MANILA, Philippines – World super bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire believes he has to be at his best to successfully defend his title belt against South African boxer Jeffrey Mathebula on July 7.
At 5-foot-10, Mathebula stands four inches taller than Donaire, a challenge that “The Filipino Flash” will have to overcome on fight night.
“He’s a lot taller than me at 5-10, so we’ve brought in two 5-10 sparmates to work with,” Donaire said in an interview with Joaquin Henson of the Philippine Star.
Donaire said he has a lot of respect for the South African, who went the distance with veteran boxer Celestina Caballero and defeated Julio Zarate and Oscar Chauke.
“I can’t take Mathebula lightly... Mathebula’s slick and skilled boxer. The fight’s a big challenge for me,” he said.
Donaire will be making the first defense of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) superbantamweight title, which he won last February after defeating Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. via split decision.
Donaire, considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, will be the favorite going into the bout, which also gives him a chance to win the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight belt.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on Mathebula. I’m about 133-pounds at the moment, so I’m on track,” he said. “My focus is winning by fighting my fight. I’ve got to be at my best to beat Mathebula.”
The South African’s manager, Branco Milenkovic, insisted that his fighter has a chance to win even as he accepts the underdog tag.
“If I believe Jeffrey had no chance to win the fight, I wouldn’t make the fight,” Milenkovic told Henson. “I know Jeffrey will come out to win. My fighters always come out and put on a good performance.”
A win over Mathebula will pave the way for more high-profile bouts for Donaire, including potential matches with Mexican star Jorge Arce and unbeaten Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux.