By Lem Satterfield
The size disparity between defending “super” WBA bantamweight world champion Ryan Burnett and four-division title-winner Nonito Donaire was obvious to an observer 30 seconds into the first round of his recent clash at SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The first thing you notice is how big Nonito Donaire looks,” said a ringside analyst as the 35-year-old, Donaire stalked a jab-flicking, mobile Burnett, intermittently cornering or pinning the 26-year-old on the ropes.
“His back is naturally massive. It’s imperative for Ryan Burnett to start fast, keep a high pace in order to make the older man work hard, but to also be very safe, because Donaire carries power in either hand.”
Coming off April’s unanimous decision WBO 126-pound interim title bout loss to Burnett’s Irish countryman and two-division champion Carl Frampton, Donaire's was taller (5-foot-7 ½ inches to 5-foot-4) with a longer reach (68-inches to 66) and said he re-hydrated "around 10 pounds."
“Carl Frampton attested that Nonito Donaire carries plenty of pop,” said another commentator 90 seconds into the fight. “I suppose the key question is how much has the weight cut taken away from Donaire. Will he be as effective in this version of 118 as he was during his majestic boxing seven years ago?”
Fighting at 118 for the first time since November 2011---a span of 17 fights--Donaire (39-5, 25 KOs) was poised for power in an evenly contested yet anti-climactic match-up. Donaire was credited with a stoppage win as Burnett (19-1, 9 KOs) retired on his stool between the fourth and fifth rounds, being carried from the arena on a stretcher after reportedly suffering a slipped disc in his lower back while attempting to throw a right hand.
“With Ryan Burnett, I know I weighed about 128, and I felt good – not heavy or slow at all. We intended to make him feel the power, dominating this fight by switching to boxing on occasion. My power was good, but when I made him miss, he probably pulled something," said Donaire.
“I had only used about 80 percent of my power, settling into a rhythm and establishing a body attack. Before the injury happened, I thought I was breaking him down. I felt bad for Ryan, who was screaming in pain when they took him out. I hope that he’s going to be OK.”
The win over Burnett raised “The Filipino Flash” to 8-4 over a 12-fight span with five knockouts, being stopped once. All but the Burnett fight happened between 121 ½ and 126 pounds. Donaire’s eight major belts include an interim 115-pound title won by unanimous decision over Rafael Concepcion in August 2009.
“I realized after the Frampton fight that it was [win some, lose some,] and I don’t belong in the heavier divisions. I’ve always been a smaller guy, knowing I could make 118,” said Donaire, whose trainers are Brandon Woods and Kenny Adams.
“When the opportunity came for this tournament, I made the the sacrifice. Just two month ago in training I thought, 'This could be hard.’ But as the fight got closer, the weight came off easily, so I felt good and not drained at all.”
Donaire’s held title belts as an IBF/IBO flyweight (112 pounds), WBA interim super flyweight (115), unified WBA/WBO bantamweight (118), unified IBF/WBO super bantamweight (122), and WBA featherweight (126). Donaire's won his interim 115-pound title by unanimous decision over Rafael Concepcion in August 2009, but it's not considered an official fifth division crown.
"It's great being a world champion once again," said Donaire, a married father of 3- and 5-year-old boys who turns 36 on November 16. "It was easy enough to make the weight, so I'll be in this weight class for some time. I'll give it my all to keep it rolling."
Donaire has reached the Ali Trophy (World Boxing Super Series) semifinals against South African WBO champion Zolani Tete (28-3, 21 KOs), a 30-year-old southpaw whose third defense was by unanimous decision over 30-year-old Armenian Mikhail Aloyan (4-1) of Russia last month.
The other semifinal matches Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) of Puerto Rico and Japan’s No. 2 seed Naoya Inouie (17-0, 15 KOs), the former earning a split-decision over Jason Moloney (17-1, 14 KOs) of Australia’s in the second defense of his IBF crown last month.
Also last month, the 25-year-old Inouie scored a 70-second KO against former titleholder Juan Carlos Payano (20-2, 9 KOs), who was stopped for the first time in his career. Payano's "The Monster's" seventh stoppage in a row and second straight first-round KO.
“Tete’s a very skillful boxer, but my style’s made for his, power-wise,” said Donaire. “There are a lot of ways to dissect and neutralize his style so my power's at full force. If I can land my best punches, I believe I can stop him.”
Donaire fought three times at 118 pounds from December 2010 through October 2011, starting with a non-title fourth-round stoppage of Volodymyr Sydorenko. Next was a second-round TKO that dethroned Mexican star Fernando Montiel as WBC/WBO champion in February 2011.
Stopped for the first time in his career, Montiel was left on the canvas from a devastating left hook, arms and legs fluttering uncontrollably as the referee ended matters. Sydorenko has since retired.
Montiel was followed by a one-sided unanimous decision that October over previously unbeaten WBO flyweight titleholder Omar Narvaez, who fell to 35-1-2 with 18 KOs.
“My main focus is to advance through the next stage and win this tournament. My power is tremendous,” said Donaire.“With that and my ability to come in aggressively, smothering a lot of punches, I don’t doubt that I can’t stop anyone. I’m a dangerous puncher in this division."