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Donaire wins but still has room to grow

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – It wasn't exactly what Nonito Donaire wanted, and it's probably not enough to slide him into consideration for the pound-for-pound rankings.

Donaire, though, had little to apologize for following a one-sided, largely one-handed victory over a much-larger Rafael Concepcion on Saturday for the interim World Boxing Association super flyweight title at the Hard Rock.

Judges scored it 117-111, 116-112, 115-113 for Donaire, who is now 22-1. Yahoo! Sports scored it 119-109 for Donaire.

The Filipino star was outweighed by around 10 pounds when the fighters climbed into the ring, and he couldn't budge Concepcion despite landing clean shots regularly throughout the fight. Donaire landed an astonishingly high 72 percent of his power shots, connecting on 112 of 155 punches, and controlled the action in the ring.

Concepcion, who missed the 115-pound weight limit Friday by 4½ pounds, appeared like a little tank. He pressed forward constantly and though Donaire raked him with seemingly punishing shots, Concepcion never went down or so much as wobbled.

"I was confident in my power and I thought I could take him out, but he turned out to be a little bit tougher than I expected," said Donaire, whose left hand was grotesquely swollen after injuring it in the second round. "I thought I was going to be able to take him out with my power punches, and he ran into them, but he was absolutely a lot bigger than I was and that was absolutely the key factor in this fight."

Donaire, who said he weighed 122 when he left his hotel room to go to the fight, looked frail in comparison to the thickly muscled Concepcion. Donaire wants to move up in weight and is talking about fighting as high as super bantamweight, but he needs to make the move gradually.

Promoter Bob Arum said he'll put Donaire on a card in December. He sees Donaire developing into a star, but said Donaire needs to move slowly and establish himself at 115 and 118 before thinking of a move to 122.

"This guy he fought tonight came into the ring over 130 pounds and he was really huge," Arum said. "Nonito was giving away a lot of weight and that is very significant, especially at the weight that he was fighting at. He hurt his hand and he's fighting a guy who was huge and he couldn't knock him out, so he had to box and be smart. I thought he looked good. He's a real talent."

There are a number of quality fighters who are vying for a spot in the bottom of most top 10 polls, Donaire among them.

He went into Saturday's fight behind guys like Fernando Montiel and Juan Manuel Lopez in the eyes of most and, while he looked impressive Saturday, he conceded that he probably hasn't covered enough ground to overtake them.

"Honestly, I still have a ways to go," Donaire said. "A lot of people would say I'm an elite guy because this guy was a lot bigger than I was. But I think I have more to prove. I wanted to take him out and I wasn't able to do that. The weight factor was a difference and that made a difference in this fight, but I want to fight those guys so I can prove myself."

The mistakes Donaire made were mostly minor ones and could be fixed if he were to bring an elite trainer into his camp. He's working with Dodie and Jonathan Penalosa, but needs to get with someone like Freddie Roach.

Donaire is quick, strong and intelligent in the ring, but too often he threw one punch at a time on Saturday. He made some other fundamental errors that hurt him when comparing him to the best fighters in the world.

Arum would recommend Roach to Donaire in a minute, but so far Donaire hasn't asked or shown a hint that he's unsatisfied with the Penalosa brothers.

"There's only one Freddie Roach," Arum said. "He's a guy who has a track record. He makes his fighters better, almost up and down the board. If Nonito got with a guy like Freddie, there's no telling what he could do."

He's done plenty already and he's only 26. He wants to fight the big fights and follow in the footsteps of countryman Manny Pacquiao, who has become the biggest star in the game.

Donaire wanted the knockout badly because he knows how high Pacquiao has set the bar.

"I really wanted to put on a show and get him out of there, but no matter what I tried, he wouldn't go," Donaire said. "You have to give him some credit for that, because there were two guys in there and he took a lot of good shots, but I really feel in my heart that if he weighed 115 like I did [at the weigh-in Friday], I would have stopped him and gotten him out of there."

• Steven Luevano successfully defended his World Boxing Organization featherweight title when he won by disqualification in the seventh round of his bout with Bernabe Concepcion, no relation to Rafael. After the bell sounded to end the seventh, Luevano raised his fist to tap gloves in a sign of respect with Concepcion.

Concepcion hauled off and cracked Luevano on the chin, at least two or three seconds after the bell sounded. He was immediately disqualified by referee Jay Nady.

Arum said he'll try to make a rematch of that fight in December. Luevano was up 67-66 and 68-65 on two cards and Concepcion was up 67-66 on the third. Yahoo! Sports had it 67-66 for Luevano.

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