Monday, May 27, 2024  |


Nonito Donaire outpoints Cesar Juarez in 12-round scorcher

Fighters Network

Nonito Donaire won the vacant WBO 122-pound title with a unanimous decision over Cesar Juarez on Friday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, the four-division titleholder had to earn his seventh major belt with pain, blood and a lot of grit.

Donaire (36-3, 23 knockouts) won by scores of 116-110 (twice) and 117-109, but those tallies don’t indicate the competitive nature of the fight, especially the second half of the truTV-televised co-feature.

The Philippines-born Californian outclassed Juarez over the first half of the bout, stunning his lesser experienced foe with accurate power punches to the head and body while on the move, and dropping the Mexico City native twice in Round 4. (The first knockdown was iffy; either a delayed effect from a right cross or the result of their legs being tangled, but the second knockdown was courtesy of a beautiful hook.)

Juarez (17-4, 13 KOs) looked hapless but he was undaunted. And the 24 year old’s perseverance was rewarded (through a gift of fate) when Donaire twisted his left ankle near the end of Round 6. Once the lateral movement of “the Filipino Flash” was hampered, Juarez took full advantage by pressing the 33-year-old veteran to the ropes and teeing off in Round 7.

Juarez, a rugged pressure fighter who had won four consecutive fights, continued to back Donaire to the ropes where he punished the Filipino’s body in the final five rounds of the fight. (He was robbed of a knockdown in Round 10 when a a hook nailed Donaire on the ear and the veteran went down. The referee ruled it a slip.)

However, Donaire returned fire, punching on the fly when he could, and even landing counter rights and lead hooks when pushed back on his heels. By Round 11, Donaire’s left eye was bruised and swollen, blood dripped from a cut above his right eye. Juarez’s nose and mouth poured blood as he stalked forward.

Juarez kept Donaire on the ropes for most of Round 12, outworking the more talented fighter, but the older man stood and traded in spots, landing the more eye-catching shots (including a huge left uppercut with a minute left).

Donaire, THE RING’s No. 3-rated junior featherweight (behind Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg), puts himself back into the 122-pound picture with the gutsy victory. He isn’t the elite boxing force he was four or five years ago, but he remains formidable (and marketable) thanks to his talent, experience and will to win.

“I feel amazing,” Donaire said during a post-fight locker room interview on truTV. “We did what he wanted to do in the early rounds, but I lost my power in the middle of the fight because I couldn’t punch with my legs, I could only throw arm punches.

“A lot of guys would have quit (after hurting their angle) but I’m mentally strong. I fought my mental fatigue. I’m never going to give up.

“Juarez was amazing too. He was going to give me a tough fight whether I hurt my ankle or not. This was my toughest fight.”

In the main event of the Top Rank promotion, Puerto Rico’s hottest prospect Felix Verdejo made short work of Josenilson Dos Santos, stopping the rangy Brazilian with a fastball right cross in Round 2. Dos Santos (27-4, 17 KOs) got up too quick and wobbled too much for the referee to allow him to continue.

Verdejo, a 22-year-old lightweight gifted with speed, power and sharp technique that remind some of iconic Puerto Rican hall of famer Felix Trinidad (who was ringside), recorded his 14th KO in his 19th consecutive pro victory.


Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer