By Jake Donovan
Nonito Donaire scored three knockdowns en route to a 3rd round stoppage of Hungary's Zsolt Bedak in a super bantamweight title defense Saturday evening at Cebu City Sports Complex in Cebu, Philippines.
Left hooks produced a pair of knockdowns in round two, with the finishing sequence coming courtesy of a right hand shot in round three.
Two weeks following Manny Pacquiao's convincing win over Timothy Bradley Jr. and ensuing retirement, the Philippines boxing public was in search of a new in-ring hero. Donaire was quick to answer the call, with a wild fight week capped by upwards of 30,000 in attendance for Saturday's show.
Once the opening bell sounded, the Fil-Am star - who was raised in San Leandro, California but proudly flies the colors of his birth nation - didn't at all disappoint.
Bedak by nature is a cautious boxer who fights behind a high guard and rarely looks to engage. That placed Donaire with the normally uncomfortable task of taking the lead and forcing the action. It made for an awkward opening round, but one where Donaire was able to measure up his foe in determining the best course of action for an ensuing offensive attack.
The riddle was solved no sooner than the bell to signal the start of round two. Donaire - a champion in four weight classes and now a two-term super bantamweight titlist - was dialed in with his left hook, for which Bedak had no response. The weapon of choice was thrown in succession midway through round two, bloodying the nose of the visiting challenger as he hit the deck for the first knockdown of the night.
Donaire wasn't finished yet, anxious to close the show. He was in a similar position in his most recent outing, when he had Cesar Juarez down and hurt early in their vacant title fight last December in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Juarez not only recovered, but battled back brave enough to produce one of the very best fights of 2015.
The night ended in a win for Donaire, but he was not about to allow history to repeat himself, especially in front of 30,000 strong on hand to see its favorite son in action. Bedak was dropped again late in round two, also courtesy of a left hook. He beat the count and was far enough out of punching range to make it to the bell to end the round, but was ultimately on borrowed time.
Donaire didn't ease up any in round three, but slightly changed offensive gears. This time, it was a right hand shot that put Bedak down on the canvas for the third time in the contest.
There was confusion as to whether the sequence came from a punch or a push, perhaps why Bedak paid more attention to his corner at ringside than to the mandatory eight count issued by referee Russell Mora. Upon not receiving a favorable response, the third man opted to stop the contest.
The official time was 2:44 of round three.
Donaire successfully registers the first defense of his second super bantamweight title reign. A former champ at flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight, the 33-year old boxer returned to the 122-pound division after a brief title reign one pound north which ended with a knockout loss to Nicholas Walters.
Four straight wins have followed for Donaire, who improves to 37-3 (24KOs).
Bedak falls to 25-2 (8KOs), with both losses coming outside of his native Hungary and in title fights. His previous defeat came in a May '10 knockout loss to then-unbeaten 122-pound titlist Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr., whom Donaire bested in a Feb. '12 vacant title fight in kicking off his Fighter of the Year campaign.
The win was Donaire's first at the new weight after having vacated his bantamweight title, going on to score title wins over Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce to earn industry-wide accolades as 2012 Fighter of the Year. His title reign ended in his first fight of 2013, however, suffering a 12-round decision loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, who still reigns as the division's unbeaten lineal champion - and is still recognized by Donaire as unfinished business.
"I want to face the best every time out," Donaire said of his future in the division, which includes a desired rematch with the unbeaten Cuban.
MAGSAYO BATTERS AVALOS IN SLUGFEST
Unbeaten featherweight Mark Magsayo is flawed enough to where his ascension from prospect to contender will be a fun ride, but talented enough to work himself out of any situation.
Proof of the latter came in the form of his brutal 6th round knockout of featherweight Chris Avalos, a bout loaded with non-stop action and knockdowns from both fighters.
Magsayo came flying out the gate, throwing every punch with knockout intentions. It worked well for about 1 1/2 rounds, only for Avalos to not only absorb but eventually fight back after the local favorite appeared to have briefly expended his energy.
The momentum shift led to Magsayo getting dropped courtesy of a left hand shot in round three. Avalos did his best to seize the moment, winning the round big and carrying over the good fortunes into round four behind some solid body work,
Magsayo took over for good early in round five, a painful shift in tide for Avalos, who perhaps enjoyed the last great moments in his career in the preceding rounds. The unbeaten Filipino was back at full strength, emptying both clips on his opponent in looking to close the show.
Avalos absorbed a massive beating in round five, including two clean shots just before the bell that left him out on his feet. His corner showed little regard for his health in sending him out for the six, but had a change of heart after watching the boxer take a beating for nearly two minutes before finally throwing in the towel.
Their action came just as referee Danrex Tapdasan jumped in to stop the contest at the official mark of 1:55 of round six.
Magsayo - who turns just 21 in June - improves to 14-0 (11KOs) and looks to be a featherweight to watch. The same can no longer be said for Avalos, once a feared puncher at bantamweight who has become résumé filler for higher profile names. The Californian suffers his third loss within his past four fights in falling to 26-5 (19KOs).
OTHER UNDERCARD ACTION
Australia's Paul Fleming moved past an opening round knockdown to score a clean unanimous decision over Mexico's Miguel Angel Gonzalez (. Scores were 97-97 (twice) and 96-93 in favor of Fleming (22-0, 14KOs), who was down roughly 40 seconds into the contest but boxed well the rest of the way to pick up the win in his first fight in 10 months. Gonzalez (22-8-1, 12KOs) drops his second straight start, with the bout marking his first career ring appearance outside of Mexico.
Cebu City's own Jason Pagara (38-2, 23KOs) gave his hometown crowd plenty of reason to cheer with a convincing 10-round unanimous decision victory over Mexico's Miguel Zamudio. Scores were 98-92 (twice) and 99-91 in favor of Pagara, who remains the top-rated contender to Terence Crawford's World Boxing Organization (WBO) super lightweight title.
The show aired live on ABS-CBN in Philippines and via InDemand Pay-Per-View in the United States.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox