There were special circumstances surrounding the Nonito Donaire-Jorge Arce fight Saturday night. The fight was televised on HBO, live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Even though it was great to see the “Filipino Flash” fight once more in 2012 — making it his 4th bout total this year — it was a somber atmosphere in regards to Larry Merchant’s presence at ringside as it was announced earlier in the week that this fight would be Merchant’s last as a regular commentator.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer dedicated the night to Merchant before saying his signature catchphrase “let’s get ready to rumble,” and a moment was made before returning to the business of fighting.
Donaire came out to a hostile crowd at the Toyota Center and even though he had fought in San Antonio in February of this year he was not the fan favorite, seceding that honor to Arce as the choice for the majority Hispanic audience.
Arce enjoyed a sensational ovation, cheered on heavily to the point of almost defining, quite impressive considering his underdog role in the fight.
Donaire was booed heavily in the fight, and if you didn’t know these two fighters you would’ve expected Arce to be the odd maker’s favorite (or perhaps from Houston).
Round 1 started with chants of Mexico reigning throughout the crowd. It was also a bit of a feeling out process of sorts with Donaire landing the more meaningful shots, both on the offensive pursuit as well as the counter. It was slow, but successful for Donaire.
In the second round it was more of the same, except Donaire’s output was intensified and it seemed like every shot he threw was done so with bad intent. Arce seemed hesitant to let his hands go and he wasn’t putting very much confidence behind his punches. Donaire eventually scored a knockdown in the round off of a quick right hand that landed after a mediocre exchange on the part of Arce. The punch was short and accurate.
Desperation began to set in on the part of Arce, who started resorting to wild attempts and even tackled Nonito in a scene that looked like something out of a WWE main event as opposed to a championship boxing bout (perhaps Arce got confused with WWE wrestler Batista in Donaire’s corner). Arce became noticeably more aggressive in the 3rd round than he was in either of the two previous rounds.
As the 3rd round staged on, Nonito landed another quick right hand on the counter which appeared to do some serious damage. Nonito landed a right hand to the ear of Arce, knocking off the Mexican’s equilibrium. Arce was in trouble, but it was the consecutive left hands that followed which eventually sent Arce to the canvas.
Arce staggered up and Nonito pressed on, landing shots that seemed to fire up Arce, who waved his gloves at Nonito to continue bringing it. With only seconds left, Donaire landed a left hook that annihilated Arce to the canvas, prompting referee Laurence Cole to forego the 10 count and call the bout.
Two fights came to mind during that moment and one of them was the 2011 Donaire destruction of Fernando Montiel and the other was last week’s Pacquiao-Marquez due to the fact that both fights ended with 1 second left in the round.
Nonito needed an impressive performance because he wasn’t taking on an opponent that most people considered challenging to the pound for pound stalwart. He did just that earning a bid for knockout of the year, which at this point is merely academic due to the fact that Marquez’s destruction of Pacquiao — which aired before the fight — is sure to earn that end of the year award.
Donaire assessed his performance and gave credit to Arce in his post-fight interview with Larry Merchant. “I timed him; we knew that he would open up. [Arce] was a tough guy, he got me in the body and I didn’t expect him to do that.”
Donaire’s performance was even more spectacular considering he won the fight off of a left hand that wasn’t fully healed, scenes of Donaire’s hand being cared for showed just how injured he was. “We were nervous because we never really hit with the left hook.”
This fight was yet another moment of vindication for Donaire, and simultaneously another reason why a Mares fight must be made. Donaire told Merchant in the post-fight interview that he wanted both Mares and Rigondeaux next.
“Bring them all on; I’ve done what I needed to do this year. First, I want to get Mares because he’s calling me out, but if that doesn’t happen we always got Rigondeaux afterwards.”
The Philippines-Mexico rivalry is a rich one, and it continues to grow in popularity and heritage in the 21st century. The Mexicans dealt an undeniable blow to the Philippines, and although nothing could make up for the blow Marquez dealt, this was as good as it gets.