WBC Special Preview: Donaire vs. Santiago
By James Blears
Former four division Champion and all-time Great Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire fights Alexandro “Peque” Santiago for the vacant WBC bantamweight title on July 29th at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.
At 40 years old, this is the Filipino's last great ring fling. The final hurrah. What a marvelous merry reel and jaunty jig he has led us on over these past 22 years, winning titles ranging all the way from flyweight to featherweight. His illustrious record is: 42-7, 28 KOs. As Oscar Wilde juxtaposed: “The tragedy of growing old is not that one is old, but one is young!”
In music, nostalgia is powerful, resonant, evocative and emotive. Some of the oldies are the true goldies. One great hit of 1992 was, Save the Best to Last, written by Phil Galdston, Wendy Waldman and Jon Lind, superbly sung and performed by Vanessa Williams. A memorable line was: “Just when I thought our chance had past… you go and save the best for last.”
Is this upcoming fight Nonitio’s swansong? Boxing is not known as a profession of extended longevity. A boxer has to pick and then pack it in, while they still can. Perpetually, a race of momentum vs time. What goes around comes around and those rounds mount up.
Four-weight world ruler Nonito is convinced that he still has it within him, within his fame to achieve yet more fame, by again becoming a World Boxing Council champion. And because he’s exceptional and extraordinary rather than ordinary, for him compared to mere mortals, it is possible. George Bernard Shaw tartly observed: “People who say it cannot be done, should NOT interrupt those who are doing it!”
The future Hall of Famer, Nonito is seeking to break his very own record as the oldest fighter to win a bantamweight crown. He was 38 when he knocked down Nordine Oubaali twice in the third and again in the fourth, to win by KO.
This followed his monumental first fight against Naoya “Monster” Inoue in the WBSS final in Japan. Nonito hammered Naoya with a blockbuster left hook in round two, simultaneously breaking his nose and fracturing his right orbital bone. Naoya was seeing double for the rest of the night, but he almost stopped Nonito in the 11th, putting him down with a hellacious left hook to the liver.
Nonito mustered up all of his courage, guile, sheer grit and experience to weather that delayed reaction typhoon and somehow he made it to the final bell, losing via UD. It was The Ring Magazine’s Fight of the year. Fair, hard, competitive and absolutely fantastic!
A very different kettle of fish in Nonito’s most recent fight against the same opponent, before The Japanese Monster moved up, in his quest to challenge WBC super-bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton. Naoya dropped Nonito in round one. He feinted a left and clobbered him with a right to the face, putting him down real hard. The veteran got up and was saved by the bell. But the end was nigh.
In round two he was staggered, lurched back against the ropes and a huge left dropped him like a stone. Referee Mike Griffin immediately stopped the bout. It was all over, done and dusted at 1:24 seconds of that fateful second. How much has this taken out of Nonito? The defeat seemed to visibly age him.
Nonito was to have fought Jason Moloney who went off and fought for another organization.
So 27 year old Alexandro Santiago (27-3-5, 14KO’s) will be Nonito’s opponent for the title vacated by Inoue.
“Peque” Alexandro, from Tijuana, is a seasoned campaigner, but he's yet to win the title. His best results to date, involved a draw against IBF super-flyweight Jerwin Ancajas, but that was way back in September 2018. More recently he lost an entertaining MD to appreciably taller Gary Antonio Russell in 2021.
Alexandro is broad shouldered, but short of stature, hence the alias, “Peque”, which translates to English as “Small”. He only stands five feet two inches tall with a sixty five inches reach. While Nonito is five feet seven inches tall with a reach of sixty eight and a half inches. Little Alexandro has little choice, but to wade in and fight at close range, trying to throw clusters of hooks to the body and the head. His defense can be leaky and therein lies a countermanding, counterpunching opportunity for Nonito.
Gary Antonio Russell was dominating Alexandro in the early stages with a long right southpaw lead, but he took his foot off the pedal, allowing the shorter man to warm up, warm to his task, get into a fighting groove and it subsequently proved to be a long night, going the full scheduled ten rounds.
Nonito’s strategy is to forget about being paid overtime, because in boxing there isn’t any. His aim must be to land flush and finish fast, before the zip elastic in his legs diminishes. On fight night Alexandro will be twenty seven years, five months, one week and one day old. Nonito will be forty years, seven months, four weeks and one day.
Nonito’s strategy must be to be succinct. He might do well to be mindful of Benjamin Franklin’s observation: “At twenty the will reigns, at thirty the wit. At forty…judgment,” because as Victor Hugo wrote: “Forty is the old age of youth.” Alexandro’s plain-plan must be to drag it out to tire the old man.
As the Old Boxer’s Prayer goes: “I’m an old 'un up against a young 'un, who some say could almost be my son.”
Some argue that ageing gracefully goes with the territory, but for sure, Boxing is no country for old men.
Tale of the Tape
DOB: November 16, 1982
Birthplace: Taliban, Bohol, Philippines
Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada
Alias: The Filipino Flash
Record: 42-7, 28KO
KO Ratio: 57.2%
World Title fights: 20-6
Total rounds: 299
Trainer: Rachel Donaire / Julius Junco
Manager: Rachel Donaire
Promoter: Ringstar Sports
DOB: February 7, 1996
Birthplace: Tijuana, Baja California
Resides: Tijuana, Baja California
Record: 27-3-5, 14KO
KO Ratio: 40%
World Titles fights: 0-0-1
Total rounds: 205
Trainer: Bobby Quirarte
Manager: Paco Damian
Promoter: Paco Presents
WBC Top 10 Bantamweight Champions
- CARLOS ZARATE (MEXICO)
- EDER JOFRE (BRAZIL)
- RUBEN OLIVARES (MEXICO)
- RAFAEL HERRERA (MEXICO)
- VEERAPHOL NAKHONLUANG (THAI)
- JOICHIRO TATSUYOSHI (JAPAN)
- JUNGIL BYUN (KOREA)
- YASUEI YAKUSHIJI (JAPAN)
- HOZUMI HASEGAWA (JAPAN)
- SHINSUKE YAMANAKA (JAPAN)
There has been 60 WBC title fights between Mexico and Philippines:
Mexico 38 – 21 Philippines (1 draw)
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