Donaire Pounds Out Win Over Vazquez

By Robert Ecksel on February 5, 2012
Donaire Pounds Out Win Over Vazquez
The Filipino Flash said that "Vazquez was tougher than I expected.” (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Larry Merchant stated after the final bell that Donaire is a “good fighter,” but maybe it’s too soon “to bronze him…”

“Life is like boxing in many unsettling respects, but boxing is only like boxing.”—Joyce Carol Oates

I couldn’t help but think of the above aphorism while watching Nonito Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs) pound out a split decision victory to win the vacant WBO super bantamweight title over the surprisingly competitive Wildredo Vazquez Jr. (21-2, 17 KOs) at the Alamodome in San Antonio Saturday night.

Donaire so is skillful and thoughtful, so creative in the ring, that another less than inspiring performance gives one pause and food for thought. It wasn’t that he didn’t win—winning being one of the many places where life and boxing intersect—but his victory came at a cost, not only to his face, but to our expectations.

The fight against Vazquez was supposed to be the fight where Donaire returned to form after his unsatisfying victory over Omar Narvaez at Madison Square Garden in Oct. 2011. Although the two fights couldn’t have been more different—Vazquez came to fight, whereas Narvaez came to survive—Donaire has been lionized, perhaps prematurely, based on his stunning second round KO of Fernando Montiel seven months earlier.

It might be unfair to expect knockout performances from Donaire each and every time he steps into the ring, but boxing, like life, is unfair, despite efforts to make it seem otherwise, despite efforts that are as unsuccessful as they are transparent.

Moving up in weight to fight at 122 pounds for the first time, Donaire, fighting out of the red corner and wearing burgundy trunks trimmed with white, entered the ring like a lion entering the Roman Colosseum to fight a Christian. But the Christian in this case, Vazquez, fighting out of the blue corner in red, white and blue trunks, entered the ring willfully ignoring the words “the meek shall inherit the earth.”

Round one was a feeling out round for both fighters. Donaire was controlling the action, such as the action was. The Filipino Flash’s superior speed was immediately apparent and he landed a short left hook just 10 seconds in that spoke of things to come. Vazquez wasn’t doing much. He made Donaire miss with a few wild punches. But he seemed content to bide his time, looking for a chance to counter, and chance that didn’t come in the first stanza. Donaire landed 11 of 44 punches to Vazquez’s 7 of 29. The round went to Donaire 10-9.

The second round saw Donaire start to open up. He landed combinations to the head and body. Occasionally a Vazquez jab would land—and a mouse was already taking shape beneath Donaire’s left eye—but he was tentative, reluctant to let go of his right for fear of Donaire’s devastating left hook. Nonito, who landed 20 of 58 punches to Vazquez’s 9 of 32, seemed too fast, too sharp, and too strong for his opponent. Donaire’s round 10-9.

Donaire continue to turn up the heat in round three. Vazquez wasn’t defenseless, in fact defense is what he had going for him, but Donaire rocked him with a clean left hook followed by a solid body shot. It was beginning to look at though the fight might be a shutout. Donaire landed 14 of the 40 punches he threw, whereas Vazquez only landed 3 of 25. A big 10-9 round for Donaire.

Round four was more of the same. Donaire had found the range for his uppercuts. Vazquez was still wary of opening up, but continued to fire off quick jabs to Donaire’s face, which was starting to discolor and slowly bust up. Still, it was all Donaire all the time as he pocketed the fourth.

The fifth is when Vazquez began to loosen up and let his hands go. Donaire was still beating him to the punch and landing the heavier shots. But a hard right, Vazquez’s best punch of the night so far, got Donaire’s attention and ever so slightly turned the tide. It was a close round that could have gone either way, but Donaire was still in charge, was still winning the fight. The round was a toss-up, leaning toward Donaire.

Round number six is when Vazquez finally began coming into his own. Donaire opened the stanza with a double-jab and drew first blood, albeit a trickle, from Vazquez’s nose. Vazquez, however, was undeterred. He had gotten his act together and Donaire’s creativity seemed a poor substitute for the tight defense and classic boxing of Vazquez. Vazquez seized the moment as he seized the round, landing 25 of 69 punches to 14 of 43 for Donaire. HBO elected to not show close-ups of Donaire between rounds, but even at a distance one could see that his face wasn’t looking so hot.

At the start of round 7, it was apparent that Donaire’s right eye was a mess. However uneasy he might have felt, it didn’t show when the fighting commenced. The two fighters engaged in some fiery toe-to-toe exchanges as Donaire tried to regain control of the fight’s momentum. He landed several solid uppercuts, but Vazquez was in the groove. He closed the round with a triple-jab followed by a solid left hook. Round seven went to Vazquez 10-9.

By the eighth round, it looked like Vazquez had control of the fight. The time for Donaire’s early KO victory had passed. He was in a battle and he knew it. Donaire landed a few hooks and connected with a good body shot—when he inexplicably started showboating, acting as though the fight was in the bag. The fight was not in the bag. Vazquez was fighting back and as determined to win it as was Donaire. The round was close and could have gone either way, but the momentum was now with Vazquez.

