Nonito Donaire might have his next fight lined up, as the WBO super bantamweight titleholder is reportedly set to face Evgeny Gradovich in April at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines. But the deal is not entirely done, as Gradovich would be moving down in weight from 126, and wants to test that out, which he'll due on January 9 with a tune-up fight in Spain.
Gradovich (20-1-1, 9 KO) has fought his entire career as a featherweight or super featherweight, dating back to his pro debut in 2010, but a move down in weight might be doable. He's 29 years old, which means he's still in his physical prime, and this sort of thing has been done before, although it's obviously not just a casual thing. If the former IBF featherweight titleholder feels good at the weight in January, then he'll go on and face Donaire (36-3, 23 KO), who would be making an optional first defense of the title he won on December 11, when he survived a hellish fight with Cesar Juarez to secure the vacant belt, which had been needlessly stripped from Guillermo Rigondeaux, who won it from Donaire in 2013.
Gradovich, originally from Russia but fighting out of Oxnard, California, and the Robert Garcia camp, beat Billy Dib for the IBF featherweight belt in March 2013, and made three successful defenses against Maurcio Munoz, Dib, and Alexander Miskirtchian, all in Macau. In November 2014, he went to a draw with Jayson Velez, and lost his belt to Lee Selby in May of this year. He returned to action in October, but struggled through an eight-round fight against Aldimar Silva in Omaha, getting the win on split decision scores that were a bit generous.
Donaire, 33, has moved back down to 122 after his own stint at 126 didn't go so well. The Filipino star went 3-0 in 2015, winning a couple of tune-up bouts before surviving against Juarez in a very entertaining slugfest in Puerto Rico.
If Gradovich can make the weight, do you see him troubling Donaire, or is his aggressive style just what Nonito needs to unleash his masterful and powerful counters?