|Written by Gopal Rao - Photos by Harry How |
- In March of 2008, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez staged one of the classic encounters in the history of the super bantamweight division by fighting for the unified title at the Home Depot Center, just outside of Los Angeles. Four years later, Nonito Donaire and Jeffrey Mathebula attempted to replicate the feat by unifying the WBO and IBF super bantamweight titles at the same venue in Carson, California.
Although the pair couldn’t match the historic back-and-forth intensity of their predecessors, the fight did manage to demonstrate that perhaps the road to supremacy in the division runs through Donaire, who quickly imposed his speed and punching power on the overmatched Mathebula.
Outfitted in a set of matching yellow & black trunks and boots, meant to conjure images of Bruce Lee in the film Game Of Death - Donaire controlled the fight from the opening bell. He darted in and out, bobbed up and down, and threw punishing blows that made the awkward Mathebula seem wary of taking any additional risks.
Donaire appeared to be going for the fences in the first round, throwing every punch as though he thought he'd knock out Mathebula as soon as he landed. As a result, there were openings for Mathebula to land the jab throughout the fight.
|Mathebula down in the 4th|
Mathebula attempted to hold off the oncoming Donaire by backpedaling constantly and flicking out the jab, as well as a few chopping flurries that appeared to be meant more to keep Donaire at bay rather than to inflict damage.
Donaire managed to land his primary weapon, the left hook, right on Mathebula’s cheek in the fourth round, depositing him on the canvas, and bringing the crowd to it’s feet.
The crowd roared with every punch Nonito threw, however, and when he didn’t punch, Donaire’s clowning antics seemed to delight his fans nonetheless.
Donaire used his elusiveness to showboat along the way, snaking underneath Mathebula's punches and pivoting his body into odd angles, out of range. He spent much of the middle and late rounds stalking Mathebula in this manner, bobbing and weaving just beneath Mathebula's wheelhouse, and then springing up to throw a few home run swings. In fact, there were moments when Donaire seemed more interested in creating an interesting punching angle than in actually throwing punches at Mathebula.
It is possible that these antics cost him rounds on the official scorecards, however, which read 117-110, 118-109 and 119-108, all in favor of Donaire. Otherwise, it was difficult to rationalize how Mathebula could have won more than two rounds. Perhaps it was telling that, despite the seeming inability of Mathebula to mount any significant offense aside from jabs and a few right hands, Donaire was still unable to finish him off inside the distance. "That jab really took me out of my power range. He's a great champion. He wouldn't let me get in there and let me work." Donaire said afterward.
Mathebula also managed to produce a bit of swelling under both of Donaire’s eyes with his jab, although he never appeared to seriously hurt him. The final punch stats, compiled by Compubox, had Donaire landing 102 of 261 total punches versus 91 connects in 308 attempts for Mathebula.
“Mathebula is a very difficult fighter to fight. Everybody who’s fought him fought a very close fight. As the judges indicated, this was not a close fight. I thought Nonito won 10 or 11 rounds.” Promoter Bob Arum said afterwards.
Fellow super bantamweight fighter Abner Mares was in attendance to witness Donaire’s performance, as was Japanese rival Toshiaki Nishioka. “He’s beatable.” was Mares’ assessment of Donaire. “I think I could beat him, and I think it would be a good fight for the fans.”
“I think the fans want to see the best out there, and that is me and Donaire.” said Nishioka.
“As usual, I think his performance was excellent. I’ve been waiting for him since I fought Rafael Marquez. I’ve been studying the way he’s fighting. That’s the fight that excites me most.” he said.
HBO analyst Max Kellerman weighed in on Donaire’s remaining options in the 122 pound division by singling out Cuban Olympic champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux. “The fight I’m most interested in seeing is probably Donaire and Rigondeaux, because I believe that those are the two most talented guys. Rigondeaux only has ten pro fights though. He needs some pro fights against some tough guys to see how he does against another really good pro fighter.”
With the victory, Donaire earned his sixth professional world title, bringing his overall record to 29-1-0. Mathebula drops to 26-4-2.
Pavlik drops Rosinsky, wins convincingly
|Rosinsky gets Ghostbusted by Pavlik! |
In the chief support bout before the main event, super middleweight Will “Power” Rosinsky started off energetically, trying to make good on his pre-fight promise to turn his challenge of Kelly Pavlik into a war. Power circled with great agility, coming in low and shooting punches to the body to set up quick flurries upstairs during the opening round.
A short right hand from Pavlik put Rosinsky on the canvas in the 2nd round, and the emergency medic from Queens, New York went into retreat mode shortly thereafter.
A constantly advancing Pavlik maneuvered Rosinsky to the ropes several times throughout the fight, although Rosinsky still managed to throw token flurries here and there to escape.
Despite opening up a cut over Pavlik’s left eye, and bloodying his nose, Rosinsky was unable to stop Pavlik from consistently marching forward behind a stiff jab, and a ramrod right hand. By the fifth round, the crowd was chanting Pavlik’s name as he pursued an opponent who seemed out of ideas about how to mount an effective offense.
Pavlik showed a surprising array of inside skills as well, given his usual propensity for fighting from range, using his height and reach. He blocked, parried and picked off shots when Rosinsky attempted to flurry, and he returned fire with a left hook that has seemed to develop under the tutelage of Robert Garcia.
Pavlik also mixed in body shots throughout the encounter, which might have taken the legs out from underneath Rosinsky, who relied on constant movement to stay out of danger.
After ten rounds, the scores were announced as 97-92, 98-91 and 98-91, all in favor of Pavlik.
The win marked Pavlik’s third straight victory since moving his training camp from Youngstown, Ohio to Oxnard, California under the guidance of Garcia, who also trains Nonito Donaire.
Pavlik said he hopes to return in the fall for a bigger fight, against a more recognizable name. Possible future opponents for Pavlik are Carl Froch, Andre Ward and Lucian Bute, all of whom he mentioned in his post fight in-ring interview with Max Kellerman.
By Gopal Rao, exclusively for KO Digest
Photos Harry How/Getty Images
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