Donaire got his second wind and a dose of seriousness in the ninth. Vazquez began the round by beating Donaire to the punch. His defense, which seemed a fallback tactic in the early rounds, was proving to be an effective shield against Donaire’s aggression. Vazquez landed a double-jab when Donaire—from out of nowhere—landed a hard right to the top of Vazquez’s head that dropped him to the canvas for the first time in his career. He had no trouble beating the count and rose on steady legs. But the knockdown signaled a turnaround for Donaire and the 10-8 round was his.

The two fighters traded hooks to start round 10. Donaire—busted face and all—now had the upper hand. His punches were more accurate, more painful, precision blasts that were right on the money. It wasn’t that Vazquez was hurt. He was still in it and still fighting hard. But Donaire had gained control and was not about to relinquish it. Round to Donaire 10-9.

The championship rounds reaffirmed all that we’d seen in the 10 rounds preceding them. Vazquez, in his classic boxer stance, had performed above and beyond anyone’s expectations. But Donaire, even fighting at 122 for the first time, was simply too strong, too creative, to capable of thinking on his feet for Vazquez to successfully contend with over a full 12 rounds. Donaire might have let the middle rounds slip away from him, but he regained his composure and closed the show with aplomb.

Donaire landed 231 or 42% of his punches to 163 or 30% for Vazquez.

Harold Lederman had it nine rounds to three for Donaire.

The judges split with one judge scoring it 115-112 for Vazquez, and the remaining two judges scoring it 117-110 for Donaire.

After it was over, Donaire said, “Vazquez was tougher than I expected. I couldn’t find my rhythm, and I hurt my hand somewhere between the second and fourth rounds. I could only move it a little bit.

“When I knocked him down in the ninth round—that was the end of the hand. I was in agony.”

“He’s real quick,” said Vazquez about Donaire. “He caught me with some good punches. He surprised me by hitting me when I was off balance. I thought I did pretty well. I was patient, but he is a great fighter.”

It was a good fight, but not everyone agrees with Vazquez’s assessment. Larry Merchant stated after the final bell that Donaire is a “good fighter,” but maybe it’s too soon “to bronze him.”

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Nonito Donaire / Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Weigh-In [Full]

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Nonito Donaire vs Rafael Concepcion Highlights

Nonito Donaire answers questions about Manny Pacquiao

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  1. Steve Abarintos 10:35am, 02/11/2012

    Nonito Donaire is the Filipino who can keep the Philippine flag raised in the field of boxing when Manny Pacquiao retires.

  2. Don from Prov 04:54am, 02/11/2012

    Agreed pugknows, and sometimes the right fights are not there at the right time, etc. (Is Doanire still to learning in the meantime?)

    And then a career is done and hasn’t quite lived up to what it might have been.  Nonito has time, and I’m a fan and hope things work out for him.

  3. pugknows 02:19pm, 02/07/2012

    For a guy who has been fighting a long time, Donaire does not have many fights and this is what I think Ted Sares was pointing to his article on trends.

  4. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:30am, 02/06/2012

    Don—I hear you, but I would not be too worried. I think you’ve yet to see the best of Donnaire. Vasquez is for real. This was a step up in weight for Donnaire. Photos of Donnaire’s unrapped left hand are up on the web—looks broken to me. How a judge saw the bout for Vasquez is a mystery to all of us. Give him two hands to fight with and we will see a better performance.

  5. Don from Prov 05:51am, 02/06/2012

    It’s possible—though I hope not because he is one of my favorite fighters—that Donaire just might be one of those guys where any number of circumstances dictate that he doesn’t have quite the career he might have.

  6. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:57am, 02/06/2012

    I thought Donaire looked good in spite of his broken hand.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 01:36pm, 02/05/2012

    Vasquez Jr. is not chopped liver and he came to rumble….if Donaire can beat him up with an injured hand…which he did…then he put in a good night’s work. Arce will go to war with Nonito too and get KO’d for his efforts.

  8. Don from Prov 12:59pm, 02/05/2012

    The rumor is that Donaire suffered a double fracture in his left hand, but that’s all the story is at this point (as far as I know)—

    A rumor

  9. Jim Crue 11:43am, 02/05/2012

    Larry Merchant is the best part of HBO boxing. An old newspaper guy who has seen it all and the only HBO talent who tells it as it is. Lampley is a shill and Emanuel Steward has become as much of a shill as Lampley. Merchant has a great track record. He was not convinced that Roy China Chin Jones was great and of course we know now that Larry was right.

  10. Retech Son 10:01am, 02/05/2012

    I was really surprised when I saw Donaire’s hand bleeding. I think it is a very serious injury. He is not getting any younger also that the healing process may not be as fast.

    I hope it will not affect in his future fights.

  11. pugknows 09:54am, 02/05/2012

    Larry Merchant is an A-Hole.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 09:28am, 02/05/2012

    Lacerations and hand injuries effect the outcomes of fights….fans and experts might be able to overlook them but the fighters don’t have that luxury. I really would like to see Ruben Garcia’s card and compare it to the other two cards…even though the right guy got the decision his scoring should be scrutinized.

  13. FrankinDallas 09:26am, 02/05/2012

    Does Donaire’s hurt left hand = David Hayes toe injury in excuse level? I think not…Donaire’s hand at least was bleeding.

  14. Jim Crue 07:19am, 02/05/2012

    How could any competent judge actually have Vazquez winning?

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