MANILA, Philippines - In a match that disappointed the spectators and even, the Filipino fighter, Nonito Donaire Jr. routed his Argentinian foe, Omar Narvaez, to keep the WBC/WBO bantamweight belt.
Experts say it was a shameful act of dishonor as Narvaez blemished the legendary history of Argentine champions like Carlos Monzon, Pascual Perez, Victor Galindez and Sergio Martinez in losing a one-sided decision to WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. without intending to engage at the Theater in Madison Square Garden, New York City, last Saturday night (yesterday morning, Manila).
Narvaez, 36, was on a defensive mode nearly the entire fight and frustrated not only Donaire but also the 4,425 fans who paid anywhere between $25 to $200 to watch a boring mismatch. Donaire, 28, tried to put on a show and even brought down his guard to goad Narvaez into mixing it up - to no avail. Narvaez wouldn’t budge and only wanted to survive the distance standing up. That night, the fans cried for Argentina.
Donaire was on his feet, bouncing up and down, from start to finish, showing no signs of reducing weight to make the 118-pound limit. He was in control throughout the bout which was Narvaez’s first and could be his last in the US. Narvaez gave a poor impression of a two-time world champion and fought with no heart.
In the fourth round, Donaire uncorked a left-right combination that struck Narvaez on the face and the Argentinian appeared shaken. The Filipino Flash tried to finish off Narvaez but just couldn’t locate the proper angle to put him away. Narvaez, leaning on his vast experience as a two-time Olympian and a pro, played a cat-and-mouse game that had the Garden crowd booing. Donaire chased Narvaez all over the ring and couldn’t land the coup de grace.
“I did my best,” said Donaire, quoted by writer Michael Woods. “I was very frustrated. I’m sorry I didn’t come out the way we wanted. I wanted him to open up. He had his hands up. Now, I know how (Manny) Pacquiao felt with (Joshua) Clottey.” Donaire referred to Pacquiao’s one-sided victory on points over the Ghanaian who refused to lock horns with the Filipino icon and covered up in a shell for 12 rounds last year.
Donaire, of course, had nothing to apologize for. He badly wanted to put on a convincing performance in his Garden debut but Narvaez just wouldn’t oblige and in boxing, it takes two to make a fight sizzle.
Donaire’s wife Rachel was scathing in criticizing Naravez for cowardly evading a confrontation. “He wasn’t a fighter,” she told Woods. “He cheated Madison Square Garden and the fans who were watching. He just wanted to survive. It was just like, ‘I want to survive and get a paycheck.’”
Narvaez’s only telling punch was a counter right hook that landed on Donaire’s jaw in the third round. Donaire, in contrast, kept peppering Narvaez with his left jab and even switch-hit to get the Argentinian to open up his defense. In the sixth, Donaire hung his left by the side, hoping to invite Narvaez to let his hands go, but the trick didn’t work. In the final round, Donaire brought down both his hands and waded in as if to ridicule Narvaez’s refusal to engage - still, the Argentinian wouldn’t throw.
Donaire was four inches taller and had a huge five-inch reach advantage but couldn’t put either edge to good use because Narvaez just wouldn’t stand still and fight. Donaire tried every tactic in the playbook to find an opening. He moved around, circled away from Narvaez’s right and occasionally lunged. Narvaez unleashed token rights to throw off Donaire but nothing he unleashed was of substance.
The three judges gave Donaire every round, 120-108. Julie Lederman, Steve Weisfeld and Tom Schreck were probably as bored as every fan at the Garden. The win raised Donaire’s record to 27-1, with 18 KOs. Narvaez took his first-ever loss as his record dipped to 35-1-2, with 19 KOs. To show their disparity in age, Donaire was only 13 when Narvaez fought at the 1996 Olympics.
Donaire is expected to arrive in Manila shortly to prepare for his church wedding in Alabang on Nov. 11. He dedicated the fight to Rachel’s grandmother Ines Marcial who passed away last week and wore a T-shirt with her image entering the ring. Donaire also wore black-and-pink trunks in a sign of support for the breast cancer awareness campaign. In and out of the ring, Donaire was a picture of class - which could hardly be said of Narvaez.
It was the second Filipino win over an Argentinian in a world title fight after Flash Elorde decisioned Vicente Derado to retain his junior lightweight crown in Manila in 1966. The Argentine winners over Filipinos in world championship bouts were flyweight titlist Pascual Perez who outpointed Leo Espinosa in 1956 and Dommy Ursua in 1958, Juan Martin Coggi who halted Morris East for the WBA superlightweight crown in 1993, WBA superwelterweight ruler Julio Cesar Vasquez who knocked out Armand Picar in two rounds in 1994 and Narvaez who retained his WBO flyweight diadem on a decision over Rexon Flores in 2006.