MACAU – Nonito Donaire Jr. will try to win a world title in his fourth division when he faces IBF featherweight titleholder Simphiwe Vetyeka on May 31 at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China.
Donaire (32-2, 21 knockouts), of San Leandro, Calif., hasn't fought since defeating Vic Darchinyan in November. The 31-year-old former flyweight, bantamweight and junior featherweight titleholder sustained a broken bone in his right cheek in that fight.
The South African Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs) broke onto the world scene in December when he upset long-reigning featherweight titleholder by sixth round technical knockout.
Bob Arum, who is in Macau promoting Saturday's boxing event headlined by two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming, confirmed the news to RingTV.com, adding that former two-division titleholder Brian Viloria will be on the card as well.
Viloria, who faces undefeated Puerto Rican prospect McJoe Arroyo on March 29 at the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., is looking to rebound from his upset loss to Juan Francisco Estrada last April.
Arum concedes that Donaire has looked iffy since winning the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Fighter of the Year award in 2012. Donaire, who had jumped up most pound-for-pound lists on the strength of knockout wins over Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, lost a decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux last April before the shaky Darchinyan rematch, which he was losing on the cards in round nine of the ten-round fight.
"I think he’s adjusting," said Arum. "[Donaire’s manager Cameron Dunkin] is convinced that he’s going to give a great performance. The African is a great fighter, but if you’re going to fight for a championship you have to fight the champions. Better to fight the African than [Vasyl] Lomanchenko."
Arum is banking on Macau's close proximity to the Philippines, as well as sizable Filipino populations in Macau and Hong Kong to fill the Venetian Resort's Cotai Arena. "I think he’ll draw extraordinarily well here."
Vetyeka, in an exclusive interview with RingTV.com, says that Donaire had long been atop his list of dream fights. "Because he's the multi-division champion and to be the best you have to beat the best," said Vetyeka, who is trained by former IBF junior featherweight titleholder Vuyani Bungu and Lennox Mpulampula.
Vetyeka's says that his confidence in this fight stems from "the way [Donaire] fights, his style of boxing. "I'm confident that I'll be victories in the end."
Vetyeka says that, despite winning the title over the Indonesian John, he hasn't made the big purses that could change his life. And that's what makes him hungry to score a second consecutive upset victory.
"You know I'm just being a champion recently. I haven't fought for better money yet and here in South Africa boxing is not the favorite sport. So me and my family will be better after my first defense."
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected] An archive of his work can be found at ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.