Many top champions in boxing fight only twice a year these days. If they are lucky, some might get in three fights in a year. And then there is junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire, who will fight four times in 2012 in what could be a fighter of the year campaign.
Donaire -- "The Filipino Flash" -- will defend his 122-pound title for the third time against former titlist Jorge Arce on Dec. 15 in the main event of an HBO "World Championship Boxing" card at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Promoter Top Rank will make the formal announcement at the Toyota Center on Thursday (11:30 a.m. CT) in a news conference that is open to the public.
Top Rank tried to put Donaire-Arce together for October, but Arce priced himself out and instead took a smaller, less dangerous fight in Mexico in September, while Donaire instead defended against former titlist Toshiaki Nishioka on Oct. 13.
But HBO had money to spend after welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. decided not to fight on Dec. 15 under a deal Top Rank had already worked out with the network. Donaire was happy to take over the date and Top Rank was able to offer Arce more money to get the fight done.
"You know this is a fight we've wanted to do and now we are able to do it," Top Rank chief Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "We didn't get it done in July, but after the Bradley situation, we went to our television partner and asked them for enough money to make it happen and it's happening."
Junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), who has been calling out for a unification match with Donaire, will make his third defense in the televised co-feature.
A two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, Rigondeaux, a southpaw, will face former titleholder Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (48-2, 33 KOs) of Thailand. Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that the deal was agreed to on Tuesday.
"I'm emailing contracts to Thailand. We're done," he said. "We just went over some final stuff."
Kratingdaenggym has won seven fights in a row since losing his belt to Japan's Ryol-Li Lee via unanimous decision in October 2010.
Light heavyweight prospect Mike Lee (11-0, 6 KOs), the popular Notre Dame graduate from Chicago and Subway restaurant pitchman who trains in Houston, will also appear on the undercard.
Donaire, a former flyweight and unified bantamweight titleholder (and interim junior bantamweight titlist), moved up in weight in February, knocked down former titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in the ninth round and won a decision to claim a vacant belt.
He made his first defense in July, dropping Jeffrey Mathebula in the fourth round and rolling to a lopsided decision to unify two belts.
Although Donaire vacated one of them before his third defense, he scored knockdowns in the third, sixth and ninth rounds and cruised to a ninth-round knockout of Nishioka, who had not lost in eight years and did not lose his belt in the ring.
Now Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs), who turns 30 on Nov. 16, can close out a big year against Arce (61-6-2, 46 KOs), 33, who is a bit past his prime but a decorated fighter. Between world and interim titles, he has won seven belts in five divisions from junior flyweight to junior featherweight. More important for fight fans, he has been in numerous memorable brawls.
"I've always liked the fight," Cameron Dunkin, Donaire's manager, said. "Arce's a great name and Arce's a tough bastard. He proved it in the fight he had with Vazquez Jr. He was a big underdog, and came back and showed what he was about (by scoring a 12th-round knockout to win a junior featherweight title). Arce will fight his ass off against Donaire.
"He'll give it everything he's got and he will be tough, but Nonito is so highly skilled and fighting at such a high level, I don't see anyone at 122 dealing with him. It's good for Nonito to get a fourth fight this year. Four times is really neat in these times in boxing where a lot of champions fight only twice a year."
Donaire, a native of the Philippines living in the Oakland suburb of San Leandro, Calif., had problems with his left hand against Vazquez and Nishioka, suffering bad cuts on a knuckle. After the Nishioka bout, Donaire needed nine stitches in his hand and did not think he would be able to fight again this year. But Dunkin said the hand is OK.
"It's healed," he said. "He hasn't really done much with it (in training) yet. He's running and staying in shape and he says if he's in shape, he can hit with one hand for the first week or so of training and still get in four good weeks of training. That's all he needs because he has been so active and doesn't get out of shape."
Arum originally hoped to take the fight to the new Mexico City Arena, but wound up in Houston because of the costs associated with going to Mexico.
"HBO was prepared to go to Mexico, but the extra cost was prohibitive," Arum said. "Donaire was willing to go there so that wasn't the problem. The problem was we couldn't make it work economically. They didn't have a high-definition truck there that suited HBO and that means HBO would have to drive a truck there. It didn't make sense for this kind of event."
Arce began training late last month with Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, Mexico's most revered trainer, in anticipation of the fight being finalized. Arce is not concerned by his underdog status.
"They can say I am crazy, and much more, but I have shut the mouths of the critics in the ring many times, and against Donaire it will be no different," Arce said. "I am preparing like never before along with the best trainer Mexico has given to the world, Nacho Beristain, and I will win on Dec. 15."
Said Dunkin, "Nishioka is a great fighter but he was trying to play cat and mouse with Nonito. One thing about Arce, he won't play cat and mouse. He's coming to fight. Arce says Donaire is a good fighter but hasn't fought anyone with any balls, so that ought to tell you how hard he will try. He's a proud Mexican and will try to turn it into a sensational fight in Texas with so many Mexican fans there. It will be a really fun fight."