Last year, Nonito Donaire established himself as one of the best fighters in the world. Earlier this year, his pro-random drug testing actions made him the cleanest fighter in the world.
After stopping Jorge Arce in his tracks on Saturday night, Donaire established himself as 2012’s top fighter in the world.
A capped a career year in which Donaire won belts in a fourth weight class while scoring wins over four universally regarded Top 10 opponents. Included among the lot was his 9th round stoppage win over Toshiaki Nishioka to gain recognition as the lineal 122 lb. champion.
Despite once again damaging his hands in the bout, Donaire healed quick enough to return to the ring just two months later for his fourth fight of the year. All four bouts aired live on HBO, and Saturday’s performance was the latest reminder of why Donaire is well worthy of such exposure. All told, his only concern wasn’t so much his opponent but whether or not his right hand would hold up.
“We didn’t go hard in sparring except to try out (the right hand),” Donaire admitted. “We were nervous going into this fight, but we were confident no matter what.”
The three rounds exhibited in the night’s main event justified such confidence.
Few if any experts gave Arce more than a puncher’s chance in this fight, but the former four-division champion never put himself in position to even make that happen. Donaire was surgical with his jab, keeping Arce within desired range, leading to the bout’s first knockdown early in the second round. Both fighters simultaneously landed right hands, but Donaire’s proved more damaging as Arce’s glove touched the canvas to produce the correctly called knockdown.
Arce attempted to press the action in the third, but Donaire proved game to the change of pace. A left hook for the Fil-Am star landed while his back was against the ropes. Arce’s most notable moments of the round came in the form of machismo, banging his chin and daring Donaire to bring it.
Be careful what you ask for.
Donaire dropped Arce twice in the final minute of the round. A right hand and two left hooks forced Arce to the canvas, to which he arose on wobbly legs. Sensing a finished opponent, Donaire moved in for the kill. A sensational left hook put his older foe down and out. Referee Laurence Cole began to count, but waved it off midway through as Arce laid flat on his back.
The official time was 2:59 of round three.
Clearly establishing himself as the world’s premiere 122 lb. king, the only question left is whether Donaire’s reign of terror in the past 12 months is enough to earn Fighter of the Year honors.
For now, Donaire is content to have properly served his fan base.
“There were a lot of fans who were telling me, ‘You gotta get him’ for Filipino respect,” said Donaire, speaking to the Mexico v. Philippines rivalry and Juan Manuel Marquez’ stunning knockout of Manny Pacquiao last week. A replay of the event preceded Saturday’s live portion on HBO, and was concluded with Donaire winning his fourth fight of the year as he improves to 31-1 (20KO).
Donaire has taken a stance on a lot of subjects. Among them is his signing on for 24/7/365 drug testing, as he is subject to random testing conducted by Voluntary Anti-Doping Agenct (VADA). He also proudly serves his Filipino roots – as evidenced by his being accompanied in the ring by Apl.De.Ap of Black Eyed Peas.
His proud heritage taken into consideration, Donaire also acknowledged his many friends and family on the other side of the rivalry
“I’m friends with a lot of Mexicans. My trainer Robert Garcia is Mexican,” Donaire pointed out, which also spoke to the friendship beyond the ring with his opponent.
Also speaking to that is Arce himself, whose post-fight announcement was perhaps more revealing than what he offered in three rounds of one-sided action at the hands of Donaire.
“My career is over. I lost to the best man,” insisted Arce, who falls to 61-7-2 (46KO). “I have a family to take care of. I have my children. I promised them that if I lost, I would retire. I lost and I’m a man of my word.”
While Arce’s career winds down, Donaire looks to 2013 and beyond. World titles in four weight classes are eye-catching enough, but the rising superstar still believes there is plenty of work to be done.
“I want to get (Abner) Mares and he’s calling me out,” Donaire acknowledged. “But if that doesn’t happen, we always have Guillermo Rigondeaux next.”
Rigondeaux was supposed to appear in the televised undercard, a showcase slot that would have went a long way towards building increased interest in a head-on collision. His role was instead reduced to the role of spectator, when originally scheduled opponent Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym was denied a license by the Texas Boxing Commission after failing his pre-fight medical exams.
Donaire and Rigondeaux are both promoted by Top Rank, the chief rival to Golden Boy Promotions, the promotional banner under which Mares fights.
The politics of the sport suggest one fight is a lot easier than the other to be made. After scoring four big wins in the ring in 2012, Donaire isn’t scared for one more tough fight on either side of the ropes.
“I have already (called out my promoter),” Donaire emphatically stated when asked if he would challenge Top Rank to change its stance on doing business with Golden Boy for the sake of securing a fight with Mares. “For the past two years, I have already.”
For the past two years, Donaire has also established himself as one of the very best in the world, dating back to his explosive second round knockout of Fernando Montiel in Feb. ’11. The night marked the first of six straight appearances on HBO.
The last of that stretch has possibly established Nonito Donaire as 2012’s Fighter of the Year.
By Jake Donovan