The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of cancellations in boxing, but very few fights have suffered wave after wave of postponements as the WBC bantamweight title match between defending champion Nordine Oubaali and Filipino challenger Nonito Donaire.
First, it was Oubaali (17-0-0, 12 knockouts) who dropped out of his title defense scheduled for December 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. The WBC then deemed the bantamweight title vacant with the French fighter becoming a "champion-in-recess."
Next, Donaire (40-6-0, 26 knockouts) was going to gun for the green strap against Emmanuel Rodriguez only to test positive for COVID-19, a result he fought and questioned at that time.
Now more than a year after initially appearing on each other's radar, Oubaali and Donaire's fight is, at long last, all set.
"I always come to bring a fight and entertain and I can't wait to perform in front of the fans again on May 29," expressed Donaire. "I showed in my last fight that I still have the skill, heart, and determination to stand up to the best in this sport."
"I'm always working on ways to keep my body in shape and my reflexes on point while retaining my power. I can't wait to show everything I can do in the ring against Oubaali," he continued.
Donaire last fought in November 2019 when he lost a unanimous decision to unified WBA and IBF bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue in the consensus Fight of the Year. Although he was dropped in the 11th round and suffered the sixth defeat of his professional career, "The Filipino Flash" showed in that fight that he still isn't done.
The question now for the former four-division champion, however, involves ring rust. At 38, coming off an 18-month layoff will not be easy, especially with no tune-up fight before challenging a world champion.
Luckily for Donaire, his opponent is also coming off a long layoff. In fact, they last fought in the exact same date as Oubaali was in the undercard where he defeated Takuma Inoue, Naoya's younger brother, via unanimous decision.
"I'm very excited that this fight is finally here. I know that fans around the world are eagerly waiting to see the two best bantamweights on the planet battle it out," remarked Oubaali. "Donaire is a legend in the sport and I respect him a lot, but I am the champion of the world and there is no doubt in my mind that my hand will be raised when we finally meet."
Looking for a career-defining fight, the Frenchman hopes that the Filipino is ripe for the picking.
"I am fighting for my family and my country and by beating Donaire, I will put my name in the history books of boxing. I am extremely motivated and I guarantee fireworks on fight night," he guaranteed.
Oubaali picked up the vacant WBA bantamweight title via a unanimous decision win against Rau'shee Warren in January 2019. He then defended his title twice that year, stopping Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva and decisioning Inoue.
In his career, however, Oubaali has never taken on a big-name fighter like Donaire. That is why, for him, this fight is much more than just about defending his title - it's about cementing his legacy.
"Oubaali and Donaire have been preparing to face each other for at least a year now, so you know these two warriors will be ready to let their fists fly once the bell finally rings," said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. "Oubaali has proven himself a force at bantamweight and will have a chance to reach a new level with a victory against Nonito Donaire who has solidified his Hall of Fame credentials by adding to his resume in recent years."
Aside from the WBC title, also up for grabs in the Donaire-Oubaali fight is a possible unification bout against the victor between WBO champion John Riel Casimero of the Philippines and Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba who are scheduled to fight in August.