Nonito Donaire and Toshiaki Nishioka entered the ring last Saturday night as the crowd as the Home Depot Center was still working on catching their breath and gaining their composure after the Brandon Rios – Mike Alvarado slugfest. This matchup, contested at 122 pounds, was not expected to be the type of barn burner that the co-feature was, but it was as intriguing while playing itself out as it has been on paper, since its announcement earlier in the summer.
During the first round, we saw two of the sport’s best try to measure, read, and time each other while they calculated the best way to break through their respective defenses and determine the most effective way to execute their game plans. This anti-climactic relative inaction, after the thrilling undercard, left the crowd frustrated and disenchanted even though the boxers’ methodical approaches were textbook, and nearly artful, displays of boxing.
It seemed that Donaire learned something during the first three minutes because the bell that signaled the start of the second round seemed to be a cue for Nonito to start letting loose with his punches. He threw and landed some very tight, albeit reserved, right hooks and showed Nishioka a great deal of respect as the champ continued looking for a way to sneak his straight left through Donaire’s defense.
The aggression continued to escalate throughout the third and fourth rounds and Donaire began dictating the tempo of the fight, even though Nishioka refused to allow himself to get pushed around and backed up into the ropes. He traded hooks and brought the fight back to Donaire but Nonito’s use of the double and triple jab allowed him to stay at a safe distance. The right jab was Nishioka’s most effective punch of the night but the more he attempted this tactic the closer Donaire got with a mirror image of Nishioka’s signature punch, a hard straight from the dominant hand.
More feinting and measured jabs elicited boos from the crowd nearly drowning out Robert Garcia’s emphatic instructions to Donaire between rounds. The Filipino remained in control of his emotions and this composure allowed Donaire to stalk Nishioka and finally catch him with a quick hook that sent him to the canvas. Nishioka was slow to get up but, when he did, he came blasting back and landed some of his best punches of the night as Donaire let his foot of the gas and decided that he wasn’t going to gamble big at this point in the night in order to win this fight.
During the 7th and 8th rounds, Nishioka began landing his jab more consistently with blistering speed even as the right side of his face started to show some swelling. This tactic proved costly; however, as Donaire’s straight right kept coming with increased intensity until one finally caught Nishioka flush in the face and sent him tumbling down. Visibly stunned, the champ returned to his feet and resumed guard as his corner clamored for the referee’s attention and requested for the fight to be stopped.
Donaire wanted the division’s best and tonight he seized the opportunity to become the top fighter in the 122 pound weight division. With Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux rounding out the top three, but with neither fight seeming likely to happen due to the Top Rank- Golden Boy stalemate, we are left salivating at the thought of who could be next for Donaire now that he has taken over this division. In the past, Robert Garcia has called his star pupil, his own “Joe Frazier” and, after tonight’s performance, we can once again see why he’s being regarded as one of this generation’s finest boxers.