MANILA, Philippines - WBO superbantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. is a shoo-in for Fighter of the Year honors and virtually sealed the vote with a spectacular third round disposal of Mexican legend Jorge Arce at the Toyota Center in Houston yesterday morning (Manila time). It was his fourth victory in a world title bout this year.
There was never any doubt of the outcome in trainer Robert Garcia’s mind. A week before, Garcia told The STAR in Las Vegas he had total confidence in Donaire’s ability to get the job done. Garcia worked welterweight Marcos Maidana’s corner in a third round knockout win over Angel Martinez in Buenos Aires last Tuesday then took a flight directly to Houston to hook up with Donaire last Thursday. Throughout Donaire’s five-week camp for Arce at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos City near San Francisco, Garcia was hardly visible - it didn’t matter.
“We were in touch almost every day by cell phone,” said Garcia. “No problem with Nonito. He knows what to do. He worked out with conditioning coach Mike Bazel to get ready for Arce.” Garcia’s job was to send Donaire a squad of sparmates who could mimic Arce’s come-forward style. Donaire logged at least 75 rounds of sparring to toughen his hands for what everyone expected to be a demolition.
Twice this year, Donaire hurt his left hand but while the skin tore around his knuckles, the consolation was there was no fracture or broken bones. The wound healed so quickly that Donaire came back from halting Toshiaki Nishioka with a bleeding left hand last Oct. 13 to retire Arce just two months after.
Garcia knew Arce had no chance to beat Donaire. “It’ll be over anytime Nonito wants to finish it, maybe two or three rounds but it could go five or six depending on what Arce shows,” said Garcia. Donaire did exactly as Garcia imagined. Arce went down for a mandatory eight-count in the second, got up and displayed guts in trading with Donaire. But in the third, Arce had little left in his heart. Donaire dropped him with a right hook to the ear. After referee Laurence Cole tolled the eight-count, Donaire went in for the kill. Arce stood his ground courageously. He even goaded Donaire to pour it on and the Filipino Flash obliged, lashing out with a powerful left hook to the jaw that sent Travieso down for good. A second was left in the round when Cole stepped in - eerily, it was a similar ending to the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas a week ago. Marquez stopped Pacquiao with a second to go in the sixth.
Donaire wouldn’t have fought again this year after trouncing Nishioka if Arce didn’t step up to the plate. He knew the Mexican would be no problem and tailor-made for an early climax. The purse of at least $1 Million made it an easier decision to make.
What sets Donaire apart from other world champions is he’s extremely smart. He breaks down an opponent’s defense like a polished mechanic. He creates openings and angles with his footwork. He does what it takes to win - he can box or slug. He adjusts to situations. He can switch-hit. He’s hard to hit and he never loses his composure. It’s the mindset that gives Donaire a huge edge in the gym and in the ring.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said Donaire has a “tremendous upside” and plans to showcase the Filipino Flash in a big international card in Macau next year. At the moment, Arum said Donaire isn’t as iconic as Pacquiao but the future is bright for bigger things, bigger fights and bigger purses.
Arce, 33, announced his retirement after the crushing loss, his first in the last 12 outings dating back to a defeat to Simphiwe Nonggayi on points in 2009. The Mexican avenged the setback to Nonggayi in a fourth round knockout two years later. He’ll go down as one of the greatest Mexican warriors ever with 19 world title fights in his record of 61-7-2, with 46 KOs. Arce held the WBC/WBO lightflyweight, interim WBC flyweight, WBO/IBF superflyweight, WBO bantamweight and WBO superbantamweight titles in a colorful career.
For the Donaire fight, Arce didn’t enter the ring wearing his traditional cowboy hat with a lollipop in his mouth. The old Arce confidence was gone. He smiled all the way from the dressing room but you could sense the anxiety. In contrast, Donaire was all business. He never smiled in his march to the ring, exuding total focus. At the sound of the first bell, both fighters sized each other up cautiously with Donaire a little busier from a distance. In the second round, Donaire closed the gap and began landing short shots, a right flooring Arce. Then, in the third, as Arce attempted to apply pressure, Donaire was in his sharpest form and the end came shortly after.
Arce had never lost to a Filipino previously, victimizing Jovan Presbiterio in two, Carmelo Caceres in two, Joma Gamboa in two, Juanito Rubillar twice on points and Fernando Lumacad in three. He finally met his match in Donaire.