Arce tried patience, then aggression, nothing worked. Donaire convinced him retirement was the obvious option. (photo by Rachel McCarson)
Houston – The Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s junior featherweight champion, Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs), closed his impressive four-fight 2012 campaign in fitting fashion. The “Filipino Flash” battered gallant warrior Jorge Arce (61-7-2-1, 46 KOs) from pillar to post in what could only be described as a one-sided beatdown. With the win, Donaire retained his linear TBRB championship, along with the WBO and Ring Magazine belts.
Over 7,250 fans in attendance rose to their feet to greet the combatants as they entered the arena. Despite losing notable Top Rank stars Mike Lee and Guillermo Rigondeaux on the card earlier in the week, Houston fight fans showed up loud and proud at the Toyota Center Saturday night, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.
Arce came to the ring first and was greeted affectionately by the pro-Mexico crowd. Fans adorned their heads with sombreros for crowns and their bodies with Mexican flags for robes as they chanted with vigor – Mexico, Mexico, Mexico. Next up was Donaire, who was booed heavily as he entered the fray while bopping his head up and down to handpicked entrance music seemingly unaware of it. The pre-fight introductions remained consistent, though the small but vocal Donaire contingent in attendance did their best to even things out.
After a somewhat cautious start, a strong right hand from Donaire set the tone in the first round. His crisp punches snapped the courageous Arce’s head back each time they found their mark. It was clear from the beginning to those at ringside what this fight would be: Donaire the stalking predator, Arce the formidable but overmatched prey.
Arce dug a good, deep shot to his opponent’s body in the second, but Donaire followed it up promptly with two clean blows that sent the Mexican down to his knee. He was up quickly, seemingly unfazed, unhurt and ready to brawl. During the rest of the round, Arce employed strategic aggression to try and even things up while the ever confident Donaire remained content to alternate powerful potshots with timely and adept defense.
At the beginning of the third round, the two fighters got tangled together and collapsed in heap to the canvas. After referee Laurence Cole brushed each man’s gloves off, the two continued what began in the preceding round. Arce bullied his way in at times; Donaire countered and jabbed. To his credit, Arce was able to land some clean blows in the round, but Donaire was landing the cleaner, harder ones. Three straight shots from Donaire sent Arce down for the count once again and this time left him reeling and wobbled. Ever the brave warrior, Arce made it to his feet for one more go, but he was knocked out cold seconds later from a brutal left hook. The referee called the fight off immediately when Arce fell flat to the canvas.
“My left hook was my damaging punch tonight,” said Donaire afterward. “I just felt great.”
Head trainer Robert Garcia concurred. He was beaming with pride from what he had just witnessed, perhaps his 30-year-old protégé’s most impressive performance to date.
“His power was unreal, beautiful, perfect,” he said. “Whenever Nonito hits you…it’s gonna hurt real bad.”
Arce announced his retirement immediately following the fight. The fight officially ended at 2:59 of round number three.
Donaire-Arce Undercard Highlights
Houston – Fight fans coming out to support Top Rank’s Donaire-Arce live boxing promotion were treated to a slew of solid undercard fights Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston. Here is a recap of the notable action.
Light heavyweight Cedric Agnew (25-0, 13 KOs) of Houston used sharp jabs and crisp right hooks from a high guarded, southpaw stance to defeat Alfredo Contreras (12-15-3, 5 KOs) by unanimous decision. The heavily tattooed Agnew controlled the pace early with clear, crisp shots and never really looked back. Ever durable Contreras had his moments, but he got hit far too often from his opponent’s lead hand bombs along with a handful of well-placed lefts. The three judges at ringside scored it 58-56, 60-54 and 59-55 for the winner, Agnew.
Super featherweight Saul Rodriguez (8-0-1, 5 KOs) had to bulldoze his way over the scrappy Pablo Brates to earn a win. After learning he couldn’t out-quick the crafty Brates in the first, Rodriguez just started mauling him with heavier-handed blows in the second. It worked, and Rodriguez rode that strategy all the way to a unanimous decision victory. Scores read 40-36 across the board at the end of the four-round fight.
Jose Felix, Jr. (22-0-1, 18 KOs) knocked out Meachor Major (20-6-1, 17 KOs) with a clean left hook in round number three of a lightweight contest that had been fairly close up until that point. Major waddled first, and then stumbled down in a delayed reaction all the way to the canvas where the bout ultimately ended for the fighter nicknamed “Major Pain.”
Welterweight Larry Smith (10-14, 7 KOs) came out of his dressing room hooting and hollering to anyone that would listen that he would be the victor. He danced in his corner as his name was read before the bout, and when red corner opponent Daniel Sandoval (30-2, 29 KOs) came to the middle of the ring after the bell sounded to touch his opponent’s glove in a show of sportsmanship, Smith obliged with a quick one-two combination. It all went downhill from there for Smith in the first. Sure, he continued whatever it was he was doing in there up to that point—let’s call it showmanship—but only in-between being on the wrong end of a constant barrage of power punches roving up and down his torso. The pace cooled a bit from there. Smith was just crafty enough to stay in the fight despite being outworked throughout the six-round clash, except possibly the final round where it almost appeared even. In the end, Mexico’s Sandoval took home the unanimous decision victory by scores of 60-54, 59-55 and 60-54.
Featherweight Victor Terrazas (36-2-1, 20 KOs) wanted to keep Juan Ruiz (23-11, 7 KOs) on the end of his jab where he could land his shots as the taller man without taking considerable return fire. When he accomplished this, he found success, but when the dodgy, aggressive Ruiz was able to slip and rip, Terrazas was made uncomfortable. The pattern played itself out fairly consistently through all eight rounds, so what fans in attendance got by arriving early enough to see it was a mini-version of something akin (at least stylistically) to Ali-Frazier. Neither of these men will reach anything close to that level in their careers, but no matter. It was a damn fine scrap between two eager combatants for all eight rounds. In the end, it was Terrazas earning the split decision win by scores of 74-78, 78-74 and 79-73.
Finally, one of Top Rank’s young, impressive uber-prospects, Alex Saucedo (7-0, 5 KO), fought Eddie Cordova (3-4-1, 1 KO) at welterweight in a scheduled four-rounder. How good is Saucedo? Look at it this way: after light heavyweight Mike Lee dropped off the card due to illness, and the co-main event of Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym was called off due the latter being unlicensable in Texas, Saucedo was moved all the way to the top of the undercard, as close to the limelight as possible, in what was only his seventh professional fight. He did not disappoint. Saucedo looked every bit as good as his handlers believe him to be. He dominated the action from start to finish in every way possible. He hurt Cordova in the first with strafing right hands and made him miss wildly as he did it. Cordova was game but overmatched, and he went down in the third from a brutal combination before succumbing again to a brilliant right hand counter. The fight was halted at 2:14 of round number three. Keep your eye on Alex Saucedo.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV