Vetyeka not in Donaire's class
By Joaquin Henson Updated Monday June 02, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Newly crowned WBA featherweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. offered Simpiwe Vetyeka a rematch in a display of sportsmanship after dethroning the South African on a unanimous technical decision in the fifth round in Macau last Saturday but the former titleholder doesn't deserve it.

Near the end of the first round, Vetyeka opened a deep cut over Donaire's left eye with a headbutt. Donaire went down on all fours as blood spurted out from the gash. Twice, Puerto Rican referee Luis Pabon called on Filipino ringside physician Dr. Redentor Viernes to examine the wound during the second round. Donaire insisted to go on despite the handicap.

In the third round, Donaire fought courageously even as his vision was obstructed and managed to buckle the South African's knees, causing him to hold on the ropes to prevent a fall. Vetyeka stepped up his attack in the fourth and rained blows from Donaire's blind side. With his back against the ropes, Donaire countered and decked Vetyeka with a left hook. Donaire went in for the kill and landed another big punch but couldn't focus on his target with blood blurring his line of sight.

Before the start of the fifth, Pabon leaned over the ropes to inform the ringside officials he would stop the fight because of Donaire's cut. Then, he signaled to start the round and after the bell sounded, called it off. Under world championship rules, a bout stopped within four rounds because a fighter is unable to continue due to a cut inflicted by an accidental headbutt is ruled a no-contest or technical draw. But if it is stopped for the same reason after four rounds, the fighter ahead on the scorecards is declared the winner by technical decision.

If Pabon stopped it before the start of the fifth round, Vetyeka would've retained the title on a no-contest or technical draw. But it would've been a travesty to bail out the South African who was clearly not in Donaire's class. Pabon, who has worked over 20 years as a referee and judge around the world, knew better than to give Vetyeka an escape route.

If there was a shortcoming on Pabon's part, it was his tolerance of Vetkeya's tactics. The South African didn't only butt Donaire repeatedly but also used his elbow in close exchanges. Pabon never deducted a point off Vetyeka.

In boxing history, world titles have changed hands by technical decision. Julio Cesar Chavez regained the WBC superlightweight title on an eighth round split technical decision over Frankie Randall in Las Vegas in 1994. Mexican Jorge Vaca wrested the WBC welterweight crown from Lloyd Honeyghan on an eighth round split technical decision in London in 1987. Manny Pacquiao and Agapito Sanchez battled to a sixth round split technical draw in their IBF/WBO superbantamweight unification title fight in San Francisco in 2001. Referee Marty Denkin stopped it after ruling Pacquiao unfit to continue with a nasty cut over his right eye due to headbutts.

Luisito Espinosa figured in three technical decisions in world title fights. In 1997, he beat Manuel Medina on an eighth round unanimous technical decision to retain his WBC featherweight crown at the Luneta Park and a year later, defeated Juan Carlos Ramirez on an 11th round split technical decision to keep the same title in El Paso. In 2000, Espinosa lost to Guty Espadas, Jr. on an 11th round unanimous technical decision for the vacant WBC featherweight crown in Merida.

Other Filipinos who lost by technical decision in world title fights included Miguel Arrozal to John Palaki in a WBB lightweight title match in Washington in 1998, Roberto Moreno to Samson Dutch Boy Gym in a WBF superflyweight title bout in Thailand in 2000, Eriberto Gejon to Yutaka Niida in a WBA minimumweight title fight in Yokohama in 2005 and Rodel Mayol to Ivan Calderon in a WBO lightflyweight title duel in Puerto Rico in 2009. Mayol and Calderon had previously fought to a sixth round split technical draw. Filipinos who figured in technical draws in world championship bouts stopped inside four rounds were Mayol with Omar Nino Romero in a WBC lightflyweight title fight in 2010 and Gerry Penalosa with Joel Luna Zarate in a WBC superflyweight title bout in 1998.

In Donaire's case, he knew the fight wouldn't go the distance with his vision obstructed so he went for a knockout. He could've played it safe and settled for a technical draw but that would mean Vetyeka retaining the title. Donaire wanted to treat the fans to a victory - which he guaranteed - and that's why he traded bombs in the fourth round, flooring Vetyeka in the process. With the knockdown, Donaire had his consolation. It also sealed his win on points with Pabon stepping in after the fourth round to go to the judges' scorecards.

There were some hitches in the staging of the fight. Ring announcer Lupe Contreras said the three judges saw it 49-46 for Donaire which is impossible because only four rounds were scored, meaning the maximum total was 40. The scores should've been read as 39-36. Celebrity writer Robin Leach introduced the protagonists in the ring before the bout and lacked the dramatics to stir up the crowd. Leach couldn't even properly pronounce Vetyeka. Leach said the fight was for the undisputed WBA featherweight crown but in the previous bout, he called Nicholas Walters the WBA featherweight champion. That, however, is the WBA's fault because it illogically recognizes two featherweight titlists, one in a "super" category and the other in a "regular" category. Leach also murdered the pronunciation of Vic Darchinyan's surname in the undercard and forgot to mention the knockouts in Walters' record.

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