By Sean Crose
Working behind an effective jab, while employing powerful shots and a nuanced defense, Nonito Donaire (35-3) looked sharp in the early going Friday night as he battled Casear Juarez (17-3) at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While Juarez was able to land on occasion in the early going, Donaire’s advanced skill set allowed the former highly regarded five time champion to assert himself.
Surprisingly, however, Juarez was able to work Donaire onto the ropes and to land effectively at the end of the third. While Donaire was unquestionably the fighter with the star power in this WBO world super bantamweight title fight, Juarez proved he was able to succeed if he could get through Donaire’s defense.
Juarez was rocked hard in the fourth, however – so hard that he hit the mat. Donaire went to finish him off, but – to his credit – Juarez remained standing. Indeed, he was able to get Donaire back on the ropes. Donaire, however, was able to put his man down again. Juarez got back on his feet for a second time, but Donaire decided to remain patient, and picked his shots effectively and with great brutality until the end of the round.
Juarez went for broke in the fifth, but Donaire was too controlled and efficient a fighter to let himself be badly damaged. As commentator Tim Bradley said of the Filipino fighter, “He sees everything coming.” Still, Juarez’ aggressiveness may well have won him the round. To make matters worse for Donaire, he was clearly injured by a slip at the end of the sixth.
While it was true that Donaire seemed no worse for wear in the seventh, Juarez’ aggression seemed to finally be paying off. Things appeared to be changing, at bit. Donaire received more than he gave in that round, allowing Juarez to win the chapter. By the ninth, things became downright strange as Juarez whaled away at the lackadaisical former star.
By the tenth, the incredible happened – Donaire went down. It was ruled a slip, but the ref’s call was questionable, if not understandable. Donaire came back, ferociously rocking his man, and Juarez rocked right back. Donaire was breathing heavily in between rounds, and it was now hard to tell who was exactly going to walk away the winner.
Donaire retreated effectively in the eleventh, picking his shots and being the more active of the two. Yet Juarez, blood visibly emerging from his mouth, refused to stop moving forward. By the end of the round he was once again banging away at Donaire on the ropes.
The twelfth and final chapter was thrilling, with both men banging away at each other. Donaire may have been looking like he was about to pass out, but his skill and heart allowed him to perform valiantly in the end. It was enough to keep him on his feet…and it was enough to win the man the fight (by a unanimous and ridiculously wide decision).
This was not, however, the Donaire of old.