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Boxing:

Donaire: Same champion, different weight

Nonito Donaire wins WBA interim super flyweight title

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Steve Marcus

Nonito Donaire Jr. lands a jarring right hand to the face of Rafael Concepcion during their WBA interim super flyweight title fight at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel Saturday. Donaire won by unanimous decision.

Pinoy Power 2

Nonito Donaire Jr. in his corner before facing Rafael Concepcion in their WBA interim super flyweight title fight at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Pinoy Power 2 Week in pictures

Super flyweight boxer Nonito Donaire Jr., originally from the Philippines, works out at the Top Rank Gym Friday, Aug. 7, 2009. Donaire will fight Rafael Conception of Panama for the interim WBA super flyweight title at the Hard Rock hotel-casino on Aug. 15. Launch slideshow »

Explosive.

That's one word generally associated with Filipino boxer Nonito Donaire Jr. He showed that quality again Saturday night, claiming the WBA interim super flyweight belt in his first fight since vacating his IBF flyweight title to move up in weight class.

The fight was much closer than many expected, however, as Concepcion regained his composure after sustaining an early cut in the second round over his right eye. Just when it appeared the fight was headed to a quick end, Concepcion showed a ton of heart and actually took the role of the aggressor for a large part of the fight.

"The cut bothered me in the first few rounds but then I was comfortable with it," Concepcion said. "I came to fight. I didn't come to run. I was expecting a real Filipino fighter tonight, not a runner."

Although it was true that Donaire relied mostly on his footwork and elusive defense to avoid trading blows with Concepcion, the Panamanian fighter made it an easy decision for him due to all the wasted punches he threw in the first few rounds. It was clear that early in the fight Donaire had realized that he could avoid taking damage and throw effective counters simply by backing away from his opponent.

Another factor for Donaire's caution — this was the first time in six fights he didn't finish an opponent — was his unfamiliarity in the heavier weight class.

"That extra pound he had on me was definitely to his advantage," Donaire said. "But even if you're 20 pounds heavier, I'll still come to fight. That's my dedication to this sport."

The Filipino sensation has many options from here. According to Donaire, he has no plans to head back down in weight and looks forward to the challenge of fighting bigger fighters in the future.

"(Concepcion) was definitely tough at 122 pounds; if he had been 115 he would have definitely gone down," he said. "I definitely am ready for the big guys of this weight class."

Main Event:

Final Round:

The fighters touch gloves to begin the final round, then Concepcion resumes his relentless forward movement. Donaire hits the canvas, but the fall was an obvious slip rather than a knockdown. Concepcion lands a nice shot that hits Donaire's chin cleanly. Donaire is playing his don't-get-hit strategy to the hilt, perhaps frustrating Concepcion's consistent attacking mode. After Concepcion misses with several attempts, Donaire lands a strong right hand for his best punch of the round. Final bell sounds and Donaire raises his arms in what everyone expects to be a unanimous decision.

Round Eleven:

Donaire, a nearly prohibitive betting favorite of minus 1300, finds himself in a closely contested bout heading down the stretch. Concepcion continues to give Donaire trouble, staying busy with the jab and left hook while mixing in a straight right. Donaire tries to stay elusive by blocking Concepcion's shots or sliding out of the way. Donaire lands a left hook followed by a right then another combination for the best, most powerful sustained attack of the round.

Round Ten:

Concepcion briefly backs up Donaire with a right hand, then tries to establish his jab. Concepcion blocks a couple of Donaire's punches then delivers a combination. Donaire, controlling the tempo in the center of the ring, fires off a right of his own. Concepcion goes to the body with a left hook. The fighters exchange shots by the ropes, with Donaire getting the best of it thanks in part to a stinging left hook. Donaire unloads a combination. Concepcion tries to stay on the attack despite a cut by his left eye.

Round Nine:

Donaire is relying heavily on his foot movement as he attempts to keep Concepcion off-balance and elude his punches. The condition of Concepcion's left eye is deteriorating and could be a big factor in the final rounds. Donaire takes several steps back as Concepcion works off his jab. Concepcion swings and misses with a left as Donaire relies on his vaunted defense before firing off a right, then a left uppercut at the bell.

Round Eight:

Concepcion backs Donaire, working his head and his body with a sequence of jabs. Donaire goes to the body with a jab but Concepcion responds with a solid jab to Donaire's face. Donaire blocks a left hook but fails to block a big jab that follows from Concepcion. Concepcion's left eye remains puffy and swollen but the cut has not affected his attack or game plan. Donaire lands a clean straight right to Concepcion's face, then another big right just as time runs out.

Round Seven:

Donaire is throwing more jabs early in the round than he has in previous rounds, and Concepcion does appear to be taken out of his game for the time being. But Concpepcion regains control of the tempo of the fight and chases Donaire first into one corner, then another. Donaire is backpedaling as Concepcion throws a jab, then a left hook, then a couple of big right hands. Concepcion splits Donaire's gloves with a jab. Donaire fires a straight right that lands hard and clean as the men exchange blows in the center of the ring. Concepcion quickly regains his composure and lands a combination.

