It was pretty obvious to anyone watching Nonito Donaire get bashed around the ring by Nicholas Walters on Saturday night that Donaire’s over-reliance on talent and power had finally caught up to him.
Yes, he’d already lost a decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux, but 99.999999999 percent of the population will lose by decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux while the crowd watching it takes a gentle snooze.
This was different. This was a beating, the type of beating Donaire usually handed out when he was considered a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter. Donaire had been on shaky ground for a couple of fights, losing badly to Rigondeaux before looking utterly befuddled by Vic “Why Am I Still Fighting?” Darchinyan. This was the same Darchinyan that Donaire had beheaded back in 2007.
The Filipino was able to survive that fight, mainly because of his power and Darchinyan’s overall mediocrity. But the seed that Rigondeaux planted was now fully grown–Donaire wasn’t the same guy. A win over Simpiwe Vetyeka did little to dispel the notion that Nonito had either lost a step or lost interest in fighting altogether.
Enter Nicholas Walters, a murderous puncher who thrust himself into the forefront of the featherweight division by completely destroying Darchinyan himself. Though Walters’ competition had been limited at best, many pundits picked Walters to beat up whatever remained of Donaire.
Turns out, they were right. Donaire was game, but for the first time in his career, he was physically overmatched. After a tense first round that saw both fighters cautiously stalking each other, barely missing with wicked shots, Walters stung Donaire in the second. It was at that point where Donaire decided to let loose with some bombs of his own, and he nailed Walters just before the bell. Walters was wobbled and badly hurt.
This is the point where in previous Donaire fights, the opponent realizes that he no longer wants to be hit by Donaire and gets on their bicycle before being blown out of the ring. But Walters was the calming voice in his own corner, assuring his father that everything was fine, and that he’d recovered.
He proved as much in the third round–not only had he recuperated from the shot he took, but “The Axe Man” (goddamn that is bad ass) did something that elite fighters do–he adjusted his gameplan. He fired off an absolutely wicked jab and landed it damn near every time he threw it, peppering the already bloody Donaire and setting the table for every other punch he popped off with.
And he threw all of them. Body shots. Hooks. Right hands. And then, a gorgeous uppercut that dropped Donaire for the first time in his excellent career. Nonito was now in a firefight, and here came another first–he was the one in trouble.
To his credit, Donaire didn’t back down, though it became clear that the shots he was landing were losing their sting. Walters was breaking him down quickly and to his credit, he was outthinking Donaire. While Nonito looked for the home run, Walters contented himself to land singles and doubles, softening him up for the killer shot that was to come.
By the time the sixth round came, Donaire was a bloody mess. Walters had him against the ropes, and Nonito came off firing an absolute missile of a left hook. Except that Walters saw it coming. He stepped back and unleashed a nasty right hand that caught his man on the head and dropped him. It was enough. The fight was waved off, and Walters had his knockout victory.
For all of the talk of Donaire’s decline–and it has been precipitous–Donaire fought his ass off Saturday. He was unsurprisingly vague when Max Kellerman asked him if he’d retire. While he clearly isn’t on par with his Fighter-Of-The-Year campaign of 2012, he’s not exactly Juan Ma Lopez, a dizzy, walking concussion either.
Why couldn’t he drop back down a few pounds to 122 and do damage? When the size advantage leans toward Donaire, he’s probably going to hurt whoever is in front of him. Hell, he clearly wounded a bad, bad dude in Walters. Frankly, I’d still love to see him fight Abner Mares, a fighter who seems to have lost some heat off the fastball as well.
The point is, he’s still a dangerous fighter, just not the world-beater from a couple years ago. For him, it will be about matchmaking for as long as he continues fighting. Donaire’s maddening unwillingness to use all the weapons at his disposal and to instead bomb his way out of fights has been catching up with him for awhile. He seems like an excellent candidate for a new trainer, at the very least to get some perspective. It might do him wonders.
For Walters, he might be in line for a shot at Vasyl Lomachenko, the ridiculously skilled Ukrainian southpaw. His power is legit, and he’ll be a nightmare for anybody within a couple of weight classes.
We wondered if he was the truth. He answered us, emphatically.
Some Random Notes From The Boxing World:
Marco Antonio Rubio missed weight for his bout with GGG, which was kind of surprising. He then got the living christ beaten out of him, which was not at all surprising. He tried to fight fire with fire. Except Rubio has a torch while GGG carries a flame thrower. He is a strong, but limited fighter whose only choice is to come forward. Golovkin could destroy guys like this while functioning on oxycontin.
He may have called out Miguel Cotto, but Cotto goes nowhere near this beast.
I enjoyed the Hopkins/Kovalev 24/7 premiere, if only because of Hopkins’ insistence on wearing that alien mask into the doctor’s office. Imagine trying to pull that off at your own physical? Instead of a bemused nurse taking your blood pressure, you’d be on the receiving end of a police-issued taser while being fitted into a nice, comfy jacket.
I was admittedly disappointed at Kovalev’s affable demeanor outside the ring. I was hoping to see him kicking stray dogs and punching out a random parking lot attendant for various perceived slights.
So Chris Algieri did way better than Manny Pacquiao when taking batting practice with the San Francisco Giants. Too bad he won’t be able to bring a bat into the ring with him next month.
We figured that with Jack Weiss reffing a GGG fight, he wouldn’t have enough time to “Weiss” anything up. But no sir, ole Jack found a way. He paced himself with the count until Rubio started to rise, and then fired off numbers in Spanish like a grade schooler playing hide and seek. Still, when you gingerly rise up at the count of nine like an old man with a bad hip straining out of a warm tub, you don’t get to complain.
It’s easy for Andre Ward’s attorney to claim that Ward wants to fight Golovkin. It’s harder to actually break out of a sound contract for no apparent reason in order to sign with someone else and get into the ring with the scariest dude in the world after at least a one year layoff.