THE BREAKDOWN: Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka

Donaire LA arrival 121008 001aDonaire is in tough against the Japanese vet Nishioki, and will have to be on his game to prevail, according to Lee Wylie. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Following Andre Ward's near flawless performance against the universally recognized light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, and Sergio Martinez's stick and move seminar over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. , Nonito Donaire {29-1, 18 knockouts} will be hoping to follow in his fellow pound for pound rival's footsteps when he defends his IBF and WBO junior featherweight titles against wily Japanese veteran Toshiaki Nishioka {39-4-3, 24 knockouts} at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California this Saturday.

It is this writer's opinion that each fighter will be presenting the other with their toughest challenge to date –if you know anything about each fighter's style or how they operate, then you'll know the type of opponent that both men prosper against. Needless to say, neither Donaire or Nishioka will be accommodating one another, which is what makes this fight so intriguing on paper.

Nishioka is very smart and skillful. A southpaw technician with excellent all round capabilities, he can lay back and box cautiously behind his jab, or can press the attack and pour it on in combination if need be. And don't be fooled by his age either. He may be 36 years-old, but Nishioka's shown very little or no signs of slowing down just yet. It's no coincidence that Nishioka hasn't tasted defeat in more than eight years at fighting at an elite level. If Donaire is anticipating his hand raised this Saturday, then he needs to be at his absolute best –fully armed and operational. Speaking of which, Donaire hasn't looked anything like his best in any of his last three outings, at least not anything resembling the chilling knockout artist that we were accustomed to seeing prior to his move up in weight. There are, I believe, three reasons for this.

Firstly, it's very rare that a fighter is able to increase or even maintain the same level of punching power as he/she moves up through the weight classes. Roberto Duran didn't, nor did Alexis Arguello, and despite what many believe, neither has Manny Pacquiao, who's yet to put a fighter weighing more than 140 pounds down and out for the count of ten.

Secondly, Donaire, also reminiscent of Pacquiao recently, is now facing fighters who aren't playing into his style by simply trying to take his head off. On paper, Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel were considered very dangerous. In reality, to those with knowledge of styles and how they mesh, they were tailor-made for the quick trigger, counterpunching Donaire. On the other end of the stylistic spectrum, fighters like Omar Narvaez –cagey and defensive– are almost impossible to find openings against. This is the type of opponent that causes a fighter like Donaire to underperform, not a knockout-seeking head-hunter who loads up on every single punch he throws.

Which brings me to my third and final point. Lately–possibly buying into his own hype–I believe Nonito Donaire has suffered from what I like to call “Mike Tyson Syndrome.” By that, I mean he's fallen in love with his own power, and in particular, his left hook. As I'm sure you're all aware, during his prime, Mike Tyson was so much more than a one handed slugger. Sadly, once the likes of Kevin Rooney were no longer part of his world, that's exactly what Mike Tyson became. Gone were the combinations, the footwork, and the side to side head movement, and in their place? A caricature of his former self, who, while still too strong a puncher for most heavyweights, lacked the creativity to get his punches home on the Evander Holyfield's of this world –all the other flaws in his make up came flooding through as a result. Likewise, Nonito Donaire must get back to setting up his left hook and refrain from loading up with it every chance he gets. The more predictable Donaire becomes with it, the easier it will be for a smart and calculating fighter like Nishioka, who will surely have it scouted, to defend against.

Battle of the left hands.

While both fighters are more than proficient with their right hand –Donaire's uppercuts and straight right and Nishioka's short right hand on the inside– it's the left hand work of both men, that I feel, will likely dominate the fight.

The counter left hook of Nonito Donaire is, I believe, the most spectacular single shot in all of boxing –it's been said here before that there probably isn't a better shot in boxing that encapsulates both its savagery and artistry simultaneously. Providing Donaire is smart, he could win the fight with it. Performed at its best, Donaire's coup de gras is meticulously prepped. With his lead hand low and his right hand extended out in front of him, which enables him to parry his opponent's jab, Donaire is trying to lull his opponent into thinking it's safe to attack. Looking at Donaire's low left, and extended right, opponents generally think it's safe to lead off…and that's strategic suicide. As they lead, Donaire transfers his weight over to his right side {his head is away from the centre line, not giving away any free targets as he throws} and launches his left hook from outside his opponent's line of vision, pushing off of his lead leg and pivoting on the ball of his lead foot as he throws it, almost giving the impression that he's in reverse as it lands {check out the Vic Darchinyan knockout}. It's all about split second timing and deception. Again, the problem here is if Donaire becomes too predictable and begins telegraphing it or over-using it, then he runs the risk of leaving himself open to counters…and Nishioka could counter his counter.

