Nonito Donaire vs. Alexandro Santiago approved for vacant WBC bantamweight title
Nonito Donaire Jr. will get a chance to surpass his own record as the oldest bantamweight champion ever.
The 40-year-old Donaire will face Mexican contender Alexandro Santiago for the vacant WBC bantamweight title, the sanctioning body announced Friday. The date and location for the fight have not been announced yet.
The fight gives Donaire (42-7, 28 knockouts) of Las Vegas a chance to regain the title he lost in his last fight, a second round stoppage loss last June against Naoya Inoue, while Santiago (27-3-5,14 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico will be getting his first opportunity at a major belt.
The WBC had earlier ordered Donaire to face Jason Moloney for one of the four belts Inoue had vacated in order to pursue titles at 122 pounds, but Moloney is likely to pursue the WBO title instead.
Donaire, a three-time bantamweight titleholder, is rated no. 1 by the WBC at 118 pounds, while Santiago is rated no. 4.
The 27-year-old Santiago has won his last three fights since his biggest fight to date, a majority decision loss to Gary Antonio Russell in 2021. In his last fight last October, Santiago stopped former title challenger Antonio Nieves in seven rounds.
The WBC also announced that Reymart Gaballo (25-1, 21 KOs) will face Nawaphon Kaikanha (57-2-1, 47 KOs), with the winner to face the winner of Donaire-Santiago. Gaballo, 26, of General Santos City, Philippines has won once since his lone title opportunity, a fourth round knockout loss to Donaire in December of 2021, while the 31-year-old Kaikanha of Bangkok, Thailand has lost in his two step-up bouts, a challenge of Juan Hernandez in 2017 for the WC flyweight title, which he lost in three rounds, and a unanimous decision loss to Jason Moloney last October in Melbourne, Australia.
In a strange twist, Gaballo is now trained by Nonito Donaire Sr. at the Sanman Gym in General Santos City, meaning that a potential rematch between Donaire and Gaballo could pit father and son in a title opportunity
Jim Claude Manangquil, who promotes Gaballo, tells The Ring that a date and location for the fight is still being worked out, but says the fight will take place in the United States.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].