Few fighters have walked the gauntlet Nonito Donaire has over the past two years. In that time he crushed current flyweight titlist Hernan Marquez in eight rounds, then blasted former bantamweight titlist Wladimir Sidorenko in four, crushed two-belt titleholder Fernando Montiel in two and scored decisive decisions over Omar Narvaez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (a split decision that should have been unanimous) and Jeffrey Mathebula (a unanimous decision that should have been split).
For "The Filipino Flash" there is no rest for the weary, for just three months after the demanding battle with Mathebula he is tackling who many consider the best 122-pounder in the world, longtime WBC titlist Toshiaki Nishioka, who at 36 is riding an eight-year, 16-fight winning streak. Additionally, Nishioka is coming off an eye-opening decision victory over Rafael Marquez, an impressive performance that also took place 11 long months ago.
Nishioka has come a long way since his four-fight series with longtime WBC bantamweight king Veerapol Sahaprom, which saw him go 0-2-2 between 2000-2004. The last Sahaprom loss in fight four was the last time he stared defeat in the face.
Can Nishioka shake off the ring rust and produce another dazzling performance or will Donaire further stamp his pound-for-pound credentials by upending the veteran Japanese southpaw? Donaire is a 2-1 favorite. The following CompuBox stats may shed some light on those questions.
Nishioka's Diamond Cutter: With apologies to wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, whose finishing maneuver bears the same name, Nishioka's left cross is extraordinarily precise. It slices through opponents' defenses with incredible speed and peerless placement.
The average junior featherweight lands 39.1 percent of his power shots but Nishioka far exceeded that figure in each of the five profiled fights (48.9 percent vs. Marquez, 58 percent vs. Mauricio Javier Munoz, 52.6 percent versus Rendall Munroe, 42 percent vs. Jhonny Gonzalez and 64 percent against Balweg Bahoyan). Many of those landed shots were produced by the left cross but a fair share also were produced by body punches with both hands. In the four fights against Munroe, Munoz, Gonzalez and Bangoyan, a combined 46.9 percent of Nishioka's power connects (165 of 352) struck the body.
Nishioka's cross combined with his well-aimed body shots and still-nimble movement present a formidable package for Donaire. Does he have enough in the tank to repel him?
Donaire Since Montiel: In the three fights since his signature knockout over Fernando Montiel, Donaire has struggled to find the same knockout form. He's had to fight every second of the 36 scheduled rounds but his saving grace has been his power punching.
In the Mathebula fight -- where he was out-thrown by 404 punches (919-515) and out-landed by 80 (231-151) -- Donaire landed 39.1 percent of his power shots and connected on more of them (102-91). Against Vazquez that number surged to 60 percent (147 of 245), which enabled him to craft connect leads of 231-163 (total) and 147-56 (power). Finally, in repelling the overly defensive Omar Narvaez, Donaire nevertheless produced a 85-33 connect advantage despite landing just 21 percent of them and tasting 28 percent of Narvaez's.
When one compares Donaire's last three fights to the three fights that preceded the Montiel bout, the Filipino's level of performance has declined a bit. He's throwing less per round (48.2 now, 55.1 then), landing slightly less of them (27.7 percent overall and 36.9 percent power now, 28.8 percent overall and 43.2 percent power then) and tasting more of his opponents' leather (26.5 percent overall and 30.7 percent power now, 23 percent overall and 23.5 percent power then).
Perhaps it's the tougher opposition and the stresses of fighting them at higher weights or maybe it's the first signs of slippage for Donaire, an 11-year veteran who will turn 30 next month. The Nishioka fight promises to shed light as to which scenario applies to Donaire's recent performances.
Prediction: This will be an extraordinarily difficult fight for both men. Both fight at nearly the same pace (49.6 for Donaire in his last seven, 51.9 for Nishioka over the last five) and Nishioka's southpaw stance and speed will make it difficult for Donaire to draw a bead with his jab. Nishioka has also proved he can win away from Japan, for two of his biggest victories took place in Las Vegas (Marquez) and Mexico (Gonzalez).
To win, Donaire must fight much better than he did against Mathebula. The guess here is that he will but it won't be easy. In a tense tactical battle, Donaire wins by hard-fought decision.