If you wind the clock back to December last year, Nonito Donaire had just closed out a stellar year after walking through four top opponents en route to being voted 2012 fighter of the year. I am sure no one was predicting that in virtually a year’s time we would be watching Nonito Donaire fighting a nearly 38-year-old Vic Darchinyan. Crazily enough, that’s exactly what happened. Even crazier is the fact that before being stopped in the ninth round last night, Darchinyan was clearly winning the fight. Now I am not trying to take anything away from Darchinyan when I say this but the fact that he was able to impose his will on Donaire for eight rounds, along with a few other things I noticed, tells me there is definitely something up with Donaire.
When it was announced a few months ago that Donaire was set to face former foe Vic Darchinyan, I wasn’t exactly foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Top Rank Promotions tried to pass off the bout as some kind of grudge match but I, along with most of the boxing community, didn’t buy into it. A rising Donaire had already made easy work of the then undefeated Vic Darchinyan with a fifth round knockout way back in 2007. The reality is, this bout was tailor made so that Donaire could win in an impressive fashion and build his confidence back up after being dethroned by Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this year.
Donaire did look as impressive as ever when he was finally able to drop Vic with a big left hook and follow it up with a vicious barrage of punches that stopped him in the ninth. The problem is that this was not meant to be tough fight, anything less then a lopsided KO win for Donaire was always going to raise questions. He wasn’t facing a young hungry up and comer or a reigning king of the division, he was in against a nearly 38-year-old man whom he had already knocked out six years ago while he was still in his prime. Leading into the fight Darchinyan had lost two of his last four bouts and was not supposed to present much of a challenge at all.
From the opening bell it was Darchinyan who was pressing the action and for eight long rounds Donaire didn’t really have an answer to what was being dished out. Donaire was by no means on the on wrong side of a beat down but he was not able to take control of the fight or land any significant shots until the ninth. It was like he was just fighting to survive and didn’t particularly want to be in there. I think it is safe to say that after Darchinyan’s gallant efforts, he will get more from this loss then Donaire will get from his uninspiring victory.
During the post fight interview with Max Kellerman, Donaire said a few things that really had the alarm bells ringing for me and at the same time were very fitting after the dreary performance we just saw. The first thing was that he said he had been hurt and was having doubts within himself as to whether he wanted to fight on and the second thing was the way he was talking about his corner. He seemed to not agree with the advice given to him by his trainer Robert Garcia. What I took from that interview was that he didn’t have faith in his corner and he is having internal doubts about whether he really wanted to fight or not.
Already people are starting to say that Donaire has been exposed and was just a hype job. A hype job…really? This is absolutely ridiculous! Donaire has 100 percent earned his accolades; you simply cannot deny his accomplishments. Before getting a boxing lesson from Rigondeaux back in April, he had not lost since his second pro fight ten years ago. In 2007 he blasted onto the scene when he destroyed Darchinyan in five rounds to become the new IBF flyweight world champion, a fight in which he was a 7:1 underdog. Since then he has faced stiff competition and rarely lost rounds. In 2012 he fought four times defeating Wilfredo Vázquez, Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce. To overlook all of these achievements just because he lost to Rigondeaux and had an average performance against Darchinyan last night is absolutely absurd. Rigondeaux is one of the best pure boxers I have ever seen and Darchinyan, on the decline or not is still a top ten Jr Featherweight.
To me it is clear that Donaire took Darchinyan lightly and that he is having issues with his team. I can’t help but feel that after riding such a high then crashing to such a low after tasting defeat for the first time in ten years that it has really taken something from him mentally. Even with the perfect preparation, I really can’t see him beating Rigondeaux, he is just too good. The question will be, after the criticism that he will face following last night's bout and with somewhat of an imminent loss on the horizon should he face Rigondeaux again, will he be able to bounce back to the form that made him a pound for pound star?