STORY OF PHILIPPINE BOXING PART LIV: NONITO DONAIRE, TEN WORLD TITLES IN FOUR WEIGHT DIVISIONS
By Maloney L. Samaco
Sun, 28 Jun 2020
On April 13, 2013, Nonito Donaire fought Guillermo Rigondeaux at the Radio City Music Hall, New York City to defend his WBO super bantamweight and Ring junior featherweight titles. Donaire knocked down Rigondeaux, the WBA (Super) super bantamweight champion, once in the 10th round on a right hand but Rigondeaux just recovered and dominated the "Filipino Flash."
Rigondeaux, the former two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, scored a unanimous decision against Donaire to unify two junior featherweight world titles. The judges all favored Rigondeaux, 116-111, 115-112 and 114-113.
On November 9, 2013 at the American Bank Center, Corpus Christi, Texas, Donaire fought Vic Darchinyan in non-title fight that was a rematch of their 2007 fight. Donaire had a good start, but Darchinyan retaliated in the middle rounds to take the lead on two of the official scorecards, 78-74, 78-74, and the third tied at 76-76.
Darchinyan fought better than he did six years earlier in their first encounter, he hurt Donaire a few times, but never threatened him. In the 9th round, Donaire was able to drop Darchinyan with a left hook. Although he was able to beat the count, Darchinyan could not defend the left hooks and uppercuts thrown at him and this prompted the referee to stop the fight at 2:06 of the round.
On May 31, 2014, Donaire fought South African Simpiwe Vetyeka for the WBA (Super) featherweight title at The Venetian Macao Hotel & Resort's Cotai Arena in Macau. Donaire knocked down Vetyeka in the 4th round with his patented left hook. The fight was stopped after the end of the 5th round due to a cut on Donaire's left eye inflected by an accidental head butt. Donaire was leading on all scorecards, 49-46 in all three, and won a unanimous technical decision.
On October 18, 2014, Donaire made the first defense of his WBA (Super) featherweight championship against undefeated Jamaican, WBA regular featherweight champion Nicholas "Axe Man" Walters. The fight was held at the StubHub Center, Carson, California.
Walters used his five-inch reach advantage to dominate almost the entire fight. Donaire had his moment at the 2nd round where he hurt Walters with a hard left hook, but it came just seconds before the round ended giving time for recovery.
In the 3rd round, Walters dropped Donaire for the first time in his career with a blistering uppercut. In the fifth round, Donaire's eyes wore swollen and bloody and Walters dropped him again with an overhand right before the referee stopped the fight. Donaire suffered his first and only career knockout loss so far.
On March 28, 2015, Donaire returned to the lower super bantamweight division and defeated William Prado of Brazil in two rounds to gain the vacant NABF super bantamweight title at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. A barrage of punches wobbled Prado at the end of the 1st round. Donaire continued his relentless attack at the start of the 2nd round and the referee halted the fight.
On July 18, 2015, Donaire also defeated France's Anthony Settoul in two rounds via TKO at The Venetian Macao in Macau, China. Donaire landed a hard right hand that sent Settoul down early in the opening round and a left uppercut to the ribs downed the Frenchman for the second time. In the second round, Donaire connected with a big right hand to the face flooring Settoul again, and his corner threw in the towel.
On December 11, 2015, Donaire won the vacant WBO super bantamweight title, beating Mexican Cesar Juarez by a unanimous decision. Donaire controlled the fight in the early rounds, scoring two knockdowns in the fourth round, using his dreaded left hooks. But Juarez got up each time and fought with a lot of heart and kept punching.
Donaire slowed down at the final half of the fight due to fatigue and an injured ankle. The closing rounds proved exciting as both fighters give their all, turning the fight into a brawl up to the final bell, ending the skirmish which left the two fighters exhausted. The scores were all in favor of "The Filipino Flash", 116-110, 116-110 and 117-109.
He defended the WBO title successfully against Zsolt Bedak of Hungary via a 3rd round TKO at the Cebu City Sports Center on April 23, 2016. Donaire floored down Bedak twice in the 2nd round, firing with extreme power and precision. In the 3rd round, a left hook shocked the challenger and downed him to his knee. The referee saw the bloodied face and halted the bout
Donaire suffered another loss, this time to Jessie Magdaleno as the co-main event on Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas on November 5, 2016 at the Thomas & Mack Center, Paradise, Nevada. He lost his WBO title to the American challenger who connected a considerable volume of punches and prevented Donaire from landing telling blows. The event marked the first time Donaire and Pacquiao, the two biggest boxing icons of the Philippines, have fought on the same card.
Donaire returned to the featherweight division and defeated Ruben Garcia Hernandez of Mexico via unanimous decision and won the vacant WBC silver featherweight title on September 23, 2017 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
On April 21, 2018 at the SSE Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland Donaire faced former two-division world champion Carl Frampton in his home turf. Frampton displayed excellent defense performance and outpunched Donaire en route to a unanimous decision, becoming the WBO interim super featherweight champion. All three judges scored the fight 117-111 for Frampton. Donaire was cut over his right eye after an accidental head butt in the 7th round.
The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) featherweight quarter finals was held at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland on November 3, 2018. Ryan Burnett of Belfast, Northern Ireland defended his title against Donaire. Burnett took the first two rounds but on the 3rd round he was hit by a counter left-hook to the body by Donaire.
Burnett was forced to take a knee in the 4th due to a back injury that did not appear to be caused by a punch after throwing a combination of punches and it was counted as a knock down for Donaire. He got back to his feet but reached his waistline with his right glove and failed to answer the bell for the 5th round. The Irishman retired with an injured back and left the ring on a stretcher.
On April 27, 2019, Nonito Donaire faced No. 5 WBA contender American Stephon Young, a last-minute substitute for the other WBSS semi-finalist and WBO bantamweight champion South African Zolani Tete, who withdrew from the WBSS semi-final against Donaire due to a shoulder injury. The fight was held at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Donaire caught Stephon Young with a ferocious left hook to the chin, dropping the American replacement opponent in the 6th round. The thundering left hook made Young unconscious even before he fell flat on his back, as the referee immediately stopped the fight without counting at the 2:45 mark.
On November 8, 2019, Donaire faced Naoya Inoue for the WBSS Championship at the Super Arena, Saitama, Japan. Inoue went into the Finals a heavy favorite to win by an early knockout of Donaire due to a very impressive track record.
"The Monster" defeated two opponents in just a total of five minutes. Inoue stopped Juan Carlos Payano of Dominican Republic in the 1st round and knocked out IBF bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico in the 2nd round. Facing Inoue in the Finals in tiptop shape was Donaire's biggest challenge.
Donaire controlled the opening stages. In the second round, Donaire opened a cut above Inoue's right eye with a left hook. It was the first time Inoue was cut in his career. Donaire absorbed the toughest punches that ordinary fighters would have succumbed to early stoppage. In the 11th round, Donaire was knocked down after taking a body shot but he got up. The bout was scored 116-111, 117-109, 114-113 unanimously in favor of Inoue.
Donaire lost the WBSS championship and his WBA (Super) bantamweight title. But he won Inoue's respect calling him as "a true champion." The fight was later awarded by The Ring as Fight of the Year 2019.
As of now, Donaire has 40 wins, 6 losses with 26 KO wins and 1 KO loss in 46 total bouts.
His major titles include ten world titles in four weight divisions. They are:
IBF flyweight champion
WBC bantamweight champion
WBO bantamweight champion
WBA (Super) bantamweight champion
WBO super bantamweight champion (twice)
IBF super bantamweight champion
WBA (Super) featherweight champion
WBA interim super flyweight champion
IBO flyweight champion
The Ring super bantamweight champion
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