The case can be made that Donaire is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)
On Saturday night, Nonito Donaire capped off a sensational year –one which will surely see him take fighter of the year honors- after knocking out Jorge Arce in the third round of their fight in Houston, Texas. Arce, who announced his retirement from boxing in the ring to Larry Merchant, was simply no match for Donaire, who was able to control and dominate the tough little Mexican from start to finish. Here, I’d like to illustrate how Donaire was able to end the fight so efficiently and abruptly.
Instead of coming out all guns blazing, Jorge Arce, who was as powerfully built as I’ve seen him look, defied reputation and came out far more passively than he usually does. It was actually a very smart strategy from Arce, given the way in which the heavy-handed Donaire has dispatched of overly aggressive opponents in the past. Arce knew that by staying on the outside before coming in behind single punches, then getting back out again, Donaire would be forced into taking the fight to Arce, thus, possibly eliminating his counter-punching threat. What continues to impresses me with Donaire, more so than any of his other vast physical gifts, is his mind…he’s constantly thinking. Where a lot of fighters may have resorted to applying relentless pressure in this situation, feeling somewhat frustrated by Arce’s negative tactics, Donaire sought out another way of opening his opponent up. Instead of trying to cut the ring off, eating up the distance using sustained pressure, Donaire applied subtle pressure using small shuffling steps, along with feints and single jabs, looking to draw a lead out from Arce. Donaire wanted the fight to come to him.
Notice here how Donaire is approaching Arce in a subtle manner. Donaire is edging forward, taking small shuffling steps before taking a half step back. By doing this, Donaire is giving Arce a false sense of distance, hoping that he’s going to lead off so that he can counter. Even though Arce doesn’t react to it here, one can see Donaire’s intentions –edge forward, half-step back, draw out a response and counter.
In this sequence, Donaire’s subtle pressure pays off. Here, as Donaire is edging forward, Arce responds by leading with a right hand. As Donaire takes a half-step back and leans away, Arce falls short and is now off-balance. Donaire is now in a perfect position to counter and lands a short left uppercut to the chin of Arce.
This was also one of the many subtle baiting techniques that heavyweight knockout artist Joe Louis used.
Here’s Joe Louis doing what he does best. After edging forward, Louis baits his opponent into leading by sticking a left arm out. As his opponent responds and leaps in with a left hook, Louis takes a half-step back and counters with a short left hook on the inside, sending his opponent down to the canvas. Louis, like Donaire, was brilliant at forcing his opponents into opening up and making mistakes by applying subtle pressure.
The more frequently Arce was tagged, the more he began to open up. Donaire’s subtle pressure, along with those single jabs and feints, really drew out the attack from Arce, who, at heart, is really a blood and guts fighter. As a result, even more counter-punching opportunities came along for Donaire.
Here, Arce leads with a jab but is countered by a Donaire jab. Notice how Donaire blocks Arce’s jab using his rear glove as he’s landing his jab. Donaire has an astute understanding of timing and distance. He knows that his superior speed and length will allow him to reach and find the target before Arce can.
The first knockdown in the fight illustrated one of Donaire’s signature counter-punching techniques perfectly.
Here’s Donaire parrying and countering over the top of a jab. As Arce leads with a jab, notice how Donaire turns his rear hand over so that his palm is pointing towards the punch. Donaire intercepts the jab and counters with a short right hand over the top. Although the knockdown was a little scrappy, there was still a lot of skill involved.
This counter-punching technique requires great hand speed as well as excellent hand eye coordination. It was also one of Roy Jones Jr’s favorite countering techniques.
Here’s Roy Jones Jr. parrying a jab with his rear hand and countering over the top with a left hook/straight right combination. Notice how Jones’s left glove is carried low in the first picture –this draws the jab out. There are a lot of similarities between Jones and Donaire. Especially the way in which they counter after a parry.
After the knockdown, Jorge Arce began taking more chances on offense and started to take the fight to Donaire. It wasn’t too long before the inevitable happened.
