NEW YORK CITY—Bright lights. Big City. Dull fight.
Nonito Donaire Jr. chased an all-too-protective Omar Narvaez for 12 rounds to retain his twin world bantamweight titles with an unexciting unanimous decision victory Saturday night (Sunday Manila time) before a packed but highly disappointed crowd at Madison Square Garden’s The Theatre.
“I’m so sorry. This is Madison Square Garden and you end up with that fight. I was willing to get hit, you saw me open up myself,” said the 28-year-old Donaire, who raised his record to 27-1 with 18 knockouts.
“The fans didn’t deserve it and I apologized deeply for that and to everybody watching. I mean I wanted a knockout, that was the disappointing part of it.”
Donaire was trying to use the bout to gain enough fan base and merit pay-per-view TV coverage in the future.
But the hitherto unbeaten Narvaez (35-1-2 with 19 KOs) was in survival mode throughout and the The Filipino Flash, who won the WBC/WBO titles with a second round knockout of Fernando Montiel, just couldn’t break through his rival’s defense.
“I dropped my hands, give me a straight, one punch, but he didn’t want to take it, you know, he’s (Narvaez) here just to (survive),” said Donaire, who won $720,000, the biggest purse of his career.
“He’s here to get a good payday,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum, the promoter of the fight that rewarded Narvaez a career milestone take of $250,000.
Judges Julie Lederman, Steve Wisefeld and Dom Schreck all scored it 120-108 for Donaire, who is moving up from 118 to 122 lb when he fights again next year.
The 4,425 spectators booed many times and even chanted “this is b_ll sh_t” as a frustrated Donaire tried to break through the two gloves covering the face of Narvaez.
The Filipino Flash, who had a small welt on the bridge of his nose in the end, tried to encourage an exchange when he dropped his hands in the fourth, but that, too, didn’t work.
Donaire went to the body in the third round, but was discouraged when referee Benjie Esteves issued a warning for low blow.
For all his lack of aggression, Narvaez, clad in glimmering and sequined red trunks, still had the gall to belittle Donaire’s effort.
“I didn’t feel any of his punches, I was never hurt, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Narvaez said later.
Donaire actually managed to hurt the Argentine with a solid straight to the face in the third and fourth rounds, drawing applause from the crowd. But these merely reinforced Narvaez’s resolve to just put up a defensive wall.
“Maybe that’s it, he was hurt,” said Arum. “And he was never hurt that way before in his career.”
Donaire’s trainer Robert Garcia asked for more body punches but in the 8th round, he instructed Donaire to just coast along.
Later, Donaire, clad in pink socks and black and pink trunks in support of breast cancer awareness, admitted that his legs were already cramping in the eighth round.
He climbed the ring at 130 lb from 116 ¼ in the weigh-in a day before. Donaire threw 666 punches and landed 99 of them (15 percent). He also fired 400 power punches but only 85 of them hit the target.
Narvaez unleashed 299 punches and landed 74 for 25 percent.
During the post fight interview, Donaire asked Arum the possibility of next meeting Jorge Arce. But Arum hinted he was leaning more on a fight with Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka.