By Ron Jackson
Former Olympian and IBF junior featherweight champion Jeffrey Mathebula faces the toughest fight of his career when he meets WBO junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire in a unification match at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California on Saturday night. Mathebula (26-3-2, 14 KOs) who was born in Malamulele in the Northern Province on June 22, 1979 was an outstanding amateur and represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He also won the SA amateur featherweight title in 1999 and 2000 before making his professional debut on February 17, 2001 with a third round knockout win over Tally Disloane. Mathebula remained unbeaten in his next 13 fights before being stopped by Thomas Mashaba in the seventh round in September 2003 in a match for the vacant South African featherweight title. In April 2009 he lost a highly disputed decision to Panamanian Celestino Caballero when challenging for the WBA and IBF junior featherweight belts and his only other loss was against Takalani Ndlovu whom he beat in a return match in March this year to win the IBF belt.
The 29-year-old Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs) who was born in Talibon, Philippines, but now fights out of San Leandro, California made his pro debut in February 2001 and suffered his only loss in his second fight. In July 2007 he won the IBF flyweight belt with a fifth round stoppage win over Vic Darchinyan and made successful defences against Luis Maldonado, Moruti Mthalane and Raul Martinez before moving up to the super flyweight division in August 2009 to win the WBA belt when he outpointed Rafael Concepcion.
After making a successful defence of the belt against Hernan Marquez he once again moved up a division to beat Fernando Montiel for the WBC and WBO bantamweight belts. He made a successful defence of the two belts against Omar Andres Narvaez before winning the vacant WBO super bantamweight belt in February this year when he beat Wilfredo Vazquez Jr on a split decision.
Donaire did not impress in his fights against Narvaez and Vazquez and will have to lift his game against the awkward and much taller South African. He has a devastating left hook but it looks like he has not taken his power up when moving through the divisions.
Mathebula does carry his hands low at times and could be open for the left hook but the odds are that it could go the distance in an unspectacular fight.
On the same card former WBC and WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (39-2, 34 KOs) now fighting as a super middleweight meets Will Rosinsky (16-1, 9 KOs) in a ten rounder.