Nordine Oubaali and Nonito Donaire will try again to meet in the ring.
The oft-postponed WBC bantamweight title fight is now on schedule, with the two due to headline a Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader May 29, the network announced on Thursday. A venue was not named in Showtime’s release, though expected to be announced in the coming days.
France’s Oubaali (17-0, 12KOs) will attempt the third defense of the title since winning the belt in a 12-round unanimous decision over Rau’Shee Warren in Jan. 2019. Oubaali—a two-time Olympian who represented France in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London—has not fought since scoring a 12-round decision over Takuma Inoue on Nov. 9, 2019, at Saitama Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The same venue saw the last ring appearance for Las Vegas' Donaire (40-6, 26KOs), the former four-division champion who fell just short to Naoya Inoue (Takuma’s older brother) in their World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Bantamweight Tournament finale. Donaire had won two straight before that point, including a 4th round injury stoppage of Ryan Burnett to begin a second bantamweight title reign in Nov. 2018.
With this latest rescheduling comes at least the third assigned date for this fight, which was first ordered by the WBC in Dec. 2019. Little progress was made in seven weeks’ worth of negotiations, resulting in a purse bid hearing which TGB Promotions won last January. The hope at the time was to stage the bout last spring, only for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to ruin such plans.
Showtime announced the fight last summer as part of a loaded 2020 second-half boxing schedule. The Dec. 12 date never held up for either boxer.
Oubaali tested positive for COVID-19 last November, forcing him to withdraw from the fight. Donaire was granted the opportunity to fight for the interim WBC bantamweight title versus Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez one week later, on Dec. 19. However, those plans were canceled when he also produced a positive COVID test. Rodriguez went to face Philippines’ Reymart Gaballo who won the interim belt via a disputed 12-round split decision.
Oubaali was granted the opportunity to make a voluntary defense earlier this spring. Plans for a March 13 homecoming bout in France versus Thailand’s Nawaphon Por Chokchai fell through due to travel restrictions imposed to offset the surge in COVID numbers. The development prompted Oubaali’s team to revisit this bout.
Donaire seeks his third bantamweight title win. The 38-year-old Fil-Am star has won major titles at flyweight, bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight over the course of his storied 18-year pro career.
Also on the show, Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias (16-1, 16KO) returns to the network in a junior welterweight title eliminator versus Kazakhstan’s Batyzhan Jukembayev (18-0, 14KOs).
Matias is coming off of a 6th round stoppage of unbeaten Malik Hawkins last October. Jukembayev has not fought since a 2nd round knockout of Ricardo Lara last January in Montreal, with this bout marking his first outside of Canada.
The winner will face whoever prevails between a separate semifinal eliminator England’s Lewis Ritson (21-1, 12KOs) and Argentina’s Jeremias Ponce (27-0, 17KOs). The last man standing will become the mandatory challenger to the IBF 140-pound title currently held by Josh Taylor, also the WBA titlist who is entering a May 22 showdown with unified WBC/WBO champ Jose Ramirez for the undisputed championship.
Details of the show’s remaining undercard bout have yet to be revealed as this goes to publish.
The forthcoming event marks the latter of two Showtime Championship Boxing telecasts to air in May. As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the network also announced a show to air May 15, headlined by the junior featherweight title unification fight between defending WBC titlist Luis Nery (31-0, 24KOs) and secondary WBA 122-pound beltholder Brandon Figueroa (21-0-1, 16KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox