WBC bantamweight world titlist Nordine Oubaali and former four-division world champion and mandatory challenger Nonito Donaire have had their long-delayed fight rescheduled.
Oubaali and Donaire have both signed their contracts and the fight is slated to take place on May 29 on Showtime, a source with direct knowledge of the arrangement told BoxingScene on Friday night.
The site for the bout has not been finalized but it will take place either at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut – the site of all of Showtime’s boxing events that have taken place during the coronavirus pandemic other than the Gervonta Davis-Leo Santa Cruz pay-per-view event -- or in California, the source said.
Oubaali (17-0, 12 KOs), a 34-year-old southpaw and two-time Olympian from France, was supposed to make the third defense of his 118-pound world title against Donaire in the main event of a Showtime card on Dec. 19 at the Mohegan Arena but Oubaali came down with Covid-19 and had to withdraw from the fight.
The WBC reclassified him as a “champion in recess” in mid-November and approved Donaire to instead fight former IBF bantamweight world titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez, who was willing to step in short notice, for the vacant title on Dec. 19. But then Donaire also tested positive for Covid-19 about a week before the fight and was removed from the card.
Donaire’s positive test left Rodriguez to instead face short-notice replacement Reymart Gaballo, to whom Rodriguez lost a disputed split decision for the vacant interim WBC bantamweight belt on Dec. 19.
Because Oubaali and Donaire had both fallen out of their title fight due to the coronavirus, the WBC eventually reinstated Oubaali as its champion and said he would be allowed to have an interim bout before facing Donaire in the mandatory defense.
Plans were in the works for Oubaali to fight former flyweight world title challenger Nawaphon Kaikanha (50-1, 40 KOs), 29, of Thailand, on March 13 in Paris, but due to Covid-19 issues the French television broadcaster pulled out of the event and organizers also felt it was unlikely that Kaikanha was going to be able to come from Thailand to France due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
So, the Oubaali and Donaire camps moved ahead with getting their fight finalized and worked with Showtime on rescheduling the fight for this spring.
Oubaali has defended his title twice since winning the vacant belt by unanimous decision over Rau’shee Warren in January 2019 on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In his first defense, Oubaali knocked out of Arthur Villanueva in the sixth round in July 2019. In his second defense, he won a unanimous decision over Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of unified bantamweight champion and pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue, in November 2019.
Known as “The Filipino Flash,” Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs), 38, of Las Vegas, who has won world titles at flyweight, bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight and is a probable International Boxing Hall of Famer after he retires, is seeking to win a bantamweight world title for the third time.
Donaire has not fought since November 2019 when he participated in the consensus fight of the year, a hard-fought decision loss in a bantamweight title unification fight with Naoya Inoue in the final of the World Boxing Super Series eight-man tournament. Oubaali’s win over Takuma Inoue was featured on the undercard.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.