By Joe Koizumi
Today there will be an interesting 122-pound confrontation of WBO titlist Nonito Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs) and WBC champion emeritus Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) from Japan at the Home Depot Center, Carson, California. The odds are in favor of Donaire, who is nicknamed “Filipino Flash” due to his excellent speed and explosive power shown in his demolition of Vic Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel, etc. Nishioka is also called “Speed King” thanks to his good hand-speed in his native country.
Donaire is well-known in the US as he moved to the States from the Philippines at the age of ten, grew up there and boxed as an amateur boxer in the US Olympic trials in 2000. Since he entered the paid ranks the next year, he fought all but three bouts in 2002 in his second mother country. Donaire, born at the same city General Santos City as Manny Pacquiao, is a more Americanized star than Pacman, fluently speaking English to entertain the audience including the press people. US boxing fans are well acquainted with the hard-punching Filipino who has been strenuously following Pacquiao’s footsteps to become a superstar in the near future.
Nishioka, however, might be much less known to US fight fans and journalists there. This reporter has already been here in Los Angeles to serve as a commentator for WOWOW cable television that will broadcast it live from 11 am on Sunday (because of the time difference). Yours truly would like to introduce Donaire’s counterpart Nishioka for your reference.
We now have seven male world champions and five female titlists in Japan. The headliner of our country is no other than Toshiaki Nishioka, WBC champion emeritus in the super-bantam category. The 36-year-old southpaw, 39-4-3, 24 KOs, is going to climb up to the peak of his fistic career today. It is a greatly anticipated unification bout to decide who really dominates the 122-pound category with worldwide fans paying great attentions to this encounter.
Nishioka is such a rare old vintage as his talent bloomed after he passed thirty years of age. Having failed to win the WBC bantam throne four times from then formidable Veeraphol Nakhornluang-Promotion of Thailand, our boxing fans then coldly thought Nishioka was through. But the phoenix returned to the ring as he kept fighting and winning over tough opposition. The indomitable Japanese remained unbeaten for eight years since his last setback to Veeraphol in 2004.
Nishioka, in 2008, finally and jubilantly acquired the vacant WBC 122-pound crown by defeating Thailander Napapol Kiatisakchokchai in 2008. Since then, the Japanese razor sharp southpaw scored seven successful defenses including five victories within the distance. Nishioka, in his second defense, went to Monterrey, Mexico, to square off against mandatory challenger Jhonny Gonzalez, whom he impressively embalmed with a single southpaw left in the third round. The clean knockout became such a familiar moving picture in Japan since it has been repeatedly shown more than one hundred times here whenever we introduce Nishioka and explain how good he is.
Fast-handed and fleet-footed, Nishioka kept his WBC 122-pound belt by defeating Ivan Hernandez (TKO3), Balweg Bangoyan (TKO5), mandatory challenger from Great Britain, Rendall Munroe (W12) and Mauricio Munoz (KO9). The southpaw veteran, in his seventh defense, came to Las Vegas to face well-reputed hard-puncher Rafael Marquez, winning a very unanimous decision to his credit in October of the previous year.
Nishioka has been unbeaten in five bouts abroad—three times in Las Vegas, each once in Mexico and France. He is also undefeated against nine Mexican opponents in as many bouts.
Some US press person asked this reporter about the historical rank of our Japanese ex-world champions and a comparison of Nishioka with them. It was too difficult a question to reply promptly, as this stubborn reporter doesn’t like such a tendency of rating anything. There is no expressing something in figure such as strength of boxers. But I put our top-five greats in my personal order:
1. Fighting Harada (who astoundingly dethroned undefeated Eder Jofre, defeated him twice, won the world flyweight and bantamweight belts and almost wrested the world featherweight throne—with all unified and undisputed titles)
2. Kuniaki Shibata (who dethroned formidable Mexican legend Vicente Saldivar in Tijuana and Ben Villaflor in Honolulu)
3. Yoko Gushiken (who kept his WBA junior flyweight belt thirteen times)
4. Jiro Watanabe (who kept his WBA junior bantam belt six times, actually won the WBC throne in a unification bout and then defended it four times)
5. Masao Ohba (who defended his WBA flyweight belt five times before passing away because of a tragic auto accident at the age of only twenty-three)
Should Nishioka win over Donaire, the veteran southpaw would be ranked within the top-five on the above-written list, or ranked second behind Fighting Harada.
Nishioka is a sharpshooter with precision. He may display a good performance against the Filipino Flash depending on the strategies of the respective combatants. He is a better boxer-puncher than the odds of five to one against him might indicate. About today’s outcome? Quien sabe? Time will tell in less than twenty-four hours.