Nonito Donaire hung on to survive a Fight of the Year war, while Felix Verdejo had a far easier night.
SAN DIEGO, December 11, 2015 – Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire (36-3, 23 KOs) came away with a unanimous decision victory in an entertaining Fight of the Year brawl over a tough Cesar Juarez of Mexico (17-4, 13 KOs) winning the vacant WBO junior featherweight title. Donaire said it was the toughest fight of his career.
While the fans got to see an exciting, action packed fight, it shouldn’t have been anywhere near as difficult for Donaire to get the victory as it turned out. The 24-year-old Juarez had two upset victories to merit this opportunity, but it was expected to be a fight in which Donaire could put on a show and get back into the mix in the competitive 122-pound lightweight division. Juarez had other ideas.
The four-division champion Donaire seemed to have the fight in hand after two superb left hook knockdowns in the fourth round. He looked like the 2012 Fighter of the Year version of himself. The commentary team including boxers Ray Mancini and Timothy Bradley Jr. called for Juarez’s corner to throw in the towel.
In the final round, Donaire should have coasted on the strength of the two early knockdowns. Instead, he decided to try and end the fight. But Donaire didn’t have the same snap on his punches he did earlier in the fight, and if he hadn’t stopped Juarez then, his chance of stopping him late were slim – and none as it happened.
Donaire won the first half of the fight; Juarez won the second half. If Juarez had been credited with the tenth round knockdown, it would have been a razor thin margin, and Donaire would still have escaped with a win. Donaire won with scores of 116-110, 116-110, and a ridiculous 117-109.
After the bout, Donaire told Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher said he was limited in the middle rounds due to a slip as the two fighters tangled their feet at the end of the fourth round. Donaire said his chiropractor told him he’d perhaps twisted some interior joints in the foot, and he couldn’t plant the foot when throwing punches, so he had to fight the remaining rounds punching only with his arms. He didn’t use it as an excuse, he said.
“Mentally a lot of guys would have said forget this, I’m done. But I said, I’m never going to be done until you take me down. I’m never gonna give up. I was going to keep pushing. It was such a blessing.” I was able to push farther, I’m thankful,” said Donaire.
Donaire said he would give Juarez a rematch. Once he’s had time to sleep on it, Donaire and his team might want to reconsider. The 33-year-old Donaire took way too much punishment at this stage of his career. He may have gotten the win and mentally he may see it as a turning point. Donaire cannot fight against the likes of Carl Frampton or Scott Quigg the way he did Friday.
What Donaire wants before he calls it a career is to get his revenge against Guillermo Rigondeaux. He better try and do it quick before Rigo shakes off the rust he showed in the ring against Drian Francisco a few weeks ago, or it won’t happen for him.
Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo (19-0, 14 KOs) had an easy night of it against Josenilson Dos Santos (27-4, 17 KOs) of Brazil. This fight served mainly as a test of Verdejo’s left hand, which was injured during his fight in June against Texan Ivan Najera. He had surgery to repair the hand and remove bone spurs. No issues with the hand at all, although he didn’t need to do a lot with it. Verdejo spent the first round feeling Dos Santos out. In the second round, he got down to work. After snapping Dos Santos’ head with a left jab, he feinted with the same jab and planted one sizzling right hand to halt the fight at 2:21 of the second round.
Verdejo’s idol, the great Puerto Rican champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad was watching the bout ringside. Verdejo said it was an honor to win in front of Trinidad. Verdejo said he’s eager to get back in the ring in the first few months of 2016. Let’s see who Top Rank can put in front of this rising star.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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