By contrast, Nishioka's left hand is similar in its deception, but different in its execution. Nishioka likes to step to his left –considered unusual for a southpaw– almost daring his opponent into releasing their right hand, the perceived southpaw kryptonite. As an opponent releases his right hand, Nishioka, similarly to Donaire, shifts his weight back across and counters with a straight left hand. But whereas Donaire's left hand comes wide and from the outside, Nishioka's comes straight up the middle. If there's a left handed gun-slinging contest between the two, it's not hard to imagine Nishioka's straighter and more conventional left hand reaching its target first. The flip side of this argument though, is that Donaire can land his left hook even though his body isn't correctly aligned. Imagine Nishioka, a southpaw, shooting his straight left hand. He'll be looking to get his lead foot outside of Donaires's lead foot, enabling him to land it whilst being out of range for a counter right hand {think of Marquez's right hand positioning against Pacquiao, but in reverse}. The beauty of Donaire's left hook, however, is that it can land from the orthodox stance even though his lead foot may or may not be outside of Nishioka's lead foot. This is how Andre Ward managed to land his left hook over and over against the taller southpaw Chad Dawson. Dawson did everything correctly –his lead foot was outside of Ward's with his body perfectly aligned to land his straight left. But because Ward's a converted southpaw {left handed but fights out of the orthodox stance} he could shoot a left hook from inside of Dawson's range –inside the southpaw jab and with his lead foot INSIDE of Dawson's lead foot.

Having read this, I'm sure a lot of you are thinking that there's a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that probably won't come into play. In many cases you could be right. Sometimes boxing can come down to the simplest of things –Who's quicker? Who's stronger ? Or even who is fitter. However, I believe this is going to be one of those occasions, with plenty of feinting and foot positioning, where geometry will be paramount.


As was mentioned here earlier, on paper, neither man's had it as tough by my estimation. A win here for either would easily be a career best. Speed, reflexes, timing and power seem to go with Donaire, but experience, ring savvy and toughness –Nishioka's been down and got up to win on more than one occasion– are with the Japanese veteran.

I can see this fight going one of two ways. The first, is that Nishioka, a technician who likes to work out angles before implementing his findings in later rounds, can generally be a slow starter. Donaire on the other hand, has been known in the past to be a somewhat fast starter. Merge the two notions together and I don't think it's beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that Donaire catches him cold –either with his vaunted left or with his uppercuts– and ends the fight early. The second, is that like in his last fights when he lacked creativity by neglecting the body and refusing to set up his left hand, Donaire becomes a tad predictable and we see a fight with Donaire hitting nothing but arms and elbows with his power shots from the outside. There's no question that Donaire hits hard, which has lead to many of his opponents closing their defensive doors early in fights against him. Should Nishioka experience Donaire's power early enough to decide that opening up isn't worth the risk of being knocked out, then Nishioka may be happy enough to just see out the remainder of the fight. Hopefully, this won't be the case. As Nishioka has a real chance of winning here.

Even though I think Nishioka is a terrific fighter, who's vastly underrated by many, I think Donaire wins. I believe the fact that Nishioka won't have fought in over a year by the time he steps into the ring could play a major part, especially against a younger talent like Donaire, who's probably the most active fighter out of all the pound for pound claimants.

Whether Donaire's going to look spectacular while doing so, however, is another thing entirely. When he's on it, I think Donaire's right up there with the very best in boxing. And yet, there remains a distinct possibility that we may have overestimated him slightly, what with his sensational one punch knockouts over good, but upon reflection, tailor made opponents. If Donaire wants to remain among the pound for pound pack, he's in need of that “special look good win” that's going to be comparable with those of Andre Ward and Sergio Martinez which will get people talking about him again. That being said, this could be a case of “win this one and look good next time,” as Nishioka is very hard to look good against. Any win over Nishioka would be a good one, but should Donaire look anything close to spectacular against a technically solid, versatile fighter who's more than proven at this weight class {a weight class that Donaire's yet to look sensational in} then that really would be something to talk about.

Also on the same night, Brandon Rios {30-0-1, 22 knockouts} will be moving up to the 140 pound division where he will face Mike Alvarado {33-0, 23 knockouts} in a WBO title eliminator in a fight that many are quick to slap with fight of the year potential. With my beers already on standby, I'd like nothing more than to bare witness to a fight of the year calibre contest. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to see one. At least not from Rios and Alvarado.

