IT wasn’t exactly his finest moment, but a win is a win and so I’m glad Nonito Donaire Jr. is the newly crowned WBA featherweight champion.
The source of all the controversy is the laceration in Donaire’s left eye that took 11 stitches to close. Apparently, it was inflicted in the very first round by a headbutt, though referee Luis Pabon did not make that call (which he should have.)
THE FIGHT. Donaire was a bit cautious in the first round and Simpiwe Vetyeka was able to sneak in some jabs, but the former still edged it as he landed some whistling hooks and right hands. However, a clash of heads occurred, and this would prove to be determinative of the fight’s denouement.
In the second, there were more awkward moments with both fighters needing to be untangled and more clashing of heads. Still, Donaire landed several right hands, but the judges gave this round to Vetyeka.
In the third, Donaire’s sense of urgency propelled him to become more aggressive.
Donaire also landed a hook that made Vetyeka hold on to the top rope to steady himself. Under the rules, this should have been called a knockdown as the fighter on the receiving end of the blow is not allowed to hold on to the ropes to support himself- another error on the part of Ref Pabon.
Vetyeka gained some success early in the fourth as he landed some strong right hands, and drove Donaire to the ropes. Unfortunately, this only gave the latter the opening he needed, and a monster left hook had Vetyeka down and hurt.
He got up wobbly and Donaire tried to finish him off. Another hook had Vetyeka on queer street as he fell backward with only the ropes supporting and preventing his fall. Again, this could have been ruled another knockdown.
In his eagerness to finish off his hurt quarry, Donaire threw some wide shots that missed their mark, and Vetyeka hung on to survive.
Under the rules, after the fourth round the ref may call a halt to the proceedings and allow the judges to determine the victor based on the scorecards if the cut was caused by an accidental clash of heads. Before the 4th round, if it is stopped because a fighter is unable to continue, it will be declared a technical draw.
Thus, I thought that Ref Pabon’s decision to allow the fighters to come out for the fifth round for one second before declaring a stoppage was unnecessary and only added to the confusion.
STYLES. In my previous column, I predicted that the styles makes fights aphorism would
take centerstage. True enough, Vetyeka’s awkward, rugged stance did not quite mesh well with Donaire’s fiery, powerful approach.
The South African’s reach and obstinate jab troubled Donaire initially and the clash of heads was the inevitable result of two fighters jockeying for space and searching for that perfect angle from which to launch their combinations.
The cut was the game-changer as Donaire’s approach and strategy were clearly affected. His defense suffered as Vetyeka was able to capitalize on his opponent’s limited vision to sneak in those jabs and right hands.
But the prodigious power in those fists will always save the day for Donaire, similar to what happened in the rematch with Vic Darchinyan. That’s bad news for potential rivals as even a badly cut and hurt Donaire can change the tide of a fight with one
The “Filipino Flash” was very gracious in offering Vetyeka an immediate rematch. The first fight established that Donaire could hurt Vetyeka anytime he wanted to and in a rematch, it would be easier for his team to formulate a better offensive strategy.
Still, he can only learn a lot from that fight and what doesn’t kill him can only make him stronger. Somehow, that fight reminded me of Manny Pacquiao’s bizarre, foul- infested bout with the late Agapito Sanchez back in 2001. That fight was marred by headbutts, with Sanchez repeatedly punching Pacquiao’s legs. (Yes, his legs.)
Manny was cut and limping and looked like a badly beaten fighter at the conclusion of the bout. But it only toughened him up and we all know he went on to become an eight division champ.
LAST ROUND. It’s on Stela Castellano Ostrea who celebrates her birthday this week.