Donaire rocks Montiel, turns heads
LAS VEGAS – One long-time occupant of the top spot in boxing's mythical pound-for-pound list said he believes a pair of Filipinos should sit atop the current rankings. But former champion Roy Jones Jr. said he's not sure if it's Manny Pacquiao or his countryman, Nonito Donaire Jr., who should be ranked first now.
Donaire made a startling case for himself on Saturday in his showdown with Fernando Montiel at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Donaire knocked Montiel down with a wicked left hook and a follow-up right, stopping the great Mexican seconds later at 2:25 of the second to claim the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization bantamweight belts.
"I saw this kid on TV a couple of years ago and I picked him out then," said Jones, the long-time pound-for-pound who served as a color analyst for HBO on Saturday. "To be honest with you, there's an argument whether he's No. 1 or No. 2. I see (Donaire) doing things I don't see many fighters do. He uses his feet first and his hands second.
"That check hook he threw was incredible. It was a punch I had perfected. I brought that punch to the game and this kid has it down pat solid."
Montiel (44-3-2) entered the bout with 34 knockouts and held the 10th spot in the Yahoo! Sports rankings. But Donaire was never threatened. He was faster, he was smarter and he was far more powerful.
Montiel looked stiff when the fight began and paid a price early when Donaire raked him with a straight right in the opening moments. About a minute or so later, Donaire ripped him with a left hook that seemed to bother the champion.
Donaire, who was poised and calm throughout, knew long ago that it would be an early night. He said he told trainer Robert Garcia right before Christmas he would knock Montiel out in the second.
He was true to his word, knocking Montiel down with a vicious left hook and then a right uppercut that was totally unnecessary. Montiel was laying on the mat, with his legs twitching.
"I hit him with a left hook, I looked down and he started twitching," Donaire said. "I knew the fight was over."
It should have been, but, incredulously, referee Russell Mora let it continue. Montiel fell on his first attempt to get up and didn't respond to Mora's command to walk toward him when he did arise. However, Mora walked to Montiel, wiped his gloves and somehow saw fit to allow the bout to move on. Donaire landed two punches before Mora then jumped in.
Donaire had his second-round knockout, fulfilling his own prediction.
"I told Robert before Christmas," Donaire said afterward. "I just put it in my head. It was just 'Two. Two. Two. Two. Two.' The thing is, though, I needed to be strong, because that two could have turned into a two for me. But I wasn't going to let that happen."
Before the fight, it would not have been a stunner had Montiel won by second-round knockout. After all, the veteran Mexican held world titles in three weight classes, had 34 knockouts among his 44 wins and had won four fights in 2010, all in the fourth round or earlier.
"I knew we both had the punching power to knock each other out," Montiel said before being transported to University Medical Center's trauma unit for precautionary tests. "I made the first mistake and I paid for it."
He paid big-time, though he was apparently unharmed. Physician Jeff Roth, who examined Montiel, said he responded appropriately and didn't seem to have any serious injury.
But he wasn't anywhere near good enough or fast enough to handle Donaire. Jones said he saw Donaire on television several years ago and was stunned by what he saw.
"This kid, when I saw him on TV a couple of years ago, I told my people he was the next best fighter I had seen in the last 10 years," said Jones, a future Hall of Famer who held world titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. "That's the truth. It was about two, three years ago and that's how I remembered his name. I said, 'That's the best kid coming up I've seen in 10 years.' They didn't believe it, but I knew it."
Jones has no interest in Donaire, which adds significance to his opinion. Boxing is full of men whose opinion of a fighter depends upon who he's under contract with.
It's hard, though, to imagine anyone denying Donaire's talents. He's moving into the prime of his career and is handling elite competition in devastating fashion.
He is the only man to knock out Vic Darchinyan, handing the tough Armenian his first loss when he knocked him out in 2007. In December, he knocked former Olympic bronze medalist and ex-world bantamweight champion Wladimir Sidorenko down three times before knocking him out in the fourth.
On Saturday, he dominated a future Hall of Famer, making it look one-sided in a fight expected to be a taut, back-and-forth affair.
"Speed was my main key," Donaire said. "The openings he gave me were all I needed. The second round, he was looking to see if he could take advantage (of me). I wanted to see where his body was going to be. In the first round, I wanted to test what he was going to do and see if I could counter. But he was smart enough to block that counter. I was blocking a lot and I knew where he was going to be.
"I pretty much memorized where he was going to be, where his head was going to be. I knew when the time came, my punch was going to land and that is what happened."
What will happen next is that there will be meetings and big fights for Donaire discussed. He said he wants to unify the bantamweight belts, but would be open to moving to super bantamweight or even featherweight. HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said he wouldn't mind seeing Donaire in the featherweight mix against guys like Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
"How fun would that be," Greenburg asked of fights between Donaire and one of those unbeaten featherweights. "I'd love that."
It's going to be a while before his future is crystallized, but one thing is certain: He's going to be in some big fights for a while.
"Get used to him," Jones said. "This kid is good – damn good. You had better get used to seeing him. He ain't going anywhere."