I won't lie here. I'm a Brandon Rios skeptic, always have been. Upon watching him in the past, I've seen nothing but a fighter who comes in square looking to outpunch his often smaller opponents who had no clue on infighting or how to deal with his size and strength for that weight class. That all changed last year when he faced the unknown to most Richard Abril. Sometimes, bad decisions in boxing get blown out of context –Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley was one such fight in this writer's opinion. But then, there are some decisions that are simply inexcusable. Brandon Rios's gift decision over Richard Abril was one of the worst that I've ever seen. Throughout the fight, Rios was not only dominated from the outside, but he was also mastered in close by a better infighter than himself. All Abril had to do to negate Rios's best weapon, his left hook, was push his left hip into Rios's waist and cover his face with his right glove {the Mayweather inside posture}. Rios had absolutely no idea on how to prevent it from happening or how to land his left hook. Abril chopped Rios up from the opening bell to the last, using his better outside and inside fighting skills. This, I believe, is going to be the deciding factor on Saturday night. I'm sure Rios is going to get his wish at some point by Alvarado meeting him on the inside, but there's more to infighting than walking in with your shoulders parallel to your feet whilst looking to land a wide left hook. Mike Alvarado is technically better, bigger, and stronger than Brandon Rios, inside or out.

I don't mean to be a spoiler here, but I don't think this fight will even be all that close. I think Alvarado is capable of outboxing Rios from range or in close, using the same kind of infighting/outfighting –standing side on behind a high shoulder– that Richard Abril used. Granted, I don't think Alvarado possesses the mobility of Abril, but he probably doesn't need to. Should Alvarado be able to withstand Rios's fire power, which I think he can, and proceed to land combinations on Rios, which I think he will, then we could even see Rios put on the back foot. Rios's physical strength and decent chin are what has won him fights in the past, not his skills. Now he's fighting at 140 pounds, Rios's get out of jail free card is gone by my estimation. Can you imagine how effective Julio Cesar Chavez Jr would be fighting at cruiserweight against actual cruiserweights? I'm guessing he'd probably be as effective as Brandon Rios would be fighting opponents HIS own size too. Now that Rios is fighting a physically bigger man that isn't just going to wilt under his physicality and crudeness, I think we're going to see a lot of indecision in the ring from Rios this Saturday.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here and talk about angles and foot placement. I think Mike Alvarado is better than Brandon Rios no matter where or how the fight takes place. If forced to find an argument in Rios's favour I'd point to his 26 years as opposed to Alvarado's 32 years. But even then, it seems to me that Rios is a very old 26 years-old while Alvarado is a relatively young 32 years-old.


No matter which way I look at it, I can't see anything other than an Alvarado win. I don't think we're going to see the knock down drag out affair that most are anticipating. Alvarado, with his superior boxing ability, doesn't need to fight that way, and even if he does, he'll likely back Rios up, who has no reverse gear, and stop him anyway.

Comment on this article



Another good breakdown Mr.Lee Wylie,very good read,Should be a good weekend for us boxing fans.

-Radam G :

WTF! Freudian jive up above about "Bam Bam" Rios? When did his record become 30-1? Typo up there, no doubt! Holla!

-ali :

Donair performs better when the opposition is as dangerous as Niskioka. I expect another spectacular performance similar to the Montiel fight looking forward to it.

-br1446 :

@RADAM G 30-0-1 and not 30-1 the 1 in Brandon's record was a no contest bout

-br1446 :

Brandon's record is 30-0-1 and not 30-1 and that was a no contest bout

-ron guiller :

"and despite what many believe, neither has Manny Pacquiao, who's yet to put a fighter weighing more than 140 pounds down and out for the count of ten." My friend, every fighter has to stop somewhere no matter how powerful you are, but I don't think it's right to say that Manny wasn't able to carry his punching power climbing up in weight. Remember, he started as a 106 pound fighter. If Manny was able to knock out Dela Hoya or Margarito or the likes, you could simply say "He's yet to knock out fighters weighing more than 150 pounds.

-Shoulder Roll Defense :

Nishioka is game, but Donaire should win by UD or late round TKO. I will be at the fight live, the Home Depot Center is about 15 minutes from my house. Rigo vs. Donaire is the most logical fight next, but don't be suprised if Arum keeps Donaire from fighting the dangerous Cubano warrior.

-brownsugar :

Don't know that much about Nishioka, but he's getting universal acclaim from the most of the press clippings I've read. His last fight was a UD win over Rafael Marquez, who is certainly no world beater these days. and that fight was way back on October of 2011, Based on the fact that Nishi holds no real advantage in height, speed, reach, or power. I can see Nonito dispatching this guy in 7 or 8 rounds. Tailor made is my best description of Nishioka. This will be a good win for Nonito and should boost his pound for pound profile while raising the anty for the fight we all want to see. Nonito vs either Guillermo Rigondeaux or Abner Mares... is box office GOLD! Seeing how Rigo has finally shown some signs of vunerability in his last fight... The always crisp and dapper Donaire seems to have warmed up to the challenge in a huge way. Enough that's he's even offered a few "Bring it On!" posts on the internet. This is going to be a great night of entertainment,.. and a Nonito Donairre win will propel him into the fights hardcore fans have been wanting so see for the last 18 months.