Here is where the second knockdown took place. As Arce leads with a left hook, Donaire ducks and rolled under to the outside. As Donaire pressed his left elbow into Arce’s right shoulder, freezing Arce, he fired a right hand over the top and outside of Arce’s line of vision. Even though Donaire threw another two left hooks that sent Arce to the canvas, the right hand landed here was the real damaging blow.
The finale will likely be remembered for being another picturesque left hook knockout by Donaire. However, I thought his composure in taking out a hurt fighter was particularly noteworthy. In the same scenario, you’ll often see a fighter throwing wildly in trying to close the show. Not Nonito Donaire.
With Arce hurt, Donaire moves in calmly. Instead of swinging for the fences, Donaire tries to bait Arce into opening up again. See how Donaire edges forward and tries to counter Arce’s jab with a right hand counter. Arce manages to avoid Donaires first attempt at closing the show.
Undeterred, Donaire moves in calmly again. This time, he launches a right cross followed by a left uppercut. Both shots partially land and Arce manages to survive yet another Donaire assault.
Donaire’s patience finally pays off.
Here, Donaire manages to finally close the show via his spring-loaded left hook. Donaire’s left hook, either as a counter or a lead, may just be the best punch in all of boxing. It’s certainly the one shot that I’d select for encapsulating both boxing’s brutality and beauty in a single moment.
All in all, it was another spectacular performance by Nonito Donaire. Sure, nobody really gave Jorge Arce a real chance of winning the fight, but Donaire must be given credit for taking Arce away from his initial game plan, and out within a few frames. Last week, we saw a sensational counter-punching finish by Juan Manuel Marquez when he knocked out Manny Pacquiao with an over-hand right at the end of the sixth round. In the dying moments of that fight, we saw a fighter pay the ultimate price for being overly aggressive. Ultimately, Manny Pacquiao’s deliberate and predictable attack left nothing to the imagination and pretty much made Marquez’s mind up for him. Marquez also had close to 42 rounds of in-ring experience with his familiar opponent prior to that fight ending moment. Jorge Arce is certainly no Manny Pacquiao, but during the early going of this fight, Donaire found in front of him an unfamiliar and unwilling opponent. Regardless of ability, I’ve always felt these are the most difficult fighters to put away -the Joshua Clottey’s against Manny Pacquiao, and some of the early career opponents of Mike Tyson or a light heavyweight Roy Jones. As good as Manny Pacquiao is, his style accommodates that of a hard hitting counter-puncher.
Donaire, by way of his superior ring intelligence, assessed the situation and managed to figure out a way of opening up an opponent who wasn’t really looking to open up. As I’ve already mentioned, once Arce was floored, we saw him resort back to something more like his old self where Donaire would soon put the finishing touches on yet another masterpiece, but this clearly wasn’t the case at the beginning of the fight.
I really don’t want to delve too deep into all of the PED talk that seems to be dominating boxing right now, but Nonito Donaire MUST be applauded for his participation in the 24/7/365 VADA testing that he’s currently undergoing. There’s an obvious problem out there at the moment and Donaire is doing his best in trying to eradicate it.
Right, now let’s get back to Donaire’s boxing ability. Personally, I think Nonito Donaire is the most creative offensive fighter in the sport right now. He’s at the opposite end of the spectrum to the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward who are always looking to stymie and stifle. Yes, Donaire’s different. He’s looking to unlock and unload. He’s always searching for the knockout. And what’s even more worrying for future opponents is the fact that he’s becoming a more intelligent fighter with each passing fight. During his last three outings, Donaire has shown that he now has the deciphering skills to figure out an opponent’s style and adapt to it accordingly -we saw him pressurizing and getting inside on a taller opponent in Jeffery Mathebula, and against Toshiaki Nishioka and now Jorge Arce, we’ve seen a more strategic, trap setting Donaire. A few fight ago, relying on nothing but his speed and power, Donaire seemed to be a little left hand happy. This is no longer the case.
Hopefully, promotional issues can be put aside for once and boxing fans will get to see Nonito Donaire versus Abner Mares in 2013. Should that fight be made and should Donaire win, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then I think Nonito Donaire would have a very good case on his hands for being recognized as the very best fighter in the sport.