The Return Of Nonito Donaire


by Sean Crose

Nonito Donaire entered the ring in Macao, China on Saturday looking energized and determined. His opponent, Simpiwe Vetyeka, came out smiling and relaxed-looking while Bob Marley flowed from the speakers of the auditorium. Looks can be deceiving, though, and Vetyeka was guaranteed to be far from a walk in the park for Donaire.

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Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

After Robin Leach (that’s right, Robin Leach) announced the fighters, it was time to throw down. Donaire was clearly the favorite among the Asian crowd, but the fight really was anyone’s guess when the opening bell rang. Donaire had been disappointing in the the past year, after all. And Vetyeka, well Vetyeka was fast and could hit. It was a coin toss.

The first round was close, with both men testing each other. Vetyeka indeed looked fast, but Donaire was playing smart and sharp. Unfortunately, the two men butted heads at the end of the round. Donaire went to the mat after the bell, then went to his corner with a nasty cut over his left eye.

In round two, it looked like the fight might be stopped – not because of a punch or punches, but because the referee wanted the Donaire’s cut to be checked by a doctor. This made for the worst possible situation, for the bout couldn’t be stopped for an accidental cut until the fourth. In fact, it was the cut and not the action that seemed to dominate all the attention in the second.

Donaire came out for the third aggressive. It was reminiscent of Hagler back when he fought Hearns in ’85. Donaire, like Hagler on that night, probably didn’t want to be stopped by a cut. Either way, the Filipino Flash looked impressive. Max Kellerman of HBO wasn’t impressed with the man, but Roy Jones and Jim Lampley admired the power he was bringing to his shots.

Vetyeka looked good at the start of the fourth. His punches were fast and crisp and Donaire was actually on the ropes. Then Donaire instantly took charge by sending his opponent to the mat. Vetyeka got up, but Donaire was clearly the man in charge. With the doctor having to look at Doanire’s eye again before the end of the round, it became clear that the fight might well not go the distance.

The truth, however, is that it wouldn’t go another round. The bout was stopped two seconds into the fifth due to Donaire’s cut. It was clear Donaire’s huge fourth round would make the difference as far as the judging went . The reading of the unanimous decision in favor of Donaire was merely a formality. The Filipino fighter had won the bout, albeit strangely, and everyone knew it.

What did this fight have to say about Donaire, though? Was the man truly back? Kellerman certainly didn’t seem think so. In fact, Donaire himself didn’t seem overly impressed. Larry Merchant, Lampley and Jones, however, came away approving of the man’s performance. He was hitting hard and dominating in the fourth, after all. While he wasn’t as slick as he may have previously been, he was certainly effective.

Perhaps Donaire’s style has changed. An alteration certainly isn’t indicative of a decline, however, at least not always. So the world will have to wait and see. I personally thought Donaire looked good. Still, time will once again tell the tale. Donaire gamely offered Vetyeka a rematch. It’s a fight worth looking forward to, for it will make a definitive statement amount Nonito Donaire…and about his future in the ring.

Again, though, Donaire certainly didn’t look bad. Even the man’s harshest critic would agree with that.

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