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Donaire wins featherweight title despite severe gash

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Nonito Donaire scored a fourth-round knockdown and won the WBA featherweight title Saturday by unanimous decision over Simpiwe Vetyeka in a bout reduced to four rounds because Donaire sustained a cut from an accidental head butt at the end of the first round.

Despite the victory, Donaire (33-2) was frustrated by his lack of opportunity to show he has regained his mojo, which even the knockdown and the new title did not restore.

“I wanted to give the fans my best,” Donaire said. “I was halfway there.”

On all the scorecards, Vetyeka won the first round by landing a couple of jabs, and he appeared slightly quicker than Donaire, the former flyweight, junior bantamweight, bantamweight and super-bantamweight champion. But Donaire began to establish his power in the second round enough to win that, and then clearly outpunched Vetyeka in the third, staggering him with a right cross.

With referee Luis Pabon stopping the action a couple of times for inspections of Donaire’s left eye, there was a sense of desperation in the proceedings, the knowledge that trailing on the scorecards at any point was not an option for either fighter.

Emboldened by occasional success, Vetekya was mixing it up with Donaire in the fourth when Nonito landed a big right and then a left hook that put Vetekya on the canvas. Donaire staggered Vetekya with another left late in the round.

The fight was stopped after the fourth round, but there was a two-second fifth round (scored a draw) in accordance with WBA rules.

“In every round it kept getting worse,” Donaire said of the distraction from the cut and particularly the flow of blood into his eye. “It was too much of a disadvantage.”

So the result was “unfinished business,” as Donaire put it. He declared there will be a rematch, and as for the elite phase of his career, he is still declaring there will be a revival.

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