Ring Ratings Update
Nonito Donaire (left) outpointed Rafael Concepcion (right) on Saturday but he had to survive hard right hands like this one to earn his unanimous decision. Donaire had his way in the ring when he campaigned at flyweight but his new division – junior bantamweight, the weight class he fought Concepcion in – may prove to be a lot tougher. Hard fights with contenders Jorge Arce, Z Gorres and rival Vic Darchinyan await Donaire at 115 pounds. Photo / Mary Van Owen-FightWireImages.com
Nonito Donaire broke into THE RING’s junior bantamweight rankings with his unanimous decision victory over Rafael Concepcion on Saturday, but just barely.
Donaire, who was THE RING’s No. 1-rated flyweight and is currently No. 7 in the magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings, was expected to make a splash in the junior bantamweight division by demolishing the hardnosed-but-limited Concepcion.
However, the rugged Panamanian, who weighed 4¾ pounds over the 115-pound division limit the day before the fight, gave Donaire (22-1, 13 knockouts) a tougher-than-expected tussle, taking the talented Filipino’s best shots and forcing the heavily favored fighter to adopt a stick-and-move strategy for the duration of the 12-round bout.
Donaire reportedly injured his left (jabbing) hand early in the bout and Concepcion weighed close to 130 pounds on fight night, factors that no doubt impeded his dominance during the interim WBA title bout. However, Donaire’s performance on Saturday gave pause to his backers.
Before the fight, representatives of Top Rank, Donaire’s promotional company, confidently stated that he had the talent and potential to be a factor at not only junior bantamweight, but also in the bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight divisions.
During a conference call a week before the Concepcion bout, Donaire said that he could eventually fight effectively as heavy as junior lightweight or lightweight.
All parties involved probably realize now that the junior bantamweight division will not be an easy transition for Donaire, who had looked near unbeatable at flyweight.
There will likely be more difficult nights ahead of Donaire as he attempts to defend his interim title against contenders such as Jorge Arce, who has been mentioned as a future opponent.
Arce, THE RING’s No. 5-rated junior bantamweight who is also promoted by Top Rank, commands a loyal Mexican following that would make a showdown with Donaire a high-profile event. However, the former titleholder, who stopped Concepcion in a brutally thrilling slugfest last year, would present an even tougher fight for Donaire than the Panamanian.
Arce (52-5-1, 40 KOs) is more experienced than Concepcion, who only had 17 bouts (13-3-1) going into Saturday’s fight, and a more complete fighter.
Other potential 115-pound opponents for Donaire include the winner of the Nobuo Nashiro-Hugo Cazares bout, which takes place in Japan on September 30.
Nashiro (13-1, 8 KOs), THE RING’s No. 3-rated junior bantamweight, holds the WBA’s 115-pound title and will attempt to defend the “regular belt” against Cazares (30-6-1, 22 KOs) in an interesting battle of unorthodox bangers.
Cazares, the former junior flyweight champ, is THE RING’s No. 9-rated junior bantamweight.
Another future option for Donaire is fellow Pinoy Z Gorres, who recently signed with Top Rank and returns to action on the ‘Latin Fury 11’ pay-per-view card headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on September 12.
Gorres (28-2-2, 15 KOs) is THE RING’s No. 4-rated junior bantamweight.
Of course, the biggest and most anticipated 115-pound challenge for Donaire is a showdown with unified titleholder Vic Darchinyan, who remained THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior bantamweight despite losing a unanimous decision to 118-pound titleholder Joseph Agbeko last month.
Donaire handed Darchinyan (32-2, 26 KOs) his first loss when he knocked out the cocky Armenian in 2007.
Darchinyan has pined for a rematch ever since but his promoter Gary Shaw, who used to promote Donaire, has pooh-poohed a rematch between the two fighters (mostly out of spite for Donaire).
However, Shaw might reconsider now that Darchinyan has suffered another loss and the two fighters are campaigning in junior bantamweight division.
The loss to Agbeko taught Darchinyan that his best fighting weight is 115 pounds and Donaire still needs to prove himself in his new division. The rematch is a natural.
Where does THE RING currently rank Donaire? Check out the Ratings Update to find out.
RING RATINGS UPDATE
The only two divisions that experienced any movement this week were junior bantamweight and flyweight, which was caused by Donaire's jump to the 115-pound division.
Donaire debuted at No. 10 among the 115-pounders following his 12-round decision victory over Concepcion, which pushed out Simphiwe Nongqayi (No. 10 last week).
“Although Rafael Concepcion failed to make weight for his junior bantam bout with Nonito Donaire, the ‘Filipino Flash’ weighed 115 pounds, which made him eligible for consideration among junior bantams,” said RING Editor Nigel Collins. “After comparing Donaire's record with that of Simphiwe Nongqayi, THE RING Editorial Board decided that Nongqayi's hold on the No. 10 position was not strong enough to prevent Donaire replacing him.”
Donaire gave up his No. 1 contender position to fight as a junior bantamweight. This allowed all fighters rated No. 2 or below last week to advance one place each and made room for Zolani Tete to return at No. 10.