NONITO DONAIRE Jr is now set to face former world champion Emmanuel Rodriguez for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight crown next month at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
The late change of opponent for the Dec. 19 title fight came after previous title holder Nordine Oubaali contracted COVID-19 and was unable to train for two weeks for his supposed defense of the 118-lb belt.
With Donaire, 38, the mandatory challenger to Oubaali, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman decided to declare the Frenchman as champion in recess, who will have a shot at regaining his crown by fighting the winner of the Donaire-Rodriguez match.
"Oubaali is positive for COVID-19. That is why he’s out of the fight,” said Bob Yalen, CEO of MTK Global said in a statement.
MTK Global serves as adviser to Oubaali.
Donaire will have his hands full against Rodriguez from Puerto Rico, who once held the International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight title.
Ranked No. 4 by the WBC, Rodriguez (19-1, 12 KOs) defended his belt with a split decision against Jason Maloney, but suffered a second-round knockout in his next fight against undefeated Japanese champion Naoya Inoue last November.
Donaire fared much better against Inoue after stretching the Japanese ‘Monster’ to 12 rounds before losing by unanimous decision. The Filipino inflicted Inoue heavy damage after the World Boxing Association (WBA)/IBF champ suffered fractures in his eye socket that kept him out of the ring for two months.
The fight against Inoue was Donaire’s last ring appearance before getting a shot at Oubaali’s title.
The ‘Filipino Flash’ carries a 40-6 record including 26 KOs. His title match against Inoue was named 2019 Fight of the Year.