Nonito Donaire after his victory over Vic Darchinyan on Saturday night in Corpus Christi (Photo: Chris Farina – Top Rank)
By Chris Robinson
On Saturday night, in Corpus Christi, Tex., Nonito Donaire stepped back into the ring for the first time following his upset loss to Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this year.
In front of Donaire was a familiar foe in Vic Darchinyan, the same man he blitzed out in five rounds over six years ago in one of his most resounding performances to date.
On this night their HBO rematch was far more competitive, however, as Donaire and his awkward Armenian foe appeared to be fighting on even terms through the first eight rounds of their bout.
Some observers even had Darchinyan ahead in the match as the ninth round started, but that is where Donaire took over.
Midway through the frame, Donaire clipped Darchinyan and dropped him with a sweeping left hook.
Sensing that his foe was dazed upon rising from the knockdown, Donaire rushed in for the kill and battered Darchinyan along the ropes until referee Laurence Cole stopped the action.
Calling the fight from ringside, veteran commentator Larry Merchant gave his thoughts on the latest triumph from the ‘Filipino Flash’.
“I thought that he was fighting his normal boxer-puncher style against a guy who knew him,” Merchant explained. “He was avoiding that left hook that ended his world as he knew it seven years ago. To Donaire’s credit, instead of submitting and saying ‘I didn’t want to be here anyway’, he unleashed the inner fighter in him.
“I give him credit,” Merchant added. “He was losing the fight. Darchinyan had seized the drama of the fight. And he went for it. He knew he had to go for it and he did and I give him the highest marks for that.”
A longtime commentator for HBO, Merchant has been involved in several of Donaire’s showcases and was also able to study his temperament as a fighter over the years.
Merchant revealed, according to his sources at least, that Donaire’s passion for the sport had been waning following his banner 2012 campaign and that his duel with Darchinyan this weekend gave us a chance to see where his head and heart were truly at.
“He’s an unusual person in boxing,” Merchant stated. “There’s a sensitivity about him, a kind of vulnerability about him. And after having those four fights and being Fighter of the Year and making a lot of money, he really had some inner fight about whether he wanted to go on.
“I’m told that he was considering retiring even before the Rigondeaux fight,” said Merchant. “Or just thinking about it. Normally, when an athlete or fighter thinks about retiring, he’s retired. Maybe he’s found that it’s not just getting to the top of the ladder. If you want to be successful at your craft, it’s staying there and being able to dedicate yourself.”
When asked for his thoughts on Donaire against the winner of the proposed Jan. 25 tilt between WBO champion Orlando Salido and two-time gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, Merchant changed things up and hinted that another opponent may already be in the works for the Fil-Am star.
“The way I hear, they want to put him in with the kid Walters,” Merchant said, referring to WBA champion Nicholas Walters who scored a 4th round TKO victory over Alberto Garza on Saturday’s undercard.
“There’s talk about making that fight,” Merchant noted. “Then, maybe he can fight the winner of Salido vs. Lomachenko down the road.”
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Chris Robinson can be reached at Trimond@aol.com