Nonito Donaire, the 2012 fighter of the year and a former titleholder in three divisions, will attempt to win a world title in his fourth weight division when he challenges Simpiwe Vetyeka on May 31, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday.
The fight, which has been in the pipeline since Vetyeka upset Chris John to win a 126-pound world title on Dec. 6, will take place on at the CotaiArena at Venetian Macao in Macau, China and be televised in the United States on HBO2.
"We're going to increase the number of cards we are going to do in Asia and we can't have Zou Shiming on every card," Arum said of the two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist, who has been the central figure in Top Rank's recent series of cards in Macau. "So now we have to build up interest in other fighters. Donaire (a native of the Philippines) will have a big following since it's only an hour and five minutes by plane from Manila to Macau and there are regular flights. There's also a big Filipino population in Macau and in Hong Kong (which is a half-hour ferry away)."
The card will also include two other featherweight world title bouts as Nicholas Walters is due to defend his belt against an opponent to be determined and Evgeny Gradovich will fight mandatory challenger Alexander Miskirtchian, the former European champion. If Donaire wins he is likely to later face one of the winners of the other title bouts, Arum said.
Donaire (32-2, 21 KOs), who lives in Las Vegas, will be fighting for the second time at featherweight and for the first time since scoring a ninth-round knockout of former two-division titlist Vic Darchinyan in their November rematch, which came one bout after Donaire lost a decision and his junior featherweight title to Guillermo Rigondeaux last April. Although Donaire knocked out Darchinyan for the second time, he had a shaky performance and suffered a fractured orbit bone below his right eye that put him on the shelf until the late spring.
However, Donaire, 31, is already in training in the Philippines, where is father, Nonito Donaire Sr., is preparing him. Father and son reunited before the Darchinyan rematch following a lengthy estrangement, and Nonito Sr. worked the corner as an assistant to head trainer Robert Garcia.
Cameron Dunkin, Donaire's manager, told ESPN.com that he was not sure what Garcia's role would be in the training camp, if any, since he is training his other fighters at his Oxnard, Calif., gym, including Gradovich.
"Robert I'm sure will go to the fight, but I've got to iron all that out," Dunkin said. "Nonito thought it was the right thing to train over there [in the Philippines] since the fight is in Asia. He's really comfortable there and he will already be on the same time zone."
Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs), 33, of South Africa, scored a major upset when he knocked out then-unbeaten long-reigning titleholder John in the sixth round in December, ending John's reign 10-year title reign.
"This is the guy who knocked out Chris John, which means something after he made 18 defenses," Arum said. "It's a very important fight for Donaire, obviously."
Said Dunkin, "Nonito is really excited and motivated for this fight. It's the most motivated I have seen him in a long, long time. Before the fight with Rigondeaux, he told he didn't even know if he wanted to fight anymore. He had his shoulder problems and hand problems. He beat himself up because he was so active (with four fights in 2012). He wasn't healing between fights and hard training camps.
"He told me he's motivated for this fight and that he wants to fight and wants to show everyone what he can do and show the people who have given up on him, or think he isn't what he once was. He wants to show people that he is still one of the best, which he is. I love that attitude. He's a tremendous fighter and when his mind is right and he's motivated, he's terrific."
Part of the deal for the fight was an extension to Donaire's promotional agreement with Top Rank. Dunkin said he met with Top Rank president Todd duBoef on Monday and they are close to finalizing the extension.
"Nonito has a great deal and it will be even better if he wins this fight," Dunkin said. "But this guy (Vetyeka) is a tough, tough guy, maybe the toughest guy Nonito has ever fought other than Rigondeaux, maybe even tougher than that because of his size. He can punch, he's long-armed and he's big."
Walters (23-0, 19 KOs), 28, of Jamaica, will be making his second title defense. He was supposed to face Alejandro Perez of Salinas, Calif., but Perez lost an upset split decision to journeyman Juan Carlos Martinez in what was supposed to be a tune-up bout last Saturday night in Las Vegas. The loss knocked Perez out of the title fight and left Top Rank looking for a new opponent. Arum said the fight has been offered to Darchinyan (39-6-1, 28 KOs), 38, a native of Armenia based in Australia, who has not fought since the competitive loss to Donaire.
Gradovich (18-0, 9 KOs), 27, of Russia, will be making his third title defense, all in Macau, when he faces Miskirtchian (24-2-1, 9 KOs), 28, a native of the former Soviet republic of Georgia who lives in Belgium. He has won 11 consecutive fights since 2008.
In another fight on the card, junior featherweights Chris Avalos (23-2, 17 KOs), 24, of Lancaster, Calif., and Yasutaka Ishimoto (24-6, 7 KOs), 32, of Japan, will meet in a title eliminator for the right to face the winner of the April 23 fight between titleholder Kiko Martinez and Hozumi Hasegawa.