By Ronnie Nathanielsz
MACAU—Nonito Donaire just won his fifth world title, but his journey is far from finished.
The Filipino Flash won a unanimous technical decision at the end of the fourth round to capture the World Boxing Association featherweight title from Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa before a sell-out crowd at the Cotai Arena of the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino here Saturday night.
“Hopefully, we will win more championships. For now, I want this wound to heal and then go back and resume running because where I am now, I want to keep it. I am in shape and my stamina is there. If this heals by September, I’ll fight again,” Donaire said while thanking the fans for their support and their prayers.
Donaire praised the Vetyeka camp for being courteous and respectful despite the abrupt ending.
“It’s disappointing things ended the way it did and hopefully we can do it again. You (Vetyeka) are a worthy opponent, an amazing fighter,” Donaire said. “I wanted to do this so bad for the fans because there is no quit in my vocabulary. Hopefully we can do it again here.”
His left eye ripped open by a series of numbing head-butts, refused to quit for the sake of the Filipino fans who kept chanting his name as he fulfilled his quest for a fifth world title.
Despite blood streaming from a nasty gash in his left eye, Donaire remained unbowed and when referee Luis Pabon, who did a forgettable job as the third man in the ring asked him, whether he wanted to stop the bout at the end of Round 1 because of the bloody cut, Nonito said: “No, I don’t want to disappoint the fans.”
And he didn’t.
He wobbled Vetyeka with a left hook followed by a right in the third round, forcing the South African to hold on to the top strand of the ropes to prevent himself from going down.
Donaire picked up the tempo in the fourth round and after a torrid exchange near the ropes, he slipped out in a flash and connected with his patented left hook that had dropped so many champions in the past to send Vetyeka crashing to the canvas midway in the round.
With blood streaming into his eye, Donaire gave Vetyeka a much-needed respite as he had the blood wiped clean. He rocked the champion, who almost went down one more time except that he was held up by the ropes.
Unable to continue because of the profuse bleeding as a result of the series of head-butts and his left eye almost closed, referee Pabon was informed by the ringside supervisor that an accidental head-butt, one of the four that the referee missed, didn’t allow Donaire to continue forcing them to go to the scorecards under the WBA rules.
All three judges, Levi Martinez, Raul Caiz Jr and Francisco Martinez had Donaire the winner, but even here, there was confusion as ring announcer Lupe Contreras said all three judges had turned in identical scorecards of 49-46, when it should have been 39-36.
After getting 11 stitches to close the cut, Donaire told this reporter and Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN in an exclusive interview in his dressing room that the head-butt at the end of Round 1 “felt like I got punched in the head and I couldn’t see anything. But my heart said I’m not gonna give up, I’m not gonna give up.”
Donaire was clearly disappointed at the way the fight ended. “But it’s a good feeling to win and to know that I gave it all that I got and will take the belt home.”
He said the head-butts spurred him on.
“My natural instinct was to fight,” said Donaire, who thanked the fans for their support, including those who flew in from Manila, among whom were Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told a post-fight press conference that at the end of the first round, when Donaire “was dazed and went down another fighter would have quit and there would have been no decision and they would have chosen to fight another day. But not Nonito. He sucked it up, continued fighting and he truly pulled the fight out by scoring that sensational knockdown. He is not happy winning the title the way he did but I think he should be proud of the performance he put on. He is one of the great fighters of our time.”
Former trainer Robert Garcia who worked the corner, alongside Donaire’s father and present trainer Dodong Donaire Sr., said: “When Nonito came to the corner, the cut was huge and it was going to get worse as the rounds went by. We were okay with the ref stopping the fight.”
Garcia said he was not surprised with the knockdown.
“Nonito has tremendous power, tremendous speed and he showed it here. Vetyeka is a solid featherweight and Nonito came out and dropped him, hurt him really bad in the fourth round. What else does he need to prove to the fans.”