Nonito Donaire unified a pair of titles tonight in the 122-pound division, beating Jeffrey Mathebula by unanimous decision in California, live on HBO. Donaire won on scores 119-108, 118-109, and 117-110. Bad Left Hook had it a closer 115-112 for Donaire, who struggled a bit at times but did deserve the win. Judging from others whose opinions I respect who were tweeting their scores live from the arena, it sounds like a fight that very much looked different ringside than on TV.
Donaire (29-1, 18 KO) scored a knockdown on a gorgeous left hook in the fourth round, throwing it in counter, which has always been his money punch. But Mathebula recovered well and got himself into the fight, hanging in and often outworking the Filipino, nicking many rounds for those of us watching on TV. That's the type of thing that definitely could look different ringside -- those touch punches, the jabs, might not have been as impressive at whatever angle, and Donaire's one-punch seek and destroy route may have seemed the better work.
For Donaire, it was a third straight fight where at the end, some -- including the HBO team -- were saying, "Well, he won, next time he'll be sensational." Maybe I'm just nuts, but isn't it possible that Nonito Donaire is just a really good fighter and not someone descended from the heavens to rule boxing?
In the 11th round, Donaire nailed Mathebula (26-4-2, 14 KO) with a bomb of a right hand that cracked his tooth, which at first looked like a broken jaw as his mouth hung open with blood flowing. Donaire closed the fight well in the final two rounds, and sealed the win, even though it turned out he didn't need those two rounds.
For the record, Donaire's post-fight interview with Max Kellerman seemed to lean toward the fight many of us saw on TV, a competitive, challenging bout for Nonito, rather than the one-way traffic some believed it to be. But however you slice it, Donaire won and beat a top ten guy tonight, and deserved the victory.
Thanks for joining us this evening and this afternoon on what was a big Saturday in boxing with plenty of good action.