It was a George Benton special for Nonito Donaire in the main event at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. In other words, as the old Philly sage used to say, Win this one, look good in the next one.
Donaire had in front of him a crafty defender in Omar Narvaez, who was content to keep Donaire from landing, but wasn't too inclined to get offensive. The judges scored it, 120-108 times three for Donaire, who will now exit the bantamweight class, and move to junior feather. He had to cut weight the day of the weigh in, his trainer Robert Garcia said, so he is looking forward to the jump in weights.
The WBC and WBO bantam champ Donaire (living in California; now 27-1 with 19 KOs) was 116 1/4 pounds on Friday, while Narvaez (from Argentina; 35-1-2 just 19 KOs) was 117. The attendance was 4,425.
Nonito talked to Max Kellerman after. He said sorry to all, as he wanted Omar to come to fight. "He didn't come here to fight today. I expect to do more. I did everything I could." He said he tried to lure Omar into hitting him, to get him to open up. He said he knew how Pacquiao felt against Joshua Clottey. He said 122 is next as he began to cramp around the eigthh.
In the first, Nonito, wearing pink socks and some pink trim on his trunks in honor of breast cancer awareness month, started slowly, assessing the challenger. He got warmed in the last third of the round.
In the second, the lefty Omar moved well to escape launches early. He looked poised but wasn't really aggressive.
In the third, Narvaez made Nonito miss. He landed a few left hooks, and a solid counter right hook. Was it enough to win the round?
In the fourth, Omar's high guard blocked a good number of tosses. But in the last minute he got stung. A combo, punctuated by a sharp right hook, had him buzzed.
In the fifth, Nonito was the busier man, again. Omar was even more cautious than before, because he got nailed in the last round. More bodywork would maybe be helping Donaire.
In the sixth, we heard some boos in the first minute. Narvaez was perhaps trying to make Donaire punch himself out. He wasn't busy, but maybe that was his plan, to conserve energy.
In the seventh, Omar's sneaky quick left found a home. Plus, he moved just enough to get out of range. Smart defender, is Narvaez. But was he busy enough to get the round? Not on my card.
In the eighth, Omar tossed one at a time. His quick hands were the equal of Donaire's. The crowd booed a boring round.
In the ninth, it was more of the same. Nonito ended with a few combos but he couldn't get Omar to open up. Narvaez hadn't thrown more than 32 punches a round in the fight.
In the tenth, Nonito pressed to land some heavy stuff but Omar kept staying busy, with his feet and blocking punches.
In the 11th, Donaire threw some three punch combos. He caught caught by a counter right from the sneaky Argentine.
In the 12th, the crowd chanted, "This is BS." Omar went after NOnito with 1:20 left and the crowd liked that rarity. The round ended as Donaire fell through the strands trying to end with a bang, the crowd booed. We'd go to the judges.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV