The Filipino Flash Nonito Donaire retained his World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior featherweight title with a masterful ninth-round technical knockout of Japan’s Toshiaki Nishioka at the Home Depot Center in Carson City, California.
Donaire thoroughly dominated the fight, winning each round and dropping the 36-year-old Nishioka in the sixth round with a crunching left uppercut before finishing off the overmatched Japanese in the ninth, sending him down with a right hand and connecting again with another right before referee Raul Caiz, Sr. wisely waved it off at 1:54 of the ninth.
The 29-year-old Donaire improved to 30-1 with 19 knockouts, while Nishioka, a former World boxing Council bantamweight champion who had said last week that he would retire after this fight win or lose, lost for the first time in over eight years and fell to 39-5-3 with 24 knockouts.
The fight was devoid of action for most of the first four rounds, and had the misfortune of following an action-packed welterweight brawl between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado that many are labeling as a potential Fight of the Year winner. Rios won via a seventh-round TKO in a thrilling bout that had both fighters going toe to toe trading blows over the first six rounds.
As a result, the crowd at the Home Depot Center started booing early in the main event to voice their displeasure with the lack of punches being thrown, particularly by Nishioka, who showed tremendous respect for Donaire’s left hook that he spent almost the entire fight holding up his right glove to shield his right temple.
Donaire patiently outboxed Nishioka over the first five rounds, doing more than enough to win each round and not forcing the issue. Nishioka hardly threw any meaningful punches during this stretch, but his work rate increase a bit in the fifth round as he began to open up and take some chances.
Donaire’s patience finally paid off in the sixth, when he caught Nishioka with a left uppercut that sent the Japanese veteran down to the canvas. He got up at the count of four and held on to survive the round, but by this time it was clear that a knockout was the only way Nishioka could salvage a win.
Knowing he was trailing badly in the scorecards, Nishioka went for broke in the seventh and eighth, which were perhaps his best rounds, but he wasn’t causing enough damage, and Donaire was still pitching a shutout entering the ninth.
Midway through the ninth, after Nishioka tried throwing a combination, Donaire unleashed a right straight that connected solidly and sent Nishioka to the canvas for the second time. He gamely got up and signaled to Caiz that he could still continue, but after Donaire immediately hit him again with another solid right to the face, Caiz stepped in and prevented Nishioka from absorbing further punishment.
“He was aiming for that homerun, but I was aiming for a grand slam,” Donaire said after his win.
“To set it up, in the beginning I was catching him with uppercuts, so he was afraid of the uppercut. And that’s why he leaned back more, and that’s where we were able to get him with the right hand.”
“Donaire’s really strong in the early rounds, so I was looking at the middle rounds,” said Nishioka through an interpreter, explaining why he covered up and hardly threw a punch in the first four rounds.
“Yes, I was surprised,” he answered, when asked about the left uppercut that floored him in the sixth.
Later on, Donaire posted a picture of his left fist on Twitter, which showed a big cut on the knuckle above his left index finger.
“Gonna get stitched up. This was opened during sparring n know it was gonna open up during the fight. I’ma take rest of year off.”
The Rios-Alvarado bout was predicted to be a humdinger, and it did not disappoint. Both men went at it right from the opening bell, and the momentum swung back and forth over the first six rounds. Just when one of them seemed to gain an advantage, the other would come back strongly. Rios (31-0-1, with 22 KOs) finally caught Alvarado (33-1, with 23 KOs) in the seventh round with a right hand that staggered the latter and followed it up with a couple more solid punches before the referee stepped in at the 1:57 mark.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum had been quoted as saying that the winner of Rios-Alvarado would meet the winner of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on December 8, although a rematch between the two would certainly be an interesting fight as well.
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