Monday, 23 April 2012 20:01

Nonito Donaire or Toshiaki Nishioka? | Who Rules the Sizzling Jr Featherweight Division?

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Nonito Donaire or Toshiaki Nishioka? | Who Rules the Sizzling Jr Featherweight Division? Pictured: Toshiaki Nishioka, left, and Nonito Donaire

Japan's Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) still tops Nonito Donaire (28-1, 18 KO) of the Philippines in FightSaga and RING Magazine's exclusive Jr Featherweight/Super Bantamweight rankings for April 2012.

Known as "The Filipino Flash," Nonito Donaire is a four-division world champion and current WBO Super Bantamweight Champion. He is also a former WBC and WBO Bantamweight, Interim WBA Super Flyweight and IBF Flyweight Champion.

How good is Donaire?

Some pundits rate him as the No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, second only to the sport's supreme megastars, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. With his speed and precision coupled with his power and unique ability to fight effectively in a southpaw and orthodox stance, the supremely talented Donaire - despite having fought only once at Jr Featherweight - would likely be favored against any fighter in the 122lb division, including world champions Toshiaki Nishioka, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Abner Mares.

A 7-1 underdog in 2007, Nonito Donaire gained international prominence by knocking out Vic Darchinyan (then 28-0), one of the most venerated boxers in the world at the time. With one punch, a pulverizing left hook in the 5th Round, Donaire overcame the odds to become the new IBF Flyweight king. Not only did the bout put Nonito on boxing's radar, the fight subsequently earned honors as RING's Magazine's 'Knockout of the Year' and 'Upset of the Year.'

Nearly two tears after toppling Darchinyan, Donaire successfully defended his IBF Flyweight strap for the third time by scoring an impressive 4th Round TKO over the formidable Raul Martinez. After this bout, Donaire gained inclusion onto RING Magazine's prestigious pound-for-pound list for the first time, occupying the No. 7 slot.

Video: Nonito Donaire - Top 8 Knockouts


Despite his 25-1 record and pound-for-pound acknowledgement by RING Magazine, Donaire failed to galvanize buzz among casual fans until his second round annihilation of Fernando Montiel last year. Montiel (then 44-2-2), who was a unified Bantamweight champion and top pound-for-pound fighter himself, was no match for the 'Filipino Flash.' Nonito Donaire had Montiel in trouble from the opening bell, hurting his rival in the very first round before eventually stopping him in Round 2 compliments of his signature, menacing left hook - the same punch that felled Vic Darchinyan.

Toshiaki Nishioka

Unrated in FightSaga's top 15 and RING Magazine's top 10, Nishioka has campaigned at Jr Featherweight for nearly four years. He won the interim WBC Jr Featherweight title in September 2008 and, with his win over Genaro Garcia (then 36-6) in January 2009, became the full-fledged WBC Champion. Having faced world class opposition on and off for the better part of the last eleven years, Toshiaki Nishioka hasn't lost since March 2004 (UD 12 Veeraphol Sahaprom). The 'cream of the crop' in the Jr Featherweight division, the Japanese superstar has campaigned at 122lbs for four years, winning all eight of his contests with five coming via knockout. 

Abnormally tall for his weight class, the 5'6½" Japanese southpaw possesses a monster left hand as well as excellent speed, timing and accuracy and has proven his mettle against some of the best in boxing. At flyweight, he went 48 rounds Veeraphol Sahaprom, a potential hall of famer, and has impressive wins over top-tier Jr Featherweights including Rafael Marquez (then 40-6), Ivan Hernandez (then 24-3-1) and Jhonny Gonzalez (then 40-6). 

After failing to confirm a bout within six months of his most recent defense (November 2011), the World Boxing Council (WBC) stripped Nishioka of his title last month but granted him 'Emeritus' status. As a result of the WBC's ruling, Nishioka will be able to return to the ring and supposedly get an immediate title shot whenever his personal situation permits him to do so.

