Given its recent findings in the ring and out, boxing as of late has been more “science” than “sweet.”
It was in a science lab, after all, where Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto and Antonio Tarver, all prominent prize fighters, tested positive for one performance-enhancing drug or another — all within three months.
And with said fighters, among others, having tainted their boxing résumés, Nonito Donaire — who works with nutritionist and convicted steroids peddler Victor Conte — is looking to keep his clean.
The 122-pound WBO super bantamweight champ, who resides and trains in the Belmont-San Mateo area, has agreed to 24-7, year-round Olympic-style drug testing by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.
“For me, it’s good for the sport. It’s good for my fans,” said the 29-year-old Donaire, who’ll undergo the PED screenings starting Sunday, a day after his next scheduled bout. “It’s good that I know that I’m honest and I’m clean and everything that I am — that a champion is — should be how hard you train. And that’s me.”
But in the clamor of making history of being the first professional fighter to endure such VADA screenings, there is still a fight on Saturday.
Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs) will meet IBF super bantamweight champ Jeffrey Mathebula, 33, at the Home Depot Center in Carson. And though the South African may not be regarded as Donaire’s biggest challenge, he’ll be the tallest.
“I’m really, really excited knowing that I’m fighting a guy who’s going to be a challenge for me ... and I want to challenge myself,” Donaire, who stands 5-feet-6, said of his 5-foot-10 opponent.
And he’s an opponent who despite 31 pro contests, has only once fought outside of his native land. Saturday’s match will be Mathebula’s first in the U.S.
“This guy, you guys may not know him, but he’s an incredible fighter,” Donaire said.
Bluntly put, the South African is gangly, bearing an in-ring resemblance to the character Gumby. He is awkward as he is confident, and though his punches appear plain, he lands them constantly and from long range.
“I’m just too cute, I’m just too smart for him,” Mathebula said, predicting a stoppage in eight or nine. “I’m not scared of him. He’s a good boxer, believe me, but I’m better.”
But it’s Mathebula’s trainer, Nick Durandt, who has seen Donaire before. Durandt groomed Moruti Mthalane for 2008 flyweight title shot in Las Vegas against the Filipino, and Mthalane (26-3-2, 14 KOs) lost when the fight was stopped due to a cut.
“We’ll be back,” Durandt told Donaire after that fight.
Durandt was right — for here he is again.