Watching Philippine born Nonito Donaire 28-1 (18) pound out what should've been a unanimous decision victory over Wilfredo Vazquez 21-2-1 (17) to capture the vacant WBO junior featherweight title this past weekend, one had to be mildly impressed. Donaire has now won titles at flyweight, super flyweight, bantamweight and junior featherweight. And in doing so it appears that he's maintained his power and aggression along the way, which although rare, not as much so when fighters are moving up just four pounds with each division as Donaire has.
Regardless of the decision, anyone with their eyes and mind open surely observed that with the exception of two or three rounds, Donaire pretty much did what he wanted with the former title holder Vazquez. For most of the fight it looked as if Vazquez was more interested in keeping Donaire from dominating him instead of trying to open up and assert himself during the bout. And perhaps that wasn't the worst strategy in the world being that Vazquez was only really hurt in the third round and went down from a Donaire left in the ninth round.
After the fight it was reported that Nonito broke his hand somewhere between the second and fourth rounds. It didn't look, though, like he had a broken hand the way he was loading up and cutting loose with some of the left hooks and uppercuts he threw during some exchanges after the fourth round.
Donaire's showing against Vazquez will keep his career ascending, on that there can be no doubt. However, the somewhat tentative Vazquez did expose two weaknesses in Donaire that may cost him a fight down the road as he continues to meet better and better opposition. Vazquez in a losing effort provided food for thought for those who see some vulnerabilities in Nonito's game.
The first is, and it's something that no one has talked about – Donaire although not a sitting duck, can be tagged pretty regularly with straight left hands, the only punch that Vazquez landed with any consistency. What's even more concerning about that is Wilfredo was really just throwing them out there to occupy Donaire with the hopes of slowing his aggression. He wasn't really trying to blunt him on the way in and seldom threw a right hand behind his lefts. Yet he still had Donaire's right eye bruised and swollen. Granted, Donaire was trying to draw Vazquez out and into exchanging with him to let himself appear open, but he still was too susceptible to Vazquez's straight left jabs. This leads into another part of Nonito's game that he will eventually have to address. And that is he looks to end the fight with every left hook or over hand right that he launches.
There's no guessing involved about the fact that Donaire wants to end the fight with every left hook and overhand right he throws. Sure, that makes for more drama while watching the fight, but most upper-tier pros can avoid and either slip or block one big shot at a time. That's why Vazquez wasn't really hurt that bad even when he went down. Most of the bombs Donaire landed were grazing punches or ones that really only caught Vazquez at the tail end of them.
Like most fighters who can really punch, Nonito is infatuated with his natural power. The problem is he doesn't really try to set it up and must abandon fighting so recklessly. He's of the mindset that anything he hits he'll hurt or do damage, so lookout. Donaire would be even more dangerous if his offense was more imaginative and creative. Donaire needs to be reminded that the hardest punch one fighter can land on the other is the one he doesn't see. Sure, he can be successful fighting a style that doesn't leave much to the imagination. But looking for the big knockout with sustained gaps of inactivity in between may just cost him a fight or decision down the road.
Aside from a few kinks revealed against Wilfredo Vazquez, there's not much to not like about newly crowned WBO junior featherweight champ Nonito Donaire, but there is room for him to get better.