NONITO Donaire Jr.’s showdown with Mexican Jorge “Travieso” (Menace) Arce was supposed to be just another routine defense of the former’s World Boxing Organization (WBO) super bantamweight title. Arce was not seen as a serious threat, what with the belief of many that the Mexican had seen better days and offered a style that was tailor-made for the 'Filipino Flash.'
But staged a week after Manny Pacquiao’s shocking downfall at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, the Donaire-Arce showdown took on a 'vengeful' twist. While the heavy favorite, Donaire found himself in a must-win, must-KO situation. Filipino fight fans, still reeling from Pacquiao’s sixth-round knockout loss to Marquez, looked for Donaire to avenge the Pacman by blasting into smithereens cocky Mexican Arce.
Placed under intense pressure, Donaire delivered with aplomb by smothering Arce inside three rounds.
Donaire got off to a cautious start, throwing crispy left jabs to keep slugger Arce at a safe distance. Clearly wary of the Filipino’s explosive left, Arce kept his guard up and offered only token offense. Donaire easily took the first round.
In the second round, Arce started opening up but Donaire quickly capitalized by rattling off a short right that floored the Mexican. Arce was quick to get up on his feet and even tried to mock Donaire by challenging the champion to throw more leather.
Donaire did just that and more in the third round. As Arce started opening up, Donaire landed a chopping right hand that deposited the Mexican to the canvas for the second time. Arce was visibly woozy as he struggled to get back on his feet and it was all the incentive Donaire needed to shift his offense to high gear. A left uppercut, followed by a hellacious left hook nearly severed Arce’s head from his neck and violently dumped him to the canvas. The fight was stopped at the 2:59 mark of the round with Arce doing his best imitation of Sleeping Beauty.
In the post-fight press conference, Donaire admitted that he entered the ring with images of Pacquiao’s stunning defeat to Marquez swirling in his head. “There were a lot of fans that said, ‘You got to get him (Arce), this is for the Philippines,’” he said. “But I love Mexico as well. Mexican fighters are tough and I have the best respect for all of them.”
Donaire improved his record to 31-1 with 20 knockouts and posted his third defense of the WBO title he won in February 2012 with a split-decision win over Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. All of Donaire’s four fights this year have been against either former or reigning world champions, making the Filipino the top choice for the Fighter of the Year plum.
Donaire earned a career-high US$1 million for the Arce fight and bigger paydays loom following the spectacular victory. At least two formidable adversaries are already being mentioned in Donaire’s hit list next year -- World Boxing Council super bantamweight champ Abner Mares of Mexico and World Boxing Association kingpin Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba.
Mares, 25-0 with 13 knockouts, is a two-division champion and easily the most marketable foe for Donaire. But the 27-year-old native of Guadalajara, Mexico, is promoted by rival Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum has never been known to share the loot.
Rigondeaux, 11-0 with 8 knockouts, is a two-time (2004, 2008) Olympic gold medalist who figured in over 400 fights as a simonpure. A latebloomer in the pro ranks, Rigondeux has the inside track on Donaire as he is also promoted by Arum.
“Bring them all on,” barked Donaire.
With Pacquiao in hibernation, the 30-year-old Donaire is now set to cast his own shadow. Donaire offers a very cerebral approach; figuring out the guy can be as difficult as finding the starting point of a scotch tape. He can switch-hit (from southpaw to the traditional right hand stance, and vice-versa), box or brawl, and packs bonafide power in both fists.
The country may never produce another Pacquiao, but, hey, we may just be witnessing the coming of the first Donaire.