Nonito Donaire Beats Simpiwe Vetyeka

By Matt McGrain on May 31, 2014
Nonito Donaire Beats Simpiwe Vetyeka
Vetyeka might have been overwhelmed tactically if not physically. (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Confusion and uncertainty were the predominant flavors at the end of a fight that was beginning to heat up in earnest…

Macau, China took hold of boxing’s center stage once more as the world’s number one junior featherweight contender Nonito Donaire was matched with the world’s number one featherweight contender Simpiwe Vetyeka in the planet’s official gambling capital in a bizarre fight that will have pleased those gambling upon Vetyeka least of all. Confusion and uncertainty were the predominant flavors at the end of a fight that was beginning to heat up in earnest.

South African Simpiwe Vetyeka, fast but not faster than Donaire, powerful but probably not as powerful as Donaire, was still a brave fighter for the Filipino to mix it with at this point in his career given his size advantage and the way he packed Chris John off into retirement in December of last year.

Donaire boxed cautiously at the opening, perhaps a reflection of the new ground he felt he was covering against the best featherweight in the world. His reward for his patience was a bad cut suffered after an accidental clash of heads or the snaking jab thrown straight and through the eye just prior to that clash of heads. It was a serious cut and one that appeared to irritate him for the remainder. Referee Luis Pabon did not appear to advise the ringside judges that the cut had been caused by a headbutt, although details are scant.

In the second, after Vetyeka hit the deck during some awkward wrestling the doctor made his first appearance and after a brief confab between he and the referee, Donaire was allowed to continue. Vetyeka now, was cautious, but it didn’t stop Donaire punctuating an increasingly absorbing contest with right hands, the near-legendary weaponized left-hand conspicuous by its absence. More crucial than any punch though was the dual clash of heads that occurred, which Donaire, not generally known as difficult or unsportsmanlike, seemed quite keen to pin on Vetyeka. The South African was attempting to forage, getting in and letting off before getting out and looking to settle behind an excellent jab that seemed to trouble his opponent, most especially when he threw it to the body.

Donaire dialed in his own jab to the body at the beginning the third fighting two-handed off the punch. It seemed for just one moment that Vetyeka might be overwhelmed tactically if not physically, but he rallied well both then and in the final seconds of a round that a static, aggressive Donaire dominated with the right. He seemed to want to get his man out of there in a fight that would be stopped in favor of Vetyeka if the referee had ruled that the cut had been caused by a punch.

For all that, it was Vetyeka who started more sharply at the opening of the fourth, moving well despite his having been buzzed a couple of times in the third, jabbing up and down and tossing over an occasional right hand. This set Donaire back to his own jab whilst giving ground and Vetyeka was encouraged. Apparently forcing the Filipino to the ropes he body-checked Donaire and initiated an exchange in earnest, the absolute perfect moment for Donaire to uncork that left. He did not let it pass. Vetyeka seemed devastated as he was slashed back onto the canvas but he regained his feet, clearly hurt. Donaire let him off the hook a bit, to his great misfortune as unbeknownst to us his last chance to finish the fight in a definitive manner had just vanished; a cuffing right hand around the ear was the closest he came to re-tenderizing Vetyeka and it was not a prestigious punch. Donaire was wild, his depth perception perhaps affected by the damage to his left eye. 

Nearer the end of the round, that eye re-cast its spell as Donaire inexplicably shied away from action. It should be stated that Donaire, and not the referee, seemed to control visitations of the doctor and their timing by way of word and deed and Pabon immediately called the referee to the apron. The last seconds of the fourth represented the point at which the fight, were it called off, would be named a No Contest and it seems to stretch credulity a little that at this exact moment, and clearly ahead on the cards, Donaire was unable to continue. Pabon did not appear to discuss the matter with the doctor, but rather with two unnamed ringside officials who, according to some, instructed him to stop the fight and go to the cards.

