Nonito Donaire once again didn't provide a lot of excitement, but once again, it could be blamed more on a reluctant dance partner than anything else. Donaire stopped Japan's Toshiaki Nishioka in the ninth round tonight in the HBO Boxing After Dark main event, having won every round up to that point.
Donaire (30-1, 19 KO) had a lot going for him tonight, so here's a quick list:
- He was younger.
- He was faster.
- He was stronger.
- He wanted it a lot more, it seemed.
Donaire, 29, tried as usual to make it exciting with his counter-punching style, but unfortunately Nishioka (39-5-3, 24 KO) just wasn't willing to engage in the early going. Following the Rios-Alvarado war, the crowd in Carson, California, was reluctant to give this one much patience, and began booing heavily in the very first round.
That was premature, but after three rounds or so, it wasn't anymore, and as much as fights can earn boos by not being entertaining, this one had earned them. Donaire is a counter-puncher, and sticks to his game plan for the most part. If the opponent does not give him opportunities, he is content to cruise to victory usually.
This makes him a really good fighter. It does not make him an action star. And I mean that less as a criticism than to say that we would probably be better off not overselling Donaire's excitement potential -- without an overly willing fighter across the ring, Donaire is closer to Andre Ward than he is to Arturo Gatti, and while he has highlight reel potential every time out, he's perfectly happy to just win. And winning is good enough, as he's a popular fighter who has good network and promoter backing.
So what I mean to say is, I'm not trying to slam Donaire for his fights not being slugfests. Somewhere along the way, between Darchinyan and Montiel, he got tagged as a can't-miss action fighter. He's just not that guy. It's not his style and he's pretty damn good with that not being his style.
As for Nishioka tonight, he came alive a little bit after he got dropped in the sixth round on a left uppercut, but that was short-lived. In the ninth, he again tried for a home run shot, which got him popped in the mouth with a straight right counter and put down again. With the corner trying to wave it off, referee Raul Caiz stopped the fight.
Personally, I thought it felt like my cynical expectation of Nishioka tonight: A fighter who was probably already one foot out the door with his boxing career. It's not that he didn't try, but he was overly cautious, very respectful of Donaire's power and speed, and just wasn't good enough tonight. He didn't have any advantages in there and he was beaten by a better man. But the end did come when he went for it -- he didn't just flick a jab for three more rounds and survive to say he went 12. He tried to win, and that's what got him out of there in nine. It wasn't a shameful performance, but it was surely disappointing to many.
Donaire also reinjured his left hand in the fight, and when asked about Guillermo Rigondeaux by HBO's Max Kellerman in the post-fight interview, he ducked out of that again, saying that Rigondeaux "needs more guys" to get Donaire "excited," because Donaire can't fight someone if he's not excited to fight them. This is a very clear avoidance of Rigondeaux, and frankly it has nothing to do with whether or not Donaire-Rigondeaux would be a boring fight, which it very well might be if it does happen. It's just very obvious that Donaire wants nothing to do with that guy, and it deserves to be said that he's obviously avoiding the fight, and that his reasons for doing so don't pass the smell test.