Round Six:

Concepcion opens with a left hook and attempts to keep the momentum going by making Donaire backpedal a bit. Concepcion throws a combination then lands a hard left to Donaire's chin. Concepcion, who came in over the weight limit, could be trying to use his bulk to bully Donaire. Concepcion lands a a couple of clean shots and backs Donaire into a corner. Donaire moves away from the ropes and connects with a hard overhand right that gets Concepcion's attention. Concepcion snaps Donaire's head back with a jab, the final big punch of the round. As of now, it would be tough to name a winner.

Round Five:

Donaire beats Concepcion to the center of the ring after the opening bell and both fighters try to establish their jab. Both men miss with a series of right hands. Donaire lands a double jab and Concepcion connects with a clean left. Donaire continues to flick out his jab but Concepcion fires right back and lands an open jab. Donaire complains after a Concepcion punch, possibly about a thumb to the eye, but the action resumes momentarily. Concepcion gets the best of a quick exchange against the ropes.

Round Four:

Working behind the jab, Donaire looks to dictate the pace and tempo of the fight in the center of the ring. Concepcion snaps off a couple of heavy lefts but Donaire keeps moving forward as well as laterally. Concepcion misses with a right and Donaire responds by landing a right hand of his own. Donaire moves in with his hands down as if to taunt Concepcion. Donaire is scoring with quick single punches and combinations. Donaire connects with a strong right hand, the best punch of the round, seconds before the bell.

Round Three:

After having his cut addressed in the corner, Concepcion tries to go on the attack but cannot penetrate Donaire's defense. Even as dances back a step, Donaire snaps off his jab. Blood continues to stream from Concepcion's left eye. Donaire is throwing a variety of punches, including a left uppercut and a combination featuring a jab followed by a straight right. Donaire takes the round.

Round Two:

Concepcion briefly backs up Donaire with a right hand, then tries to establish his jab. Concepcion blocks a couple of Donaire's punches then delivers a combination. Donaire, controlling the tempo in the center of the ring, fires off a right of his own. Concepcion goes to the body with a left hook. The fighters exchange shots by the ropes, with Donaire getting the best of it thanks in part to a stinging left hook. Donaire unloads a combination. Concepcion tries to stay on the attack despite a cut by his left eye.

Round One:

The scheduled 12-rounder begins with a slow pace as the fighters feel each other out. Concepcion falls off-balance as he throws a punch, eliciting a murmur from the crowd at the Joint. Concepcion lands a hard right hand but Donaire responds by forcing Concepcion across the ring and into the corner, where he works him for a moment before Concepcion makes his escape. Donaire lands a solid left to the body when he catches him to finish a solid performance in Round 1.

Co-main Event:

Filipino up-and-comer Bernabe Concepcion certainly left the crowd speechless Saturday night. But not in the way he had hoped to.

Well after the bell had signaled the end of the seventh round in a fairly even fight, Concepcion threw a vicious combination to the head of defending WBO featherweight champion Steven Luevano that dropped him to the canvas. Luevano had put up his hand to touch gloves to the challenger when the punches were thrown.

Concepcion's head trainer Freddie Roach defended the actions of his fighter, saying that crowd noise drowned out the sound of the bell.

"Bernabe was excited, he knew he had hurt him and the crowd was so loud he didn't hear the bell," Roach said. "I have no problem with the disqualification call because the hits were late, but they weren't intentional. He would never do something like intentionally."

When asked if he would like to see the two fighters in a rematch, Roach replied, "Tomorrow."

Luevano said he was confused by his opponent's actions and that he would be fine with a rematch in the future.

"Yeah, why not? It seemed like a good fight until then," Luevano said. "I don't know what happened, maybe he was frustrated he couldn't hit me. I always touch gloves after a round and he threw two really hard punches that put me on my (expletive)."

Undercard Results:

Ernesto Zepeda vs. Mark Melligen: Everything seemed to be working for Melligen as he finished off Zepeda by TKO 2:40 into the fourth round. Zepeda took punishment in every round but none as bad as fourth when Melligen opened a cut under his right eye and ended the fight with a hard left uppercut.

Luis Arceo vs. Anthony Peterson: Both fighters landed his share of damage but it was Peterson's consistency from round-ro-round that earned him a unanimous decision win, 99-91, 98-92, 97-93.

Rufino Flores vs. Danny Escobar: Flores's corner stopped the fight following a lopsided first round full of Escobar continually trapping him against the ropes and unleashing stinging body shots.

Carlos Vinan vs. Diego Magdaleno: Magdaleno dominated all six rounds to score a unanimous decision win over Vinan. Magdaleno won every round on all three judges' scorecards.

Ray Smith vs. Ismayl Sillakh: Sallakh made quick work of Smith, scoring a TKO win 1:55 of the second round.

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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