In many ways, Nonito Donaire’s victory Saturday over Japanese star Toshiaki Nishioka ranked with his best work ever. Yet the crowd booed for much of the super-bantamweight title fight. Donaire had been upstaged before his bout began.
“I don’t think I would have taken a main event behind those two,” quipped Roy Jones Jr., the boxing great-turned HBO commentator, referring to Saturday’s sub-main event, Brandon Rios’ rousing victory in a seven-round junior welterweight war with Mike Alvarado.
After the crowd of 8,000 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., had seen that, nothing was going to satisfy some of the less astute boxing fans in their midst short of a couple of pit bulls eviscerating each other.
Instead they saw Donaire artistically pick apart a reluctant opponent by dancing rings around him and hitting him from improbable angles with surprising timing, thus reinforcing Nishioka’s already-abiding respect for him. The crowd didn’t respect that.
Hey, they used to boo Pernell Whitaker, too.
Donaire put on a clinic at that level of distinction, one that reflected Donaire’s presence among the world’s top five boxers, pound-for-pound. He left Nishioka no choice but to go out on his sword by opening up and starting to attack Donaire in the fifth and sixth rounds.
Donaire dropped Nishioka in the sixth with a left uppercut and then had to figure out how to finish the job with an injured left hand, a recurring problem.
Donaire’s straight right has not heretofore imitated the legendary magnitude of his counter left hooks, like the one that knocked out Vic Darchinyan in Donaire’s 2007 breakthrough fight or the one that toppled Fernando Montiel in 2011. But the straight right that waylaid Nishioka in the ninth round Saturday was the most audaciously vicious knockout punch we’ve seen Donaire (30-1, 19 knockouts) land with either hand.
It was a beautiful knockout. Nishioka (39-5-3) seemed to have maneuvered Donaire against the ropes and was trying to press the advantage when he leaned to his right and Donaire unlanded the thunderous right to the left cheek that sent Nishioka to the canvas as if he’d been shot. He managed to get up, but referee Raul Caiz Sr. stopped the bout as soon as Donaire landed one more power shot, reportedly at the request of Nishioka’s corner.
That was lucky crowd in Carson. To see a barnburner like Rios-Alvarado and then see a great fighter like Donaire display most of his considerable dimensions, including showmanship, as a boxer and then finish the job with the punch of the night, they couldn’t have asked for more.
BOXING POLITICS: Although the victory over Nishioka, compounding his victory over Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., last February and his win over Jeffrey Mathebula in July, was intended to add another ingredient to Donaire’s dominance in the 122-pound division, he finished the evening with only one of the four belts issued by the four major sanctioning organizations. That’s the WBO belt he won from Vasquez.
During the weekend Donaire relinquished the IBF belt he won from Mathebula, because the IBF was mandating a defense before 2013 against either of two obscure super-bantamweights the IBF rates highly but HBO would deem not worthy of televising against Donaire. Worse, the IBF required a sanctioning fee of $40,000, which was what persuaded manager Cameron Dunkin to convince Donaire it wasn’t worth it. Nishioka had similarly lost the WBC title last year (but then was issued the ridiculous emeritus version, the WBC diamond championship).
Abner Mares holds the real WBC title and Guillermo Rigandeaux holds the WBA title. If Donaire can’t line up good fights with either for early spring 2013, he’ll probably set his sights on the featherweight division.