Nonito Donaire's run as an elite fighter in the sport may have come to an end tonight, as he was physically dominated by a younger, stronger, and simply better fighter in Nicholas Walters, who dropped him twice en route to a TKO win at the end of round six.
Walters (25-0, 21 KO) and Donaire (33-3, 21 KO) went toe-to-toe starting in round two, after Donaire was down but rightly ruled to be down on a slip in round one. In the second, Donaire landed an accidental low blow, but more importantly, upped his output a bit and shook Walters hard on a left hook right at the bell. Had that shot landed a bit earlier, who knows? Maybe the fight ends in round two.
Instead, Walters recovered with the break between rounds, and then totally took over the fight, physically dominating the naturally smaller Donaire. To Nonito's credit, after a third round knockdown from Walters on a beautiful uppercut, and then a one-sided fourth round where Donaire did nothing, the Filipino star tried to close the gap that Walters' long jab had opened.
Fighting inside, Donaire appeared to find something that was working. But even then, Walters was too strong for him, and the decision to get in that tight might have been Donaire's Hail Mary adjustment.
At the end of the sixth round, a pair of right hands put Donaire face-down on the canvas. Though he got up at eight, he was on jelly legs, and referee Raul Caiz Jr made the decision to end the fight.
The two fighters exchanged great respect and admiration for one another after the fight. Walters told Donaire, "You're one of my favorite fighters," to which Donaire replied, "You're my favorite fighter now."
"This victory didn't just come like that. We worked hard. Knowing that we were fighting Donaire, we knew it would be tough work, because he's a super great boxer, a tough champion," Walters told HBO's Max Kellerman. "I respect him. He caught me early on. He had power and speed. He was good. I thank Donaire for giving me this opportunity so I can display my talent to HBO and the world."
Talking about the hook that hurt him in round two, Walters said, "I got a little bit confident. I said, I'm gonna overpower him, and he caught me with a good shot, boom! I went to my corner and my coach was all excited, and I said, no, no, calm down. I recuperated. But it was a good shot. He caught me clean. I knew I had a job to do, and I just went out there to get the job done."
Donaire was non-committal about his future, but indicated he may look to move down to 122 pounds, saying that he couldn't compete with guys who had the size, power, and "aura" of Walters. He was also particularly blunt about the loss tonight, in very clear language.
"He knocked the fucking shit out of me," Donaire told Kellerman. "He's an amazing fighter. I'm getting older, but I'm not taking anything from Walters. I was at my best. I've never trained this hard. I've never, ever trained this hard. He came out as tough as I thought he would be. Just the size that he had over me, I couldn't move. He just overwhelmed me and knocked the shit out of me."
Donaire landed 40 of 169 (24%) total punches, compared to Walters' 85 of 284 (30%), a number carried by his jab. Walters used his long jab in dominant fashion to control the fight, landing 44 of 162 (27%) compared to a paltry 4 of 59 (7%) for Donaire. Power punch stats were closer, with Walters landing 41 of 122 (34%) to Donaire's 36 of 110 (33%), but the power in the punches clearly went in Walters' favor, as well as the fact that he set up his big shots much better.