can put myself in this position.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox