Friday, March 24, 2023  |



Nonito Donaire Jr. defeats Simpiwe Vetyeka in headbutt marred fight


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MACAU – It wasn’t the most savory of endings but it’ll have to do for now.

Nonito Donaire Jr. overcame an accidental headbutt cut that left him bleeding from his left eye in Round 1 to defeat Simpiwe Vetyeka by a fifth-round technical decision at the Venetian Resort in Macau.

The fight was stopped a second into Round 5 by referee Luis Pabon, with all three judges turning in the score 49-46, scoring the fifth round 10-10. The victory earned Donaire the WBA featherweight title, but he still remained dissatisfied with the result. “It does take away from the satisfaction,” said Donaire afterwards at the post-fight press conference.

Donaire (32-2, 21 knockouts), of San Leandro, Calif., began the fight at a measured pace, landing jabs and straight right hands on Vetyeka (26-3, 16 KOs). A split-second after the bell ended Round 1, Donaire dropped to the canvas after a headbutt split his left eye open. A rabbit punch also appeared to land as Donaire dropped to the canvas.

Nonito Donaire Sr., who worked his son’s corner for the second straight fight after reuniting last year, said his son was disoriented when he returned to the corner. Donaire Jr. said he thought he was in a sparring session and refused to sit down initially.

Round 2 saw more headbutts that worsened Donaire’s cut. Racing against time, Donaire had to take matters into his own hands or watch his quest for a featherweight belt go for naught.

Donaire pressed the action in Round 3, hurting Vetyeka with a right hand. The South African grabbed onto a rope to steady himself and remained in defense mode for the rest of the stanza.

Donaire’s aggression continued in Round 4 when he dropped Vetyeka with a left hook. Vetyeka, who won the belt with a sixth-round TKO over Chris John in December, steadied himself slowly but was hurt once more with a left hook before the end of the round.

“I couldn’t see on the right side, it was blurring. I couldn’t see his right hand where his power comes from,” said Donaire, the BWAA’s Fighter of the Year for 2012. “After the fourth round I couldn’t go any further.”

Afterwards, Donaire promised Vetyeka a rematch, which promoter Bob Arum considers to be a good idea.

“You don’t like to see a fight end early but he’s the champion and he’s a real man and he said he didn’t like to win the title that way so he’s going to give the South African kid a rematch,” said Arum.

Arum says he is considering pairing the rematch with Manny Pacquiao’s fight against an unnamed opponent on Nov. 23 in Macau, which would mark the first time the Philippines’ two best fighters of recent times fought on the same card together.

“I think if Pacquiao’s fight ends up here, why wouldn’t we add that to the card in addition to Zou Shiming’s title fight plus another fight. It’d be one of the greatest cards that they’re not going to top for years, no matter what happens with boxing in Asia,” said Arum.


Gradovich retains IBF title, Walters impresses

Evgeny Gradovich (19-0, 9 KOs) retained his IBF featherweight title for the third time with a unanimous decision victory over Alexander Miskirtchian. The scores – 117-110 on two cards and 118-110 – do not accurately reflect the difficult challenge set forth by the Belgium-based Miskirtchian, however.

Miskirtchian, who had never previously fought outside of Europe, started the quicker of the two, landing harder with his jabs while moving and out. Gradovich, a chronically slow starter, began to get his groove in the third round, landing sharp right hand counters set up by his faster foot movement.

Near the end of Round 6 Gradovich was dropped was both exchanged jabs.  As Gradovich’s right eye began to close, Miskirtchian’s lefts began to land more frequently. Gradovich continued to adapt, stepping back to land counters more than he has had to in recent fights, opening a cut on Miskirtchian’s left eye.

Gradovich, 27, of Oxnard Calif. by way of Igrim, Russia continued to outwork Miskirtchian in the championship rounds though neither was able to seriously hurt the other.

Nicholas Walters – an unheralded and unbeaten featherweight from Montego Bay, Jamaica – was able to bring the hurt in Macau.

The 28-year-old Walters turned in his most impressive victory to date, destroying former flyweight and junior bantamweight titleholder Vic Darchinyan with a highlight reel left hook knockout at 2:22 of Round 5.

Walters (24-0, 20 KOs) dropped the 38-year-old Darchinyan (39-7-1, 28 KOs), of Glendale, Calif., in round two with an uppercut before focusing on the body in ensuing rounds. As Darchinyan began to weaken, Walters’ head shots landed more frequently.

In the Round 5, a right hand wobbled Darchinyan, sending him reeling off-balance across the ring before he went down on a pair of body shots. Darchinyan rose up but was still clearly out on his feet as he floundered around the ring.

Darchinyan went down and out from a single Walters left hook, which may give Darchinyan the indignation of being on the losing end of a second Knockout of the Year punch.



Video by Ryan Songalia