Simpiwe Vetyeka vs. Nonito Donaire: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2014

Simpiwe Vetyeka vs. Nonito Donaire: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Theron Kirkman/Associated Press

    Simpiwe Vetyeka makes the first defense of his WBA Featherweight Championship on Saturday night, taking on former multiweight world champion Nonito Donaire at The Venetian in Macau. 

    Vetyeka captured the title, the first of his career, by stopping long-reigning champion Chris John last December in Australia. John had held the title for near a decade, but he wasn't able to match the aggression of his latest challenger and ceded the title on his tool.

    Donaire is a former three-weight world champion. He was rocketing up the pound-for-pound ranks when his train came to a halt against Guillermo Rigondeaux early in 2013. He struggled in his next fight, and he needs to recapture some of his old form to claim another world title in this fight.

    Read on for your complete preview and prediction for Vetyeka vs. Donaire for the WBA Featherweight Championship!

Tale of the Tape

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    All stats and information per

     Simpiwe VetyekaNonito Donaire
    Record26-2, 16 KO32-2, 21 KO
    Weight125.5 lbs (Last Fight)125.25 lbs (Last Fight)


    HometownMdantsane, Eastern Cape, South Africa
    Talibon, Bohol, Philippines
    Rounds Boxed193203
    Last FightRTD 6 Chris John (12/6/13)TKO 9 Vic Darchinyan (11/9/13)

Main Storylines

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    Theron Kirkman/Associated Press

    Vetyeka was a little-known challenger when he stepped through the ropes to challenge John for his featherweight title last December. There was nothing spectacular about his resume, and most felt that he would be nothing more than a blip on the radar screen of the Indonesian Dragon’s long reign.

    But that’s not how it happened. The South African battered, bloodied and stopped John, capturing his first world championship and ending his undefeated streak at 51 fights.

    Vetyeka finds himself in the role of champion for the first time, and he’ll be facing a second consecutive high-profile opponent in a fight he’s supposed to lose. That places him in the role of spoiler, and a win would be a career-maker.

    Donaire won four fights, two world championships and Fighter of the Year honors in 2012, but 2013 was a very different year. He was dominated by Rigondeaux in a fight that took a lot out of him—more mentally than physically—and then looked diminished in his return last November.

    The Filipino was forced to pull that fight from the fire, trailing badly on the scorecards to Vic Darchinyan before rallying to stop him in Round 9. That bout raised a lot more questions about Donaire than it answered, primary among them being whether or not he still had the desire to compete.

    Those questions will trail him into this fight. Can he move up in weight, again, and show that he's still capable of the flashes of brilliance that made him a must-see attraction in the lower weight classes? Or have we already seen his best?


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    Theron Kirkman/Associated Press

    Vetyeka is a tough customer. He showed against John that he has good hand speed, defense and movement. He’s the type of fighter who likes to sit on the outside, popping in and out to land combinations and then get back out of range.

    The South African is very durable—he’s never been stopped—and he has a good sense of distance, tying up on the inside when the action isn’t where he wants it to be. On the outside, he'll throw punches at you from all sorts of different angles.

    Donaire has seen his stock drop precipitously since his loss to Rigondeaux. His standing in the pound-for-pound ranks has fallen like a stone, and he needs to show that he can still do the things that made him a star.

    Those included having some of the fastest hands and most explosive power of any fighter in the lower weight classes. He’s not the type of fighter who will blow you out necessarily, but he’ll surgically wait for openings, allow you to make your move and then counter to devastating effect.


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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Vetyeka has two bad tendencies that could cost him in this fight. He has a bad habit of being too cute and lackadaisical in the ring at times, and he keeps his hands low. Against a fast, sharp opponent, both of those could come back to haunt him.

    At his best, Donaire is both of those things.

    Vetyeka has only really shown himself to be at a world-class level once. His defeat of John was certainly impressive, but this is the same fighter who lost to 14-9-2 Klaas Mboyane just four fights ago. He could be a fighter coming into his own, or he could be a fighter who seized an opportunity at the right time and right place.

    Donaire was extremely sluggish fighting in another new weight class last November. He wasn’t as sharp with his punches, seemed reluctant to let his hands go and was getting outboxed by the notoriously crude Darchinyan.

    He just hasn’t looked like the force that took boxing by storm in 2012 in his last few fights. The seemingly indestructible star has definitely faded.

    The question for Donaire at this point is: Does he really want to continue making his living as a prizefighter? He has a family now, which provides its own level of distraction outside the ring, and he’s a tad slower and easier to hit inside of it.

Simpiwe Vetyeka Will Win If...

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    Dita Alangkara/Associated Press

    Vetyeka is definitely capable of winning this fight, but the level of difficulty will depend on which version of Donaire shows up to the ring.

    The South African needs to go in and execute his game plan. Now, nobody is comparing him to Rigondeaux—the Cuban is a master technician few can rival—but he should fight a similar style.

    Vetyeka is more comfortable fighting from the outside, using his movement to frustrate his foe and create openings for offense. That’s his best bet in this fight.

    He’ll need to use his footwork, keep his hands high and create different and difficult angles for Donaire. Against Darchinyan, the “Filipino Flash” looked sluggish and uncomfortable throwing punches.

    If that guy shows up again, and we won’t know until fight night, Vetyeka has an excellent chance of outboxing and outworking him for a victory.

Nonito Donaire Will Win If...

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Donaire needs to recapture some of his old form. He’ll need to be much more aggressive in this bout than he was against Darchinyan, or he could be on the way to an upset loss that possibly ends his career.

    The Filipino Flash can’t afford to sit back and look for opportunities to counter Vetyeka while allowing him to dance around the ring and potshot. Just because he pulled a spectacular finish out of thin air in his last fight doesn’t mean he should make a habit of it.

    Donaire needs to find ways to cut off the ring and force Vetyeka into some tight spots. He can’t allow him space to evade his punches, and he needs to make him pay for his mistakes.

    He needs to get off to a good start, as much for his mental state as anything else, and show Vetyeka that he’s in there with one of the biggest, fastest lower-weight punchers of his generation.

    Aggression is the order of the day in this fight for the former champion, and he needs to get out of the blocks and make a statement. The worst thing he can do is allow Vetyeka get comfortable and into a rhythm. 

And the Winner Will Be...

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    A lot of fans have never heard of Vetyeka despite his title-winning effort against John last year. He’s a tricky boxer who likes to control the distance of the fight and frustrate his opponent with speedy hand and footwork.

    The last time Donaire faced a guy like that—Rigondeaux—he had circles boxed around him and lost an embarrassing decision. Nobody is saying that there’s any shame in losing to a fighter like that, and nobody is saying that Vetyeka is comparable in terms of skill or ability to Rigondeaux.

    But he still has the ability to win some rounds here and make for a close and compelling fight down the stretch.

    Donaire should have learned enough from the Rigondeaux affair to make the necessary adjustments, cutting off the ring and landing hard, scoring punches. Even if he’s slightly diminished, or continues to struggle adapting to a new weight, he’s still the better overall fighter.

    Expect many close, hard-to-score rounds early, but the Filipino Flash will take it home down the stretch and capture a close majority decision.

    Prediction: Nonito Donaire MD 12 Simpiwe Vetyeka