Donaire Gets a Scare

HBO broke the mold and provided an interesting co-feature on the Rubio-Chavez card this past weekend. Though I’ve heard a lot about the rising star and pound-for-pound contender Nonito Donaire, featherweights just don’t get the airtime that the heavier guys do and usually split off into their own events rather than being shown as an undercard or co-feature. So, as strange as it is, before Saturday I had never watched one of the sports biggest stars. Donaire’s reputation preceded him, but his less than impressive stature made me skeptical. Apparently a disparaging hat-tipping incident at the weigh-in drew great enmity from Donaire and he claimed he didn’t care about points, he just wanted the knockout. Right from the beginning of the fight I saw what analysts have been raving about. Donaire’s spatial awareness, coordination and fluidity of movement reminded me of the best speed fighters I’ve seen: Mayweather, Toney, Jones Jr., and any others that could go on the list. Then again, Vazquez was naturally heavier and had fought top competition before. Though Donaire cornered him for a quick flurry early on, Vazquez was able to withstand the assault and sustained very little damage. Donaire had to change his approach about halfway through the fight as the frustration of being unable to land one big shot sank in, allowing Vazquez to take rounds five and six. Late in the fight Donaire finally landed a glancing shot that put Vazquez down briefly, drawing great controversy from HBO analysts and even an unexpected obscenity from Harold Lederman who referred to it as a “bullshit left hook.” Maybe it wasn’t bullshit, but both fighters knew it wasn’t a fight-ending punch. Donaire pressed the action but showed no signs of going for a knockout while Vazquez re-established an extremely impressive jab. In the end, Donaire lived up to his reputation, but developed a discouraging welt around his right eye early in the fight. Vazquez was effective with his jab throughout the match and even though Donaire did have the speed and power to stay comfortable through the pummeling, his choice to look for haymakers rather than putting together combinations was unsettling. If he’s going to continue to rival pound-for-pound contenders like Martinez and Mayweather, he’s going to have to be able to brush off insults to his attire rather than altering his style, otherwise swollen features will be a common condition for this athletic marvel.

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