Video: Toshiaki Nishioka Highlights

Nishioka vs Donaire

Last summer Nonito Donaire's promoter, Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum, introduced the possibility of a Nishioka vs Donaire showdown in 2012 but negotiations appeared to have stalled for the time being. According to reports, Nishioka and his manager were presumably interested in pursuing such a bout so long as Nonito Donaire won the WBO's version of the Jr Featherweight title in February. Although Donaire fulfilled that obligation by defeating Wilfredo Vasquez Jr, a bout between the two stars is seemingly no closer now than it was last summer as some insiders believe Donaire's marketability has dropped following back-to-back unsensational wins over Omar Narvaez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in November 2011 and February 2012, respectively.

Will a spectacular performance by Nonito Donaire against Cristian Mijares (45-6-2, 21 KO) in July convince Team Nishioka Donaire is hot enough to challenge their man in a potential superfight? If not, Donaire has other superfight possibilities as Nishioka is no longer the 'only game in town' in the talent-rich Jr Featherweight division.

Mares and Rigondeaux, New Stars 

Also in the Jr Featherweight mix are new world titleholders Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux, fighters whose stock have exploded in the last five months.

One of the most prolific amateur fighters in the history of the sport, the freakishly-skilled Rigondeaux is a two-time Olympic Gold Medal champion and seven-time Cuban national champion who competed in nearly 400 bouts as an amateur and hasn't tasted a defeat since 2003 - amateur or pro. The smooth, highly-proficient Cuban southpaw is defensively brilliant and possesses decent power in both hands.  In January, in only his ninth professional fight, Rigondeaux won the World Boxing Association (WBA) Jr Featherweight title in dominant fashion, knocking out previously unbeaten Rico Ramos in the sixth.

Last Saturday, undefeated former Bantamweight World Champion Abner Mares (24-0-1, 13 KOs) cruised to a unanimous decision win over former Olympian and two-time world champion Eric Morel (46-3, 23 KOs). With his 24th victory, Mares won the WBC Jr Featherweight strap that was recently vacated by top-ranked Toshiaki Nishioka. Faster and slicker than his older, more experienced rival, Mares had an answer for every trick his opponent attempted to execute. Mares outboxed, outmaneuvered and out-sped Morel for twelve brilliant rounds to cement his position as a major player in the 122 lb weight division.

With their accomplished pedigrees and recent sizzling performances against world class competition, Mares and Rigondeaux have elevated their statures within the sport and among fans and are viable candidates for potential superfights with Toshiaki Nishioka, Nonito Donaire and/or one another.

With bonafide superstars in the fiery Jr Featherweight division, who will face who first?

FightSaga Jr. Featherweight/Super Bantamweight Rankings, April 24, 2012

1. Toshiaki Nishioka
Emeritus WBC Champion
Record: 39-4-3, 24 KOs
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: No. 1

2. Nonito Donaire
WBO Champion
Record: 28-1, 18 KO
Next Bout:Cristian Mijares, 45-6-2, 21 KO, July 14
RING Rank: No. 3

3. Guillermo Rigondeaux
WBA Champion
Record: 9-0, 7 KO
Next Bout: Teon Kennedy, 17-1-2, 7 KO, Jun 9
RING Rank: No. 2

4. Abner Mares
WBC Champion
Record: 24-0-1, 13 KO
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: Unknown

5. Akifumi Shimoda
Record: 25-3-1, 11 KO
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: 4

6. Rico Ramos

Record: 20-1, 11 KO
Last Bout:
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: 9

7. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
Record: 46-2, 32 KO
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: 5

8. Jeffrey Mathebula
Record: 26-3-2, 14 KO
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: 6

9. Takalani Ndlovu
IBF Champion
33-7-0, 18 KOs
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: 7

10. Steve Molitor
Record: 34-2, 12 KO
Next Bout: TBD
RING Rank: 8


Video: Rigondeaux Pulverizes Ramos, January 20, 2012

Leroy Cleveland

Lee is Managing Editor of, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.


{youtube}Dxn4ULaeJ_I{/youtube} Recap: Mares vs Morel, Moreno vs. De La Mora - Boxeo