LOS ANGELES, United States - Nonito Donaire looked impressive with a sensational early knockout in a WBC bantamweight title fight earlier this year and now he wants to continue his resurgence by ruling the 118-pound division again.
A natural right-hander with the ability to also box as a southpaw, the four-division champion Donaire defends his title on Saturday against undefeated top contender and fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Many believed Donaire was done when he lost by unanimous decisions to Jessie Magdaleno at 122 pounds and to Carl Frampton at 126 pounds in April 2018.
In answer, Donaire rejuvenated his career by moving back down to 118 pounds, which seems to suit him just fine. He has won two fights at 118 and gave Japanese champion Naoya Inoue all he could handle in 2019.
In his most recent fight, Donaire claimed the WBC world bantamweight title at age 38 with a sensational fourth round knockout of Nordine Oubaali to become the oldest world champion ever at 118 pounds. Donaire dropped Oubaali three times, knocking him out with a left hand.
"For me, after the Naoya Inoue fight, I saw that I still had a purpose in this sport," said Donaire, who turned 39 on November 16. "I came in strong against Nordine Oubaali in my last fight because I have that purpose. That purpose is to become undisputed champion of the world."
Like his countryman Manny Pacquiao, Donaire lived in General Santos City, Philippines, until he was six and attended the same school as PacMan.
He moved to the United States at age 11 when he gained citizenship through family connections. Donaire's amateur record of 68-8 includes winning three US national championships.
Gaballo comes into the fight with a 24-0 record with 20 knockouts.
"I'm proud that there is another Filipino fighting at this level. I'm happy to be sharing the ring with Reymart," Donaire said. "I know he's very hungry and that he has a big dream, just like everyone in the Philippines.
"I know that he's going to be at his best, so I made sure that I'm prepared and at my best as well."
In his last bout, Gaballo won a split-decision victory over Emmanuel Rodriguez in a close fight that some thought was won by Rodriguez.
Gaballo has never faced anyone with the skills of Donaire so this will be by far the biggest challenge of his career.
"When I look at my last fight, I see that I have to improve my head movement and throw more punches. I believe that I've made the improvements that I needed to during training camp," he said.
© Agence France-Presse