THE record books show that in the year 2012, Filipino boxers figured in 17 fights for the world titles of the four generally recognized governing bodies in boxing (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO) and ended up tallying a record of 10 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw.
The biggest winner is Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire Jr., who went 4-0 this year, with two wins by knockout. A former champion in the flyweight (122 pounds), super flyweight (115 pounds; interim only) and bantamweight (118 pounds) divisions, Donaire moved up to the super bantamweight (122 pounds) class on February 5 (Manila time) and collared the WBO’s version of the crown with a 12-round decision over Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Donaire was cruising to victory until he injured his left hand after knocking down Vazquez in the ninth round. The Puerto Rican rallied in the last few rounds but Donaire held on to eke out a split decision win.
Donaire dominated without a doubt in his next three fights, decisioning South African Jeffrey Mathebula for the combined WBO and IBF super bantamweight crowns on July 8; knocking out Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka in nine rounds on October 14; and demolishing Mexican Jorge Arce in three rounds on December 16. Donaire broke Mathebula’s jaw, floored Nishioka twice and mopped the canvas with Arce’s face three times. By the end of the year, Donaire (31-1, 20 knockouts) had earned a career-high US$1 million in earnings (for the Arce fight) and emerged the runaway choice for Fighter of the Year.
The other big winners in the year are light flyweights (108 pounds) Johnriel Casimero and Donnie Nietes, and flyweights (112 pounds) Sonny Boy Jaro and Brian Viloria.
Ormoc native Casimero (17-2, 10 knockouts), captured the interim IBF light flyweight diadem by way of a riotous 10th-round technical knockout win over Argentina’s Luis Lazarte on February 11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The match was downright dirty, with the combatants receiving several deductions for foul tactics. After Casimero sealed the win in the 10th round, the pro-Lazarte crowd went ballistic and threw several chairs and other debris into the ring, hitting Casimero and his cornermen. The IBF banned Lazarte for life after the match but it did not really matter as the Argentinean fighter announced his retirement after the fight.
Casimero, 22, became the regular IBF flyweight champ on August 5 by hammering out a close split decision win over previously unbeaten Mexican Pedro Guevara.
Donnie Nietes, who entered the year as the WBO light flyweight king, made only one successful defense of the title, scoring a ho-hum 12-round unanimous decision over Felipe Salguero of Mexico on June 2. To stay sharp, Nietes (31-1, 17 knockouts) stopped a grossly overmatched Danai Meendaeng of Thailand in five rounds in a non-title match on November 17.
Sonny Boy Jaro (34-11, 24 knockouts) was a winner and a loser in 2012. On March 2, he shocked oddsmakers by winning the WBC flyweight title with a devastating sixth-round knockout of dominant Thai champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Jaro literally pummelled Wonjongjam into submission, flooring the latter four times. Jaro’s title reign, however, was short-lived as he yielded the crown to Japanese Toshiyuki Igarashi on points on July 16.
The ‘Hawaiian Punch,’ Brian Viloria, concocted some explosive punches this year by going 2-0, all by knockout. On May 13, Viloria (32-3, 19 knockouts) defended the WBO flyweight title by stopping Mexican nemesis Omar Nino Romero in nine rounds at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City. Viloria saved the best for last, knocking out Mexican Hernan ‘Tyson’ Marquez on November 18 to unify the WBO and WBA flyweight titles. In a classic knuckle-fest, Viloria survived several scary moments to floor Marquez three times en route to a riveting 10th-round stoppage.
The Philippines is closing the year with four reigning world champions in Donaire, Viloria, Casimero and Nietes. While it is a reason to rejoice, it cannot be denied that the sport took it flush on the chin when boxing icon Manny Pacquiao failed to register a win in two ring appearances.
Pacquiao’s 15-bout winning streak came to an end on June 10, when he dropped a controversial 12-round split-decision to American Timothy Bradley for the WBO welterweight belt. Six months later, on December 9, Pacquiao absorbed the most shocking defeat of his career when he was knocked out cold in six rounds by Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez. In their fourth meeting, Pacquiao kissed the canvas in the third round but bounced back strong by knocking down Marquez in the fifth round. Pacquiao (54-5, 38 knockouts) was pummelling Marquez when he walked straight into a counter right by the Mexican in the dying seconds of the sixth round. Pacquiao crashed to the canvas and referee Kenny Bayless waived the fight off at 2:59 of the round.
Pacquiao’s numbing setback was a bitter pill to swallow for local fight fans, but it’s a good thing Donaire rose to the occasion in the nick of time and provided instant relief.