In the “Mexican Style” co-feature, Nonito Donaire squared off against Jamaica’s Nicholas Walters before a packed house at the StubHub Center. Both men put their WBA featherweight titles on the line. If you’re asking yourself “how can both fighters have titles from the same sanctioning body in the same weight class?” – well that’s because the WBA is atrocious. None the less, this was a terrific bout between two of the best featherweights in the world, and they didn’t disappoint.
Neither man did anything significant in the opening round, throwing and mostly missing with range-finder punches. Donaire opened up in the second and began finding a home for his left hook, especially to the body. Walters ate a clean left hook at the end of the round and was clearly buzzed, but he’d soon have his revenge. In the closing seconds of the third round Walters landed a beautiful uppercut that dropped Donaire to the canvas. The crowd erupted as The Filipino Flash rose to his feet and both fighters winged punches at each other until the bell sounded. Donaire was cut and swelling around his right eye.
Toward the middle rounds Walters began closing the distance, targeting his opponent’s eye with a piston like jab. The fight was close and competitive, but the “Axe Man” looked to be doing more damage with his punches. Donaire tried moving, fighting at a distance, fighting in close, but none of it seemed to work. Toward the end of the sixth round he missed with a left hook and Walters countered, landing a hard right to the back of the head. Donaire fell to the canvas face first, badly hurt, and was finished. He bravely made it to his feet at the count of nine before collapsing the ref’s arms, giving him no choice but to wave the fight off.
The jab was the key, as Walters landed 44 of 162 (27%) to Donaire’s 4 of 59 (7%). Power punching was closer, with Walters landing 41 of 122 (34%) and Donaire 36 of 110 (33%). Yet Walters’ shots did more damage, and he set them up behind the jab beautifully. From start to finish it was the Jamaican who fought the smarter, more disciplined textbook boxing match. Donaire looked sloppy at times.
Gracious in victory, Walters complimented his opponent and showed appreciation for the opportunity. “Donaire is a super, super boxer, a great champion”, he said. “I put a lot into this training for this fight. He (Donaire) has power and speed and I enjoyed the fight very much. I say thanks for letting me show my talent on HBO and the rest of the world.” When asked specifically about the knockout punch he said, “You know what if you take a look at it (setting up the counter shot), it was like fishing. If you give him the bait and he comes in and takes it.”
To his credit, Donaire made no excuses. “I was at my best, I’ve never trained this hard”, he said. “I have to go back to the drawing board. I can’t compete with a guy like Walters; his size and power and overwhelming aura in the ring. He knocked the shit out of me.” The fighters embraced and talked to each other in the ring for several minutes. At one point Donaire said to Walters, “You’re one of my favorite fighters now. You’re amazing.”
The Filipino Flash drops to 33-3 (21 KO). He just hasn’t had the same flash since he won fighter of the year honors in 2012. Now a married father with some money in the bank and plenty of belts in the trophy case, one wonders if Nonito has simply lost the “edge” to compete at the highest level. Should he choose to fight on, he may want to consider moving back down in weight. As for Walters, a new star is born in the featherweight division! In the post-fight press conference the Axe Man addressed media questions in English and Spanish, which he speaks fluently. Nicholas comes across as a humble, articulate and sincere man who has it all figured out. With a record of 25-0 (21KO), the sky is the limit for the Axe Man.
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