If the cut was caused by a punch, which it may have been, or if the referee did not rule that the cut had been caused by a clash of heads, which he did not appear to do, then the fight should have been stopped upon Donaire’s being unable to continue and ruled a TKO in favor of Vetyeka. If, on the other hand, the referee had ruled that the cut was caused by a clash of heads, with four completed rounds behind them, the fighters would be judged in the normal way. This second course is the one that the referee and officials, rightly or wrongly, perused and the inevitable 39-36 in Donaire’s favor was read out. 

It is almost beyond question that Donaire’s corner engineered the timing of the stoppage in order that the cards would be read. According to one source, they did not even attempt to work at the cut at the end of the fourth because they had already decided to make the decision of the referee and the doctor. This is not illegal. It must also be pointed out that Donaire was a gentleman post-fight and has publicly and privately promised Vetyeka that he would receive a rematch. Macau money doubtless balms all wounds. Still, it was a disappointing end to a fight that may have been mishandled across the board by the referee in one sense or another, regardless of the truth of that cut. It’s almost impossible to be sure, but based upon the footage to hand, my guess is that Vetyeka cut Donaire with a punch and that he was therefore robbed of a TKO victory. A definitive answer is not yet available.

Whatever the truth, I was a little disturbed by Donaire’s reaction to the cut. It was a serious one, but his determination to visit the doctor even when in total control of the third looked a little like panic to me, especially as if the doctor had stopped the fight Donaire would have jobbed himself out of a win. The rematch will be of some interest. Today, confusion abounds.

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  1. phil borda 09:13pm, 06/01/2014

    Can someone help me how I can stop Boxing.com from sending articles to my facebook account?

  2. procopy 09:09pm, 06/01/2014

    There was a clash of heads at the end of the first round and that was also the time when Vetyeka hit Donaire at the back of the head causing the Fil-Am to fall on his knees. The referree did call on the punch at the back of head but not on the clash of heads. I think because it is already at the end of the round and he did not noticed immediately that there was blood coming out of the left eye. But I’m quite sure there was clash of heads you can watch it again, it happend at the final seconds of the 1st rd

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:58am, 06/01/2014

    Panicky?.....maybe…..it appears to me that a very proactive and resourceful Nonito took the reins away from Luis Pabon .....probably for the best anyway. Rematch?.....not if Garcia, who’s every bit as sharp as Roach, has any say in the matter, for the simple reason that Vetyeka’s big head will come into play once again as it did at least a half dozen times in the 4 rounds of action yesterday.

  4. Your Name 06:59am, 06/01/2014

    Once Donaire realized that he could get the ref to stop the action and call in the doctor, then the blood would be wiped out of Donaire’s eyes - over and over.

  5. Thresher 05:21pm, 05/31/2014

    Donaire is all about class., Pete. I loved the way he took it out of the judges hands with that left hook. 49-46. Clear victory nd very bad cut.

    And unlike other similar endings, he was not the one who said he could not see. It was Pabon.

  6. Pete The Sneak 03:50pm, 05/31/2014

    Toro, I agree. I think Larry Merchant tried to make that clear to Nonito…Got to give props to Donaire. The man always remains classy and to publicly announce that he will grant Vetyeka a rematch because of the way the fight ended, well, not to many fighters will say that right after a fight. Usually it’s “well, I have to sit down with my team and my promoter and see what’s next.”...Nonito wants to give the fans their money’s worth and he feels they didn’t get it…Good for him…Peace.

  7. Thresher 10:41am, 05/31/2014

    But the winner does

  8. Magoon 10:03am, 05/31/2014

    I don’t like when titles change hands because of technical decisions.

  9. Thresher 09:49am, 05/31/2014

    This happened when Jessie James Leijia fought Micky Ward. It happened when Leijia fought Camacho Jr. And it happened with Robert Gurrero on a couple of occasions I believe.  Referee Laurence Cole was suspended when he tried to make it happen with JMM against Jimrex Jaco. It’s not all that unusual because a win is a win and as Al Bravverman once said, there is no such thing as a bad win.

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