Donaire wins fight, but no new fans
NEW YORK -- When Nonito Donaire seized two bantamweight belts in February, he did so with an electrifying second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel that shot him up the pound-for-pound rankings.
Donaire has turned in several memorable performances and scored other booming knockouts, too, such as when he iced Vic Darchinyan with one shot to win a flyweight title in 2007.
No such luck on Saturday night.
With an unwilling, outclassed opponent in Argentina's Omar Narvaez, Donaire had to settle for a lopsided, boo-inducing decision victory to retain his 118-pound belts before a near-capacity crowd of 4,425 at the Madison Square Garden Theater.
It was an easy fight to score -- all three judges had it a 120-108 shutout, as did ESPN.com, because Narvaez did not come to fight.
Yes, Donaire won, but this was not the sort of star-making performance he or anyone on his team wanted to see as he prepares to move up to junior featherweight for his next fight -- even if it was not his fault.
"It was very frustrating," Donaire said. "The fans didn't deserve this. My first time on the East Coast, Madison Square Garden. I apologize deeply for this. I wanted a knockout. It happens. He was definitely disappointing."
It was bad. So bad that, besides the booing from the crowd at various times throughout the fight, Donaire told trainer Robert Garcia while on the stool after the 11th round, "I'm bored."
He wasn't the only one.
The crowd then began to chant, "This is b-------!" Over and over.
"I did my best. I'm sorry that it didn't come out the way we all wanted," Donaire said. "I have a lot of respect for him, but Sergio Martinez [and other fighters from Argentina], they come to fight. He didn't come here to fight today."
Said Garcia: "We won a unanimous decision and Nonito is still a champion. He didn't get what he wanted, but hey, he won."
Donaire -- the 28-year-old "Filipino Flash" -- tried to make it a real fight and get Narvaez (35-1-2, 19 KOs) out of there. He worked the body, threw combinations and hurt him more than once. But Narvaez, a reigning junior bantamweight titleholder who moved up for the opportunity, showed good defense and not much else.
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Donaire finally did some damage in the fourth round. He was landing hard right hands to the body, but also turned his attention upstairs when he wobbled Narvaez with a booming right hand. And then Donaire followed with several more blows that had Narvaez looking for cover.
As for any notable offense, that was about it because Narvaez turned even more defensive after that.
"When I hurt him in the [fourth] round, I think he shut down," Donaire said. "I did everything I can."
He landed 99 of 666 punches (15 percent), according to CompuBox, while Narvaez landed a measly 74 of 299 (25 percent), barely throwing at all.
"I wanted him to open up, but he wouldn't move as long as he had that shell up," Donaire said. "He had his hands up. I didn't mind getting hit as long as I got my punches in."
And then Donaire (27-1, 18 KOs) invoked one of the worst fights in recent memory, when another normally exciting fighter was forced to go the distance with an unwilling foe.
"Now I know how [Manny] Pacquiao felt with [Joshua] Clottey," Donaire said. "The guy just had that shell no matter what I did."
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was not happy with Narvaez's performance, and who could blame him?
"I never saw an Argentinean fighter fight that way," Arum said. "I knew the guy was a tremendous boxer. I thought he would come to fight. He realized he couldn't go with [Donaire], so he was in survival mode the whole time. Once he got hurt like never before, he chucked it in.
"It happens. But it doesn't reflect badly on Nonito. It reflects badly on Narvaez. He came for his check."
Narvaez had the audacity to celebrate on his handlers' shoulders after the fight, even though there was no chance he was going to get a decision.
And then he insulted everyone even more when he said: "He never hurt me. I didn't feel his punches. I didn't think he was that big of a deal."
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While Narvaez, 36, who made 16 flyweight title defenses before moving up to junior bantamweight to make three defenses so far, can crawl back to Argentina and continue to defend the 115-pound belt he still holds, Donaire is now done at bantamweight.
He is moving up to junior featherweight, where possible title fights loom with Jorge Arce of Mexico and Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan.
"We're definitely moving up to 122," Donaire said. "Around the eighth round, I was starting to cramp up. It's 122 for the next fight."
Arum said Donaire would be an active fighter. "A minimum of four fights in 2012," he said. "None of this b------- of waiting for two dates from the premium cable networks. He will be an active champion."
Donaire broke into a broad smile with that news.
"You guys know I am willing to fight anyone," he said. "You know I am up for a war any time."
Arum said Donaire would be back in the first quarter of next year. Nishioka has said he would not be available until the early summer to fight Donaire, but Arum said he will call his promoter and "offer Nishioka a little extra money to fight in March."
Arum also said he would like to put on a fight with Arce in Manila next summer, but that he might move that bout up if they can't get Nishioka right away.
Whomever Donaire fights, he will try to put the stinkfest of Narvaez behind him.
"I expected he would try to make it to the end of 12 rounds and try to wear me down, but the moment I hit him hard he didn't want to take a chance," Donaire said. "I'm just frustrated.
"I heard the crowd. The crowd didn't deserve this. I figured putting my face in front of him would open him up, but all he did was jab and then run. I'm willing to take a hit and make it exciting for the fans, who paid their money to watch me. I wanted to bring the old-school mentality, 'Fight me.' I wanted a war and I didn't get it tonight."
Better luck next time -- for all of us.
In the most significant undercard bout, featherweight contender Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (27-0, 23 KOs) scored a punishing fourth-round knockout of Juan Carlos Martinez (19-13-1, 7 KOs) as he continues to steamroll toward a title opportunity.
Mexico's Martinez had a good first round, landing a solid left hand and raising swelling around Garcia's left eye, but it was all downhill for him from there.
Garcia landed numerous flush punches. In the third round, he cracked Martinez with a left hook to drop him to his rear end seconds before the end of the round.
In the fourth round, it was target practice for the 23-year-old from Oxnard, Calif. Garcia landed a huge overhand right that sent Martinez down to his backside again. Garcia continued to pound the increasingly wobbly Martinez and dropped him yet again with a booming right hand. Although Martinez made it to his feet and continued, Garcia was all over him, raining punches on him until referee Harvey Dock stepped in at 2 minutes, 46 seconds.
Martinez had entered the bout on a two-fight winning streak, having upset former title challenger Bernabe Concepcion in an eight-round decision in May. But Garcia, trained by brother Robert Garcia -- the former titleholder and also Donaire's trainer -- was way too much for him.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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