Former four-division world titleholder Nonito Donaire, out of action since a controversial junior featherweight world title loss nearly a year ago, will return on Sept. 23 to face Ruben Garcia Hernandez, Ringstar Sports promoter Richard Schaefer announced on Tuesday.
Donaire, who is moving back up in weight to the featherweight division where he once held a world title, will face Garcia Hernandez at the Alamodome in San Antonio in the co-feature of the card headlined by the World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal match between cruiserweight world titleholder Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs) defending against "The Russian Hammer" Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs).
Donaire, 34, known as the "Filipino Flash," has not fought since November, when he lost his junior featherweight world title by controversial decision to Jessie Magdaleno. Unable to get the rematch he wanted, and with little time remaining on his promotional contract with Top Rank, Donaire (37-4, 24 KOs) asked for and was granted an early release from his agreement, after which Schaefer signed him with the goal of getting him a featherweight world title shot in early 2018.
"I'm ready to return to the ring and show that I still have what it takes to be a world champion and face the best in this sport," Donaire said. "I'm thankful to Ringstar Sports for helping me in this next chapter of my career and I know with them in my corner, I'll be back to where I belong soon. I'm excited to give the great fight fans in San Antonio a great show, just like when I fought Wilfredo Vazquez at the Alamodome in 2012."
Donaire dropped Vasquez in the ninth round and won a decision to claim a vacant junior featherweight world title at the Alamodome in 2012 on his way to consensus fighter of the year honors.
"After this fight, I'm coming for all of the featherweight champions and to prove I'm the best in the division," said Donaire, who won a featherweight belt by fifth-round technical decision against Simpiwe Vetyeka in 2014 but lost it later that year in his first defense when he was knocked out by Nicholas Walters in the sixth round.
After the loss, Donaire returned to the junior featherweight division and eventually won another world title.
Garcia Hernandez (22-2-1, 9 KOs), 24, of Mexico, has won seven fights in a row since a seventh-round stoppage loss to former bantamweight world titleholder Randy Caballero in February 2016.
"I am grateful for this opportunity and I can't wait to get in the ring," Garcia Hernandez said. "I know that I am facing a great fighter and that has motivated me to train harder than ever before for this matchup. I'm planning on giving it my all and giving the fans a great fight. I hope Donaire comes to fight because I am coming to knock him out on Sept. 23rd."
Schaefer has high hopes for Donaire.
"When he signed I was excited because he comes to fight, he's never in a boring fight and he goes for the knockout. He's must-see TV," Schaefer said. "He is in one of the most exciting divisions, 126 pounds, where he fits right in with any of the champions, assuming everything goes well. With him moving back up to featherweight he feels much more comfortable.
"He didn't want an easy opponent. He wanted a credible opponent, which is what he has here. Being Nonito Donaire, he always has a target on his back and Ruben has been waiting for an opportunity like this. The fight is a good indication where Nonito Donaire is at this stage of his career and if he turns in a good performance it will open the doors to a bigger fight."
Schaefer said Donaire asked him if he could secure him a major fight in his return but they were not available.
"Those doors were not open but I think they will be in the first quarter of next year and he can get one of those fights," Schaefer said.
Schaefer said he would like to line up Donaire to face either former titlist Carl Frampton, reigning titleholder Lee Selby or perhaps titlist Leo Santa Cruz or secondary titlist Abner Mares, though Santa Cruz and Mares are on track to meet in a rematch in early 2018.
"Frampton's been looking for a fight and Nonito wouldn't mind at all traveling to the U.K. to do the fight. Same with fighting Selby in Wales. No problem," Schaefer said. "That's the nice thing about Nonito - he doesn't turn down anybody. I like fighters like that."
The Sept. 23 card will also feature a 10-round cruiserweight bout between World Boxing Super Series alternates Keith Tapia (17-1, 11 KOs), 27, of Bronx, New York, and former title challenger Lateef Kayode (21-1, 16 KOs), 34, a Nigeria native fighting out of Los Angeles. Kayode has been out the ring since being knocked out in the eighth round of a cruiserweight title fight by Denis Lebedev in November 2015.