Nonito Donaire stepped into the ring as the much-smaller fighter, but he proved that the height disparity won’t be a hurdle as he dominated African Jeffrey Mathebula in their title showdown on Sunday in Carson, California.
Donaire leaned on his speed and stayed aggressive throughout the fight to score a one-sided unanimous decision over the South African slugger to become the World Boxing Organization super bantamweight and International Boxing Federation junior featherweight champion.
Mathebula, who has a four-inch advantage in height and reach, made it difficult for Donaire to attack, but the Filipino Flash managed to connect with his attacks, including a vicious left hook late in the fourth round that sent Mathebula down to the canvass.
“It was tough. He got me off the jab really well,” said Donaire after the fight. “That jab really took me out of my power range. He’s a great champion. He wouldn’t let me get in there and let me work.”
The knockdown did not slowed down Mathebula, but seemed to have made him more defensive, but Donaire’s relentless attack and vicious punches were enough for him to get the nod of the judges.
Judges scored the bout 117-110, 118-109, and 119-108 for Donaire, who will now be looking to unify all the belts in the division, which will likely set him up against the big names on his weight class.
“My goal is to be a unified champion,” Donaire declared. “I want to unify all of the belts at 122.”
Despite absorbing his fourth defeat, Mathebula said that he was contented with how he performed and that Donaire was just the better fighter as proven by the scorecards and the impressive knockdown earlier in the fight.
“The better man won,” Mathebula said. “I respect him. I believe I showed that I have the heart of a warrior. I made it a competitive fight in every round, and I showed it wasn’t just a one-way track.”
With win, Donaire will shift his attention to World Boxing Council champion Abner Mares, World Boxing Association title-holder Guillermo Rigondeaux, or Ring Magazine and ESPN top-ranked super bantamweight Toshiaki Nishioka, who was at ringside during the fight.