This past weekend we saw two real fighters who were committed to winning a big fight go at it. They didn't care about looks or style points either, just whatever it took to get the job done in order to win the fight.
During the first round of the WBO bantamweight title bout between Nonito Donaire 31-1-0 (20) and Jorge Arce 61-7-2 (46), Donaire established that he was the stronger fighter and the bigger puncher. So, as one of the best boxer-punchers in the sport, he pushed the fight and carried the action to Arce. Arce boxed and moved and looked to occupy Donaire more so than do damage or set anything up. However, he realized that all that movement was going to tire him out and it also was allowing Donaire to fight with little or no trepidation, thus it was he who was being forced to fight an up-hill battle. The Mexican soon understood that he really didn't have much of a shot of winning while fighting in retreat.
Starting in the second round there was a role reversal. What we now had was Arce, who does like to rumble and bring it, starting to commit to his punches more and taking the fight to Donaire. Arce figured that if he was going to lose, bringing the fight to Donaire at least was going to go out on his terms while giving himself his only chance to win the fight. Arce pushed the fight during the second round and Donaire obliged him and started to step back and look for the counter.
Arce figured to have any shot to win, he had to fight like he did against lesser opposition and go after Donaire, fully aware of the fact that fighting this style would make it easier for Donaire to catch him cleanly and hurt him. Donaire, who is smart and adaptable, also knew that and willingly gave up ground to Arce and allowed him to press forward knowing that he could hit him even harder if he could tag him on the way in.
In the second round Arce was dropped. He fought with the same mindset and determination in the third round and was eventually knocked out. Arce is due a ton of respect and props as he could've stunk the place out and ran all night in trying to go the distance so he could say he wasn't stopped by the Philippine terror, Donaire. But instead he fought to win knowing that fighting aggressively would no doubt put him in more peril of losing in a painful and embarrassing way. And that's how he choose to go out, with valor, and no one has lost a morsel of respect for him for choosing to fight the way he did.
Donaire showed that he can think on his feet and adjust. He surely could've engaged Arce more and held his ground in the second and third rounds, but didn't. And this was because he knew he would've been more at risk to walk into one he didn't see, like Manny Pacquiao did the week before. So he made the fight easier and less taxing on himself, allowing Arce to serve himself up with the opening he was looking for...and then he could cut loose with his finishing punches and end the fight in a spectacular fashion, and that's exactly how it unfolded.
Granted, the fight only lasted three rounds, but is was a very tactical bout while it lasted. One fighter, Arce, fought to win the only way he could knowing that in essence he would be fighting his opponent's fight. The other fighter, Donaire, took what Arce gave him and made the fight easier on himself and got the knockout he wanted without going to war.
Donaire is no doubt a tremendous boxer-puncher who can adapt from round to round. He has outstanding fundamentals and basics and really knows how to set an opponent up. He also doesn't waste many punches and his ego doesn't overcome him and lead him to go to war with every fighter who dares to stand their ground and try to take him on. Donaire can punch and think; that's a rare combination for most fighters who are driven to win every time out by stoppage.
Donaire is fantastic. And Arce, knowing he was way overmatched, went out with his guns blazing. Donaire emerges as a bigger deal than ever, Arce loses nothing in getting blasted out by a bigger, better fighter.
Nonito Donaire is one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in boxing and one of the few great boxer-punchers in the sport circa 2012-2013.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com