Nonito Donaire’s first challenge for a featherweight title Saturday will air on HBO, but the bout is not the headliner. That would be the rematch between WBC-IBF super-middleweight champion Carl Froch and George Groves.
Donaire, who grew up in the Bay Area, was the world’s fighter of the year in 2012 after mowing down four 122-pound opponents. But he lost to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April 2013 and was losing to Vic Darchinyan in their November rematch when Donaire (32-2) scored a ninth-round stoppage. He’s challenging South African Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16 knockouts) in Macao in a bout HBO will air on its East Coast feed at 1 p.m. Pacific time before it airs Froch’s fight.
Froch was trailing Groves when he scored a ninth-round stoppage in November, a highly questionable stoppage at that, which is why the rematch is generating so much interest even outside England, where 80,000 will see the bout at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Groves, 19-0 entering the first bout, established a nasty left jab in the first round and floored Froch with a counter right near the end of that round. Froch never could gain the upper hand. They fought on fairly even terms after the first, although upset-mongers felt Groves was winning handily, until Froch hurt Groves in the eighth and ninth. Froch did land three or four huge shots seconds before the stoppage, but it still seemed premature.
Hence, a rematch that has more pull than Donaire’s important bout, which I’ll detail Friday.
There’s still clamor for a Froch-Andre Ward rematch. Froch’s last defeat came against Ward in December 2011 in the championship bout of Showtime’s Super Six. He has beaten Lucian Bute and Mikkel Kessler in the meantime. Now Froch, Ward and Super Six mastermind Ken Hershman are all important to HBO.
And Donaire will be under pressure to do something noticeable in that atmosphere.