Donaire is back as world champion
Filipino star Nonito Donaire survived what he described as the toughest fight in his career and reclaimed the World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title on Friday with a gutsy unanimous decision over Mexico’s Cesar Juarez in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Donaire was in control early, knocking Juarez down twice with left hooks in the fourth round.
But an aggressive Juarez turned the tide in the middle rounds, battering the 33-year-old Donaire who was clearly slowing by the seventh round under an onslaught that left him with one eye cut and swelling.
Juarez, 24, should have been credited with a knockdown in the 10th, when his left hook sent Donaire down, but the referee ruled it a slip.
Donaire had enough left to land effectively in the final rounds and won the thriller by scores of 116-110, 116-110 and 117-109.
“Tremendous fight!” Donaire said. “We give him so much respect. We gave it all.’’
“I will definitely give him a rematch,” he added.
Juarez, who fell to 17-4 with 13 knockouts, thought the scores should have been closer but he didn’t dispute Donaire’s win.
“The judges were not fair,” he said. “It was much closer, like a one-or two-point fight. But I do think Donaire won.” With the win, Donaire improved to 36-3 with 23 knockouts.
A former world champion in five weight divisions, he reclaimed the vacant WBO super bantamweight belt.
It’s a title Donaire had held before losing it by unanimous decision in 2013 to Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba who was stripped of the crown for inactivity.
Donaire has now won three fights in a row since his return to the 122-pound division in the wake of a sixth-round knockout loss to unbeaten Jamaican Nicholas Walters 14 months ago.
That defeat in Los Angeles saw Donaire lose the World Boxing Association featherweight world title.
Another stab at stardom
Donaire displayed true grit against a never-say-die opponent. Bloodied and with a banged-up face, Donaire also hoped the “toughest fight” in his career would earn him a return trip to world boxing elite.
For now, the victory certainly brought him back in the limelight after his career dimmed following a six-round knockout he suffered at the hands of Walters last year.
He said he wants a rematch with Rigondeaux to whom he lost the WBO crown two years ago. The Cuban was stripped of the title because of inactivity, paving the way for a Donaire-Juarez contest for the vacant title.
Donaire also lined himself up against top super bantamweights, including Britons Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg for next year, and another shot at boxing stardom.
Donaire’s age clearly showed in the brutal brawl Friday night (Saturday morning in Manila) at Coliseo Robert Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The guy was strong. I give it to him. I think that was the toughest fight I’ve ever been in my life. It was an amazing fight,” Donaire told ESPN.com, which said the bout could be a strong contender for Fight of the Year.
No walk in the park
Donaire floored Juarez twice in the fourth and it appeared as though it was going to be a walk in the park. But the 24-year-old Mexican made a strong case for himself, engaging the Filipino champion in furious exchanges that pinned the Filipino against the ropes for the most part of the final six rounds.
The torrid exchanges and all-out performance gained both fighters a standing ovation at the end of the fight.
Juarez opened a cut near Donaire’s right eye and the Filipino from Talibon, Bohol, twisted his left ankle after taking a spill in the sixth, limiting his movement in the later rounds.
“I couldn’t throw a punch from the leg, I was only throwing shoulder punches,” Donaire told the website in the dressing room interview.
The Mexican also downed Donaire in the 10th but referee ruled it as a slip. The final three rounds was a brawl but Donaire managed to hold on to his lead by landing counters on the charging Juarez. AFP with a report from Marc Anthony Reyes
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