Donaire was in a tight fight, the HBO crew said. What did you think, readers? (Chris Farina-Top Rank)
CARSON, CALIF.-Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire jumped off to a flaming start but the long armed awkwardness of South Africa's Jeffrey Mathebula (26-4-2, 14 KOs) allowed him to hear the final bell. Still, Donaire won by unanimous decision on Saturday.
Before a crowd of more than 3,200 people at the Home Depot Center, Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs) captured the IBF junior featherweight world title to go along with his own WBO title. Most of the people thought a knockout was a sure thing but not on this summer night.
An obvious speed advantage by Donaire had him teeing off a bit with left and right haymakers in round one. Mathebula was hurt toward the middle of the round but survived.
Mathebula began to crank it up in round two as he attacked the body with combinations and used his long arms to try and ward off Donaire's attacks. The Filipino speedster landed a leaping uppercut but the South African withstood the blow.
Lots of posing by Donaire allowed Mathebula to take advantage with some light combinations and jabs that scored. Donaire landed a left hook to the body but that was it. The South African had his best effort in round three.
Donaire erupted in round four with some sizzling combinations. It all started with jolting left jab that stunned Mathebula. Donaire then followed with a right hand and left uppercut. Finally, a left hook counter dropped Mathebula with a thud. He beat the count at the end of the round.
Round five saw Donaire look for the perfect moment to connect but Mathebula was tougher than expected. He lasted the round despite some big rights by Donaire.
After three rounds of survival, Mathebula cranked it up again beginning with some jabs and counter left hooks. Donaire still was looking for the bomb and the South Africa proved more effective for the first time in the fight in round eight.
“He was tough, he got me with that jab,” said Donaire. “They told me to calm down.”
In round nine Donaire was continued looking for the big punch, but Mathebula continued to peck away with his combinations up and down. A stiff three punch combo was landed by him but Donaire finished off the round with a four punch combination at the bell.
After some rather lackluster rounds Donaire opened up in round 11 but wasn't able to down the tall South African. A counter right and left landed but Mathebula withstood the challenge.
The two junior featherweights banged it out at the beginning of the final round. But a left hook put Mathebula back in reverse as Donaire wobbled him. But the tall South African survived.
“Like I said, that jab really took me out. He was a great champion, I really give him a lot of credit,” said Donaire. “I didn't expect it.”
All three judges scored it for Donaire 117-110, 118-109, 119-108.
“I felt like I would get it,” said Donaire. “To me I knew about the 11th round I would win it. It was tough.”
Abner Mares was ringside. Could he be next?
Former middleweight world champion Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs) seems to have amassed a following in Southern California as fans cheered his name. The Ohio bomber also won by unanimous decision against New York's Will “Power” Rosinsky (16-2, 9 KOs) who moved a lot but couldn't score enough.
“I got the rounds that I needed. If there's up and coming prospects I'll beat them,” said Pavlik after the fight.
Pavlik saw Rosinsky use a lot of lateral movement for most of the ten round super middleweight fight. In round two a perfect right cross dropped Rosinsky.
“It was straight on the button. A good little shot that we worked on in the gym,” said Pavlik about the knockdown.
After that Rosinsky moved even more and flurried occasionally. In round five fans began to shout “Kelly, Kelly” although Pavlik is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. The lanky power puncher tired a bit in round seven but Rosinsky did not take advantage of the lapse. The judges scored it 98-91 twice and 97-92 for Pavlik.
Heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz Jr. (15-0, 9 KOs) knocked out Washington's Jonte Willis (8-4-1, 3 KOs) at 54 seconds of the eighth and final round. Ruiz knocked down Willis in round five with a left-right combination. Willis took a beating but never gave in. In the final round Ruiz unloaded with more than a dozen punches with most landing. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth wisely stopped the fight despite the protest of Willis who wobbled while disputing the knockout.
Welterweight prospect Brad Soloman (18-0, 7 KOs) of Georgia scored a knockdown in round one and eventually won by unanimous decision against New Mexico's Hector Munoz (10-8-1) after eight rounds.
Southern California's Jose Roman (14-0, 11 KOs) floored Arizona's Rodolfo Armenta (11-8-1, 9 KOs) with a double left hook to the body and head in round one. Armenta hung around for several more rounds on pure grit but ran into a left hook at 1:23 of round five and was knocked out of a junior welterweight contest.
Inglewood, California's Eric Flores (4-1-1) won a four round lightweight bout over Denver's Raymond Nichol (3-1-1) by unanimous decision.
Inglewood's Anthony Flores (2-0, 1 KOs) started quickly with a knockdown of Cameron Kreal (2-2-2) by a body shot in round one. But both junior welterweights fought on until the fourth and final round. Flores won by decision 38-37 twice and 39-36.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV