CARSON, CALIFORNIA — Nonito Donaire did his best to entertain the crowd last night against Jeffrey Mathebula with flashy haymakers and taunts. But in the end, it was his traditional boxing skills that saved him from a late fight collapse in sweeping the last two rounds and fracturing a Mathebula tooth to take a unanimous decision and unify the WBO and IBF super bantamweight titles.
Donaire came out with one objective; score a sensational knockout. He knocked Mathebula back with repeated hard left hooks. The tall and lanky challenger responded with his own hooks to the body, but found himself outgunned in exchanges due to the power difference. However, Mathebula settled down and had a good third round working behind the jab while Donaire focused in vain on haymaker shots.
The fourth nearly ended matters when Donaire landed a sweeping left hook, rivaling his vicious KO of Fernando Montiel last year. Mathebula toppled to his back but succeeded in beating the count. The knockdown came close to the bell, giving Mathebula time to recover. The South African titlist rebounded well in the fifth by flurrying hooks inside. However, it would be Donaire who landed the round’s hardest shots; he caught Mathebula with a left-right hook combination to start the round and closed with two slashing left hooks.
Donaire would later complain of leg-cramping, and that alleged injury may have occurred in rounds 6-9. Donaire’s punch output nosedived and he spent most of these rounds stalking Mathebula to end the bout with another big left hand. Mathebula worked consistently and succeeded in swelling both Donaire’s eyes with his long left jab and cuffing hooks. In addition, Mathebula made sure to throw 3-4 punch combinations whenever Donaire tried to bull inside.
After a close 10th round that saw a more active Mathebula but harder punching Donaire, the final momentum shift happened in the 11th when Donaire connected with a pinpoint right hand on the jaw. Mathebula recoiled immediately and barely thew any punches the rest of the round. He backpedaled and was seen holding his guard high and close to jaw, confirming that later revelation of the broken tooth. He was seen spitting up globs of blood in the corner which prompted a brief look by the ringside physician.
Donaire pressed again for the KO in the 12th with left and right hooks, but Mathebula would not be bullied into submission. He scored with a thudding left jab-right cross and got in the final punches, a combination of hooks that stifled a final Donaire flurry.
The scorecards reflected the judges preference for aggression but not the fight’s competitive nature; Donaire was awarded the unanimous decision by scores of 119-108 twice and 107-110.
Donaire would state in his post-fight interview that his offense looked sloppy due to Mathebula’s jab.
“He was tough and got me off with that jab very well,” said Donaire. “I didn’t know it’d be that hard to counter him with the right hand.”
Donaire named Toshiaki Nishioka as his next likely opponent along with the strong possibilities of Abner Mares and Jorge Arce. On unifying all four belts, he gave a “maybe” on WBA titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik got in rounds but not much serious trouble from Will Rosinsky, scoring a 10 round unanimous decision. Rosinsky started well by moving in and out and using his smaller arms to catch Pavlik with hooks inside. Pavlik adjusted by slowing his foe with prolonged left hook attacks to the body. He would also score a 2nd round flash knockdown off a short right hook.
Rosinsky would open a cut above Pavlik’s left eye by the fourth and have good rounds of inside work in the sixth and eighth rounds. But overall, he didn’t have the firepower necessary to stop Pavlik’s constant pressure. The final scores were 98-91 and 97-92 twice for Pavlik.
For his next opponents, Pavlik specifically named the top names at super-middleweight (Ward, Froch, Kessler and Bute).
I’m starting to think the Montiel KO is the worst thing that could’ve happened to Donaire. Since it occurred on HBO, it appears that he’s feeling the pressure to go out and replicate that every fight. He gets him fighting out of character. The taunts last night while eating jabs to the face were ridiculous. Mathebula isn’t a scrub so the fact it was competitive isn’t surprising. But hopefully going forward Donaire remembers his elite status isn’t predicated on being a knockout artist.
The only other big criticism I have is how he handled the post-fight question about unifying the titles. First, he said that only three was good enough, not four. Reading between the lines, that gave him another out in facing WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, someone he’s given continued excuses about not fighting. He said “maybe” this time in facing Ridgondeaux, so that’s some progress. If the Filipino Flashdoes move forward with plans against either Nishioka, Arce or Mares, then you can’t accuse him of soft touches. However, I find it very telling that Donaire is so reluctant to face a fighter with only 10 professional fights under his belt. It implies a lot about what Donaire really thinks about Rigondeaux’s ability.
Pavlik looked ok against Rosinsky. Dealing with movement is still an issue for him. Rosinsky did the best job he could in trying to replicate what Sergio Martinez did against Pavlik, but the punching power and speed weren’t there to pull it off.
Is Pavlik ready for the big names at 168? He’d be better off hoping Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. beats Martinez in September. That fight could be at a catchweight and is much more winnable than his chances against the likes Andre Ward. I’d favor Froch over him as well, but that’d be an awesome and brutal fight. Kessler and Bute are fights I’m on the fence about as to who would win. No matter how you fancy his chances, it’s promising to hear Pavlik tell Max Kellerman that he realizes it’s time to stop the exhibition fights and get back in there with elite competition.