For only the second time in the history of professional boxing, a Filipino sits on the featherweight throne.
Some 19 years after Luisito ‘Lindol’ Espinosa defeated Mexican Manuel Medina for the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight (126 pounds) belt, Nonito ‘The Filipino’ Flash’ Donaire Jr. snared the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) version of the crown when he recently carved out a fifth-round technical decision over South African Simpiwe Vetyeka.
Then again, Donaire’s coronation was not as convincing as Espinosa’s clear-cut win over Medina. While he managed to floor Vetyeka in the fourth round with a wicked counter left hook, Donaire had to settle for a technical decision after the hideous cut he sustained in the opening round rendered him physically unfit to continue. The fight was stopped by the referee one second after the start of the fifth round and the result went down to the scorecards. Donaire won the WBA crown after he emerged ahead on points in the scorecards of the judges at the time of the premature stoppage.
The anti-climactic ending definitely left a sour taste in the mouth. To his credit, Donaire did not waste any time in announcing that his next fight would be a rematch with Vetyeka. It would have been easy for Donaire to move past beyond Vetyeka and train his guns on the remaining champions in the weight class, notably WBA regular champ Nicholas Walters of Jamaica, International Boxing Federation (IBF) titlist Evgeny Gradovich of Russia and WBC champ Johnny Gonzalez of Mexico. From an economic standpoint, taking on his counterpart champs in a unification showdown makes more cents, err dollars, for Donaire than getting embroiled in a feud with Vetyeka.
But the true champion that he is, Donaire is not about to turn the other cheek and ignore the inconclusive ending of the Vetyeka fight. He called the impending rematch ‘unfinished business’ and rightfully so, considering that Vetyeka was still in the thick of the fight at the time of the ending. Truth be told, if Donaire’s camp did not flirt with the rules, Vetyeka would have targeted the cut and escaped with a technical knockout victory. Fortunately for Donaire, he was able to go at least 4 rounds. Under WBA rules, in case of an accidental foul and the injured boxer is declared unfit to continue, the fight will go to the scorecards if at least 4 rounds have been completed.
According to Nonito Donaire Sr., his son was so dazed and disoriented after getting hit with a foul blow in the first round that he thought he was just taking part in a sparring session. While the younger Donaire was able to regroup in the third round, he admitted after the fight that the cut on his left eye was already blurring his vision to the point that he could no longer see the right straights being thrown by Vetyeka. Sans the cut, Donaire would have carved up Vetyeka like Thanksgiving turkey. By his own admission, however, Donaire was on the verge of bogging down at the time of the stoppage because of the cut.
Talks of Donaire unifying the 126-pound crown are now on hold pending the rematch with Vetyeka which could take place either in October or November. Donaire, 33-2 with 21 knockouts, officially won his fourth regular title in beating Vetyeka. He previously held regular titles in the flyweight (IBF), bantamweight (WBC/WBO) and junior featherweight (WBO/IBF) divisions. The WBA junior bantamweight (115 pounds) won by Donaire in 2009 was an interim version only and he was never promoted to regular champion status. On the other hand, the WBA featherweight crown Donaire won over Vetyeka is the ‘super’ version of the belt, one originally given to Chris John of Indonesia following his decade-long title reign. When Vetyeka defeated John in December 2013, the African continued to be recognized by the WBA as its ‘super’ champ in the division, a recognition he passed on to Donaire.
Donaire, of course, wants nothing less than a clear-cut claim to the WBA diadem. Come the rematch, ‘The Flash’ looks to make short work of Vetyeka and settle once and for all the controversy of the first fight.
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