Nonito Donaire etched another win over tough opposition at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California Saturday night. But like his first foray into super bantamweight, against Wilfredo Vazquez, he had his struggles along the way.
Donaire won a decision over South African Jeffrey Mathebula by scores of 119-108, 117-110, 118-109 in a bout in which the tallies don’t convey the entire story. Mathebula, now 26-4-2 with 14 KOs, had a significant size advantage, and often used it to great effect by unraveling a pesky jab. His jab, thrown from his back foot, wasn’t hard or damaging, but it kept his shorter opponent largely outside of arm’s reach. While Mathebula tended to bend down to Donaire’s level whenever he threw anything of significance, he did a nice job of staying at a distance and keeping his guard intact through most of the fight.
Still, when facing a man with perhaps the most explosive counter left hook in boxing, you tend to pay for the mistakes you do make. The “Marvelous Mongoose” attempted to time Donaire’s cobra-like reflexes with a right hand in the fourth round, which only prompted Donaire, 29-1, with 18 KOs, to launch his left as if it was sprung from the jaws of a bear trap. The South African got put on the seat of his trunks, but he showed his resolve by getting up on shaky legs, making it to this corner, and bouncing back admirably throughout the next round. But the knockdown represented the difference between the two fighters: Donaire had starch on his punches, and Mathebula didn’t.
A vicious right hand in the 11th cracked Mathebula’s tooth, effectively ending the 33-year-old’s resistance and solidifying the victory for Donaire. Between the occasional eye-catching blow, however, “The Filipino Flash” struggled to make an impression with a friendly audience.
For as much flash as he may have, Donaire’s head-hunting-particularly against an opponent with a torso as long as Mathebula’s-can be maddening. He’ll throw potshots towards the midsection with his right hand, interspersed with a rare left hook, but never with round-to-round consistency, never in combination, and almost never followed with the head shot he so desperately desires. That leads to a long stretch of rounds of monotonous action with Donaire slinging single shots to the cranium, most of which fell short of their target or careened off of gloves.
Now that Donaire is facing bigger opponents, his shortcomings have become more evident. What’s clear is that he still has a lethal left hook to go along with his blinding speed. Whether that’s enough to take out the likes of Toshiaki Nishioka, Abner Mares, and Guillermo Rigondeaux remains to be seen. A bout with any one of those men would be intriguing, because what was presumed to be clear superiority is being pushed into question.
On the undercard, Kelly Pavlik, 40-2, with 34 KOs, continued his comeback tour with a comfortable decision over Queens, New York, native Will Rosinsky. Rosinsky, 16-2, with 9 KOs, was game, but lacked the firepower to compete with the heavier hands of Pavlik.
In a bout more memorable for the mind-numbingly persistent shouting of Rosinsky’s fiancée at ringside, Pavlik steadied himself after a rocky first round to consistently land the more memorable blows, including a short right hand that put Rosinsky on the deck in the second. Still, Rosinsky was competitive in most rounds-circling Pavlik enough to avoid sustained punishment-and gave a good account of himself. Nevertheless, Pavlik has lost a bit of his sting with his move up to super middleweight, and while it would be remiss to count him out completely against one of the top dogs in the division, he’ll be facing an uphill battle whenever he decides to take that step.
By far the best televised fight of the day took place in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom when talented Brit Kell Brook faced the sternest test of his career in determined Carson Jones. Jones, 34-9-2, with 24 KOs, is far better than his record indicates, suffering most of his losses at 22 years old or younger, and having notched eight straight knockouts since his last defeat. Now as a 25-year-old veteran, he’s a terror to deal with, equipped with a violent body attack, a responsible defense, and a stout set of whiskers. Brook, 24-0 with 18 KOs, survived to win a majority decision by scores of 114-114, 116-113, and 115-113, but walked away with a broken nose and a tough lesson in how to handle opposition that won’t waver in response to his megawatt athleticism.
Brook is accustomed to handcuffing his opponent with a stiff counter jab. But even while Brook won the first five rounds by slipping jabs in between Jones’ guard and looping left hooks and right hands around the gloves, it was clear that Jones wasn’t one to be easily deterred. Round by round, Jones’ body work became more prominent, and left hooks to the chin began to follow.
A closely contested sixth was followed by the dam breaking in the seventh, when Jones landed a stinging right hand before thrashing Brook’s midsection throughout the round. In the 8th, another well-timed right hand by the Oklahoma City native broke Brook’s nose, leaving Brook bloodied and susceptible to several more power shots before the bell sounded. It was more of the same in the ninth, as it began to look like the 26-year-old UK attraction-no longer offering much resistance-was struggling to tread deep waters.
But Brook fought back hard the next two rounds, arguably edging out both by landing several big counters, before taking another beating in the final round. While Jones exposed some of his limitations – like Donaire, Brook’s uncomfortable with going to the body, and his jab is covered in mothballs when the going gets a bit tough – the British sensation gutted out adverse conditions and responded as the fight started slipping away. It was the increasingly rare example of fine matchmaking, where a legitimate, but untested contender discovers what he needs to improve upon, while finding out what exactly is inside of him.
Meanwhile, Carson Jones solidified his spot as a must-see fighter. Through their uneasy collaboration, networks and promoters often ignore the obvious. Let’s hope Jones’ stubborn style doesn’t fall within the cracks.
There was a time when Tony Thompson, 36-3, with 24 KOs, was a solid heavyweight, who, compared to most Klitschko challengers, gave Klitschko sound resistance on the way to getting knocked out late in the bout. Since then, Thompson has slipped while Klitschko has maintained his level of dominance.
So what happens in a needless rematch four years later? Klitschko beats the 40-year-old Thompson more easily, knocking him out within six rounds in Stade de Suisse, Berne, Switzerland. Shocking result, yes, but boxing can be unpredictable like that.
To be fair, Klitschko, 58-3, with 51 knockouts, doesn’t have many -perhaps none-prospective opponents at heavyweight that can provide a Carson Jones-like test. Meanwhile, we collectively yawn at his preeminence. But next time, he can do better than Tony Thompson.