The boxing schedule is packed this weekend with dueling fight cards spread across Showtime and streaming service DAZN. On Showtime, Nordine Oubaali faces Nonito Donaire in a rescheduled bout that is closely matched with Donaire sitting around a +225ish as a live underdog. Devin Haney takes on the normally crafty vet in Jorge Linares live on DAZN. All and all May has been extra kind to us boxing fans so here’s hoping we go out with a bang this Saturday to end the month.
Devin Haney’s sparkling clean 25-0 record looks nice and pretty but below the surface, the level of opposition is mediocre to put it nicely. Now don’t get me wrong at age 22 he has plenty of time to build a hall of fame career. Haney’s victory over Juan Carlos Burgos in 2018 looks a bit better after Burgo’s recent outing. A victory over Yuriorkis Gamboa last November is okay but to be fair Gamboa is well past his prime. Speaking of fighters being past their prime it’s safe to place Haney’s dancing partner this Saturday night Jorge Linares in that category. Linares is a superb offensive fighter but lacks in defense not to mention the cut issues he’s had to deal with over the years. In all 5 of Linare’s losses, he was stopped via knockout or technical stoppage.
Let’s not write off Linares just yet, if he can get out of the early rounds he could be something to worry about if Devin decides to make it a skills competition in the middle of the ring. Linares put Lomachenko on his butt and gave him a damn good fight only to get stopped in the 10th. Jorge was clearly up in his TKO loss to Antonio Demarco until his face exploded as did Demarco for the comeback victory. Linares has been knocked out early in three separate bouts against Juan Carlos Salgado in 2009, Sergio Thompson back in 2012, and in early 2019 by Pablo Cesar Cano. Trust me if Devin Haney allows Linares to go the distance there will be hell to pay on boxing twitter.
Aside from his e-mailed WBC belt and the strange give and take with Gary Russell Jr. this summer, it does seem like Devin Haney wants a big fight, and let’s hope he gets it soon assuming he defeats Jorge Linares of course. Once Haney has found his range and is able to land hard enough shots on Linares look for him to step up the pace and push for a KO. Linares, as has been said by almost everyone, is a high-level offensive guy from his combination punching to his fancy footwork. Will Haney oblige Linares by trying to out-skill him or will we see a more aggressive Devin? Maybe Haney will turn Linares into a guy that has to lead and come forward so Devin can counter and use a slight reach advantage. Linares will land a fair amount of clean punches but after say the 6th or 7th the sharper/harder lands coming from Devin Haney.
Over on Showtime, Nordine Oubaali defends his WBC Bantamweight strap versus a future Hall of Famer in Nonito Donaire. In 2019 Ouballi had a breakout year putting him on the map amongst hardcore boxing fans. Victories over Rau’shee Warren, Arthur Villanueva, and Takuma Inoue to close out the year put Ouballi on the must-see list. In the last chunk of years, we all saw Nonito Donaire starting to fade as his skills erode. Featherweight was never a good weight for Nonito so when he moved down to 122 it seemed like it would help extend an excellent career. His loss to Jessie Magdaleno was seen as a clear sign to hang up the gloves. Going back up to 126 and getting out-boxed by Carl Frampton was yet another sign that he probably cashed out.
To Donaire’s credit, he skipped 122 instead of dropping all the way down to 118 in 2018 to compete in the World Boxing Super Series. Donaire made it to the finals with wins over Ryan Burnett by a back injury and late replacement Stephon Young didn’t seem all too impressive looking back at it. Even though Nonito took the “L” in his back and forth fight against Naoya Inoue Donaire produced a throwback performance. An injury to Inoue’s eye had him seeing double from the 2nd round on. Inoue was in control for the most part until round 8 when Donaire countered Inoue with a right hand. Inoue’s eye and nose were bleeding as another hard right hand found a home by Donaire in the 9th. A body shot from Naoya caused Donaire to take a few steps back then take a knee. Yes, Donaire lost the overall war but he fought hard in the battles and gave us a much closer result than it appeared to be on paper going in.
Can Donaire summon his fight spirit one last time and pull off an upset on Saturday? The persistent style of Ouballi might fit well for an always wanted to counter with left hooks Donaire. This boxing podcaster assumes Nonito will use his feet to circle away from danger to create space and walk Ouballi into his left-hand counters and straight right hands, both packing more power at 118-pound division than 126.
Ouballi uses head movement but I wouldn’t label him as defensively responsible. Nordine does have quick hands and can rapid-fire off combos like it’s going out of style. He’s not just a face-first brawler although he does like to stand and trade once inside. Ouballi’s feet are faster than most think as he darts in and out to reset and go back in for more. He’s light on his feet literally bouncing at times but he does stand a good chance of being clipped when he jumps into land. Up close he will use a high guard so keep an eye on if Donaire attacks the body in that spot. This fight comes down to age, experience, and who will land the best-left hand. As we know Nonito has a great left hand but Oubaali’s is snappy as well whether it’s straight or the hooked variety.
This hardcore boxing head has been on the fence when picking a winner with a slight lean in the direction of Ouballi. These two won’t take long to mix it up in the early frames and I could see this fight being close to even at the midway mark. If Donaire can’t land his left-hand equalizer throughout then he won’t win that’s just the bottom line. A long break out of the ring for Donaire plus the damage sustained against Inoue has me favoring Oubaali.
My Official Prediction is Nordine Oubaali by Majority-Decision.
Side Note: Don’t miss the Showtime’s undercard bouts Subriel Matias vs. Batyrzhan Jukembayev is a legit 50-50 & Gary Antuanne Russell vs Jovanie Santiago is a solid step-up fight at this point.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.Com Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio