Is Nonito Donaire blowing his chance at greatness?
by Daniel Vano.
On the surface, this seems like a strange question. The ‘Filipino Flash’, Nonito Donaire, cruised to a unanimous decision on Saturday night, adding Jeffry Mathebula’s IBF Super Bantamweight title to his growing collection of world championships. Scores of 119-108, 118-109 and 117-110 portray a picture of dominance. Add to that a heavy knockdown scored in round four, and raised eyebrows may come my way.
But Nonito Donaire was anything but dominant in the Home Depot Centre in Carson, California. While the judges may have scored the fight a near shut out, Donaire’s swollen face told a different story, as did the punch stats. According to CompuBox, by the end of round 9, Mathebula had out-landed Donaire in every round apart from the 4th, when both fighters connected with 19 punches. The South-African’s height and reach advantage was causing the pound for pound star all kinds of problems, and going into the championship rounds, I had Mathebula up 95-94.
Although the reason for Donaire’s struggle may have been Mathebula’s awkwardness, it became clear to me that Donaire himself was the problem. Like so many punchers who have come before him, Nonito has started to fall in love with his power. It wasn’t hard to look for examples of this on Saturday night. Donaire continually ploughed forward, looking for that one big money shot to end proceedings. But it just wasn’t working. ‘There goes Donaire looking for that home run left hook, but he is getting hit with about eight shots.’ While Max Kellerman spoke these words in round 9, he could have uttered them in every round.
Unfortunately for Donaire, jaw-dropping knockouts have come to be expected from him ever since he shocked the world by stopping Vic Darchinyan in the 5th round of Ring Magazine’s Upset of the Year way back in 2007. In 2011 he repeated the feat, this time brutalising Fernando Montiel in the second round. Indeed, since stopping the previously undefeated Darchinyan, Donaire has left a path of destruction in his wake. Brutal stoppage wins over Volodymyr Sydorenko, Hernan Marquez, Raul Martinez and Moruti Mthalane left many ranking Donaire as one of the best fighters in the world, with some suggesting he was the hardest hitting fighter on the planet in a pound for pound sense.
While numerous World Titles at Flyweight, Super Flyweight, and Bantamweight were added in the process, Donaire’s style was changing. No longer was he setting up the power shots by using his awesome boxing skills, instead he began looking for ‘that home run left hook.’ As a result, performances against Omar Narvaez and Wilredo Vazquez Jr up at Super Bantamweight have been less than awe inspiring, despite ‘Flash’ adding yet another world title to his collection.
Ironically, however, it was Nonito’s power which may have bailed him out on Saturday night. The knockdown in the 4th round, as well as inflicting a possible broken jaw to Mathebula in the 11th round, which subsequently slowed the South African up for the rest of the fight, saw him scrape home 114-113 on my card. But it is now clear a change is needed. Donaire needs to revert back to the style which made him such a force, boxing his way inside, and letting the power shots flow by countering opponents with his quick, awkward punches.
Greatness beckons for the man they call the ‘Flash’. But he will need to be a lot better against the best fighters the Super Bantamweight division has to offer, namely Toshiaki Nishioka, Abner Mares, and the talented Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, if he is to achieve his boxing destiny. A further move up in weight has been spoken about, with a mouth watering fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa a very real possibility in the near future.
I shall end this by repeating myself. Greatness beckons for this talented 29 year old. The only man in Nonito Donaire’s way is the ‘Filipino Flash’ himself.