Appraising Nonito Donaire Jr.’s performance against Mexican Cesar Juarez is no different from looking at a glass filled halfway with water. Depending on one’s perspective, Donaire’s performance is either half-full or half-empty.
Donaire was definitely half-full in the early rounds of the fight as he counterpunched with precision and floored Juarez twice in the fourth round. But he was half-empty in the next five rounds and almost totally drained at the tail-end. The younger Juarez was tougher than advertised and kept throwing one haymaker after another.
Juarez’s strategy can be broken down in three simple words: sudden intended acceleration. Juarez kept charging forward and nearly paid the price as Donaire timed his wild lunges with textbook counter right straights. The complexion of the fight however changed in the sixth stanza, when Donaire apparently sprained his ankle after inadvertently stepping on the referee’s foot. Deprived of his lateral movements, and with fatigue setting in, Donaire started seeking refuge along the ropes. With no left jab-right straight combination to keep him at bay, Juarez repeatedly pinned Donaire along the ropes and pelted him with vicious shots to the body. Bleeding on the right eye and his left cheek swollen, Donaire was in serious trouble in the 7th and 9th rounds, but the Filipino refused to wilt and used every trick in the book (i.e., rope-a-dope, bob-and-weave) to stay vertical. It helped Donaire a great deal that he was able to unload a huge left hook or two whenever Juarez started dominating the exchanges. Juarez offered the busier hands but the power remained encased in Donaire’s gloves.
By the time the 12th and final round rolled along, the combatants had turned the ring into a cauldron. It was as if they were fighting in the mouth of a volatile volcano. The offensive eruption that ensued had everybody screaming their lungs out. Juarez and Donaire threw caution to the wind and went toe-to-toe without remorse. The ring was emitting lava when the bell sounded ending the fight.
Donaire emerged the winner by unanimous decision and was once again crowned World Boxing Organization (WBO) super bantamweight (122 lbs.) champion. The struggle he went through nonetheless showed that the proverbial wear and tear is creeping in. While engaging Juarez in a punchaton made for an electrifying bout, Donaire took many unnecessary shots. If he was not in tip-top shape, Donaire would have succumbed to Juarez’s immense pressure and volume punching.
Boxing fans are now hankering for a rematch and Donaire has expressed his willingness to do it again. Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum, however, is eyeing two other fights for Donaire next year: a title defense against former featherweight (126 lbs.) champion Evgeny Gradovich (20-1, 9 knockouts) of Russia and a showdown with WBO featherweight king Vasyl Lomachenko (5-1, 3 knockouts) of Ukraine. Donaire figures to breeze past Gradovich, a light-hitting slugger with a porous defense, but he will be in the fight of his life against Loma¬chenko. The fight with Loma¬chenko, if it does push through, also means that Donaire will return to the featherweight class (126 lbs.) where he was mauled last year by Nicholas Walters.
At age 33, Donaire is pressed for time to go for the big fights. It will be great if he can squeeze in a rematch with Juarez, but the big money bout will come against Lomachenko and Arum is likely to preserve the Filipino for this fight. You can understand Arum’s mindset because judging from the result of the fight with Juarez, Donaire’s future in the ring will have to be treated with guarded optimism. Donaire is walking the thin line, but this may very well be his rallying cry as he looks to go out with a bang.
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