NONITO Donaire Jr.’s ninth-round technical knockout victory over Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka did not make for a bone-crunching experience, at least not for the boxing fans who were expecting an all-out brawl, but for the purists the win showed why the sport takes pride in being known as the sweet science.
Like a forensic expert going through a crime scene, Donaire meticulously dissected Nishioka’s style and figured out the Japanese one piece of evidence at a time. Heading into the fight, Nishioka flaunted the reputation of a pressure fighter who annihilated foes with his vaunted left straight. Nishioka had gone unbeaten in his last 16 fights and was looking to make Donaire the final feather on his cap.
After the fight, Nishioka did sport the look of a fighter ready for retirement. It’s safe to say though that it was not what the Japanese had in mind. Nishioka, who reigned undefeated as World Boxing Council super bantamweight champion for almost three years, clearly wanted to go out with a bang.
Donaire carried a concrete fight plan into the ring and executed it to perfection; right down to the final letter. Nishioka, who always bullied his way inside uncontested, found himself dealing with a pesky left jab from Donaire from the outset. Having been born a natural southpaw, Donaire’s left jab carries an extra thud and is not meant to just annoy an adversary. In his previous fights, Nishioka reaped success with his left straight because opponents just backpedalled the moment the Japanese started working his way inside. With sufficient space between him and his foe, Nishioka was able to fully extend his arm and deliver his left straight to perfection.
But such was not the case with Donaire. Nishioka found himself dealing with a huge roadblock that was Donaire’s left jab. However, the Filipino did not just flick the left jab, he varied it. On several occasions, Donaire doubled up on the left hand; throwing a left jab and immediately following it up with a left to the body and vice versa. The idea behind the double left was to force Nishioka’s tight guard to open up. Anticipating the left hook, Nishioka kept his right glove glued to his jaw in the opening rounds.
In the sixth stanza, Donaire executed the trick again and it worked wonders. First, he forced Nishioka to almost double up in pain with a good left to the body. With Nishioka momentarily dropping his guard to check his ribcage, Donaire unloaded a left uppercut that landed flush on Nishioka’s finally unprotected mug. Nishioka landed hard on the canvas and looked dazed and confused as he got back on his feet.
Nishioka tried to press the attack in the succeeding rounds in a desperate attempt to turn the tide, but Donaire was just too wily a fighter. On the few occasions Nishioka got past the left jab, Donaire was quick to side step and greet the onrushing Nishioka with his right hand. The end result had Nishioka running smack into another roadblock: the right hand. Unlike Nishioka who favors only his left hand, Donaire is a two-fisted fighter. Donaire’s multi-faceted offense is just one of the many things that make him tough to beat.
Nishioka’s left straight is neutralized when there is not enough space between him and the opposing fighter. In addition, Nishioka tends to leave himself wide open for counters when he suddenly darts inside and misfires with his left. In the ninth round, Donaire applied the finishing touch by exposing this weakness of Nishioka and making him pay dearly for it. When Nishioka pressed the attack anew in the round, Donaire leaned a bit on the ropes and pulled back just in time for Nishioka to misfire. The moment Nishioka’s defense opened up, Donaire countered with a textbook right straight. Boom! Nishioka went down like trash being unloaded by a dump truck. While Nishioka showed a lot of heart by beating the count again, his cornermen had seen enough and threw the proverbial white towel of surrender into the ring. Referee Raul Caiz, Sr. officially pulled the plug at the 1:54 mark of the ninth round.
Donaire improved his ledger to 30-1 with 19 knockouts. The victory gave Donaire his first stoppage victory at 122 pounds. In his last two fights which both went the distance (against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Jeffrey Mathebula), Donaire was accused of trying too hard to get a spectacular win. For the Nishioka fight, he was his old self, patiently working for the knockout to come instead of chasing it like a wild caveman.
The post-fight statistics backstopped Donaire’s dominance. The defending World Boxing Organization super bantamweight champ landed 134 punches compared to Nishioka’s measly 49. The one-year inactivity was evident as Nishioka was tentative almost throughout the bout.
Donaire talked about moving up to featherweight (126 pounds) in his quest for another division crown. A move up in weight appears imminent as just hours before the Nishioka fight, Donaire relinquished the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super bantamweight belt he won over Mathebula in July. The IBF reportedly wanted Donaire to make a mandatory defense by the end of the year against a nondescript challenger. As the Nishioka fight was meant to be his last fight for the year, Donaire chose to give up the IBF title rather than engage in a meaningless title defense. It was a wise move as it saved Donaire the sanctioning fees due to the IBF for the Nishioka fight.
Donaire will take his time to plot his next move. He appears to have injured his left hand again and this may take additional time to heal. If ever Donaire decides to stay at super bantamweight, a long-awaited showdown with Mexican brawler Jorge Arce may be in the works. Skill-wise, Arce is no match for Donaire, but the Mexican’s pleasing style figures to give Donaire a hefty payday.
Donaire should pick Arce apart with relative ease, in the same way he manhandled Nishioka. For as long as he doesn’t stray from his judicious style of fighting, Donaire will be a tough nut to crack.
As the Filipino Flash aptly described himself after the Nishioka win: “When you engage with Nonito, who is a surgeon, I will pick you apart.”
Dr. Donaire is definitely in.