One of the biggest surprises of the second season of the World Boxing Super Series is the inclusion of former world champion Nonito Donaire in its bantamweight tournament.
The announcement came as a bit of a shock considering that it had only been months since his last fight, which was at featherweight, two weight classes higher than bantamweight. Promoter Richard Schaefer, who has been working closely with Donaire for the past year, spoke to Fightful and revealed how the partnership between the two started and what eventually led to Donaire being a part of the WBSS.
Schaefer said the two started working together shortly after Donaire left his former promoter company Top Rank Boxing. The plan initially was to have Donaire contend at featherweight, but after having a return fight on the undercard of a 2017 WBSS card in San Antonio, Texas, Schaefer was a bit hesitant about Donaire's future as a featherweight.
“When Nonito came to see me after he left Top Rank a little over a year ago, he asked me if I can help him rekindle his career and I said yes because I like him as a person and I like him as a fighter. So we gave him a tune-up fight in San Antonio at 126 pounds. He looked okay, he shook off some of that ring rust, but what was very apparent to me was that he was a much smaller guy [compared to other featherweights]," Schaefer said.
Despite those doubts, Donaire was put in a fight against former featherweight champion Carl Frampton this past April in Belfast, Northern Ireland for the vacant interim WBO featehrweight title. The fight was competitive, but Donaire was overmatched by the bigger fighter in Frampton. After the fight, Schaefer asked Donaire about fighting as a bantamweight again.
"He then went on to fight Carl Frampton in Belfast and again, Frampton was just the bigger guy. Nonito gave him a hell of a fight, but he does not seem to hurt these guys at 126 because he’s too small. So right there, at the end of the Frampton fight, I went up there on the apron and came to Nonito and I told him, ‘Hey this is not your weight. You fought a hell of a fight but this is not your weight. Can you make a lower weight? Can you make bantamweight?’ He said, ‘Absolutely. I don’t think I need to lose the weight. I can definitely make bantamweight,’" Schaefer said.
The Ringstar Sports promoter then had the idea of putting Donaire into the global tournament. Schaefer said he's excited of the fact the tournament has such a big name in the sport competing. Donaire will be competing for a world title in the first round against WBA champion Ryan Burnett, giving the Filipino fighter an opportunity to capture bantamweight gold for the first time since 2011 when he was a unified WBO and WBC champion.
"Right there, the idea popped into my head because I knew that bantamweight was going to be one of the weight classes and I tried to get Nonito in to the tournament. I then talked to the tournament organizers and you know, to be able to attract a four-division champion who was the dominant fighter at this weight class, granted it was some years ago, for him to try and turn back the clock and give it another go, I was very excited to see him get invited into the tournament," Schaefer explained.
The fight against Burnett will headline the November 3 WBSS show from Glasgow, Scotland and that card will also feature Josh Taylor vs. Ryan Martin in a WBSS junior welterweight quarterfinal matchup.