Donaire bags WBA superflyweight title

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo – Filipino NONITO DONAIRE, Jr. set his goal of becoming a multidivisional champion to a promising start by bagging via a unanimous decision the interim WBA superflyweight title from Panamanian Rafael Concepcion yesterday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Despite having to fight an opponent who was over the 115-lb limit, “The Filipino Flash” showed the top-class fighter that he is by negotiating his way throughout the hard-fought fight with superb punches and counter-punches as well as deliberate attack that had Concepcion thinking and on the defensive.

Donaire did not waste much time as he immediately took the fight to “El Torito” Concepcion, crowding the latter in the opening round of the scheduled 12-rounder.

In the middle of the second round Donaire caught Concepcion with a strong jab that cut open a gash under the Panamanian’s left eye. The Flash sustained his fast start in the third, throwing a flurry of shots at Concepcion that had El Torito nearly hitting the canvas.

But true to his reputation as a “survivor,” Concepcion, who was assessed a $13,000 fine (or 20% of his $65,000 purse) for coming in overweight at 119 1/2 lb at the weigh-in, settled and made his move in the middle rounds. He displayed staying power in absorbing the punches of Donaire while at the same time throwing power shots of his own that rocked the Filipino champion at certain points.

Donaire, however, held his ground despite the heightened challenge from Concepcion. He refused to be entangled with Concepcion’s game and instead took back the tempo of the fight by moving well and finding his spot.

Perhaps sensing that the fight was slipping from his hands, Concepcion made an aggressive last-ditch effort in the last two rounds to salvage the fight in his favor. But by that time Donaire was not to be denied as he met the fightback head-on, even landing more power punches during that stretch.

When the smoke cleared, judges Max De Luca, Duane Ford and Jerry Roth all went Donaire’s way, scoring the fight 117-111, 115-113, 116-112, respectively.

After the bout, 26-year-old Donaire said he was satisfied with the fight and the result. He, however, said he would have wanted to end it by way of a knockout, but as he put it after the fight, “He [Concepcion] was a super bantamweight tonight. Had he weighed in at 115 pounds I would have knocked him out.”

With his victory, Donaire improved to 22-1, including 21 straight wins. More importantly, he has added the superflyweight title to his resume after successfully making his mark as a champion in the flyweight class (112 lbs). Concepcion slumped to 13-5-1.

Another Filipino fighter who made a good impression on the world stage was welterweight Mark Jason Melligen who disposed Mexican Ernesto Zepeda via a devastating fourth-round technical knockout. Showing fiery form, the Bacolod City native Melligen stomped Zepeda right from the get-go, never allowing the latter to get his game going. It was the fourth straight triumph for Melligen (17-1, 12 via KO) in the United States.

Bernabe Concepcion

But it was not all good news for the Filipinos in Las Vegas yesterday as top Pinoy featherweight bet Bernabe Concepcion was disqualified in his bid to arrest the WBO featherweight belt from champion Steven Luevano. Caught throwing a late punch after the bell sounded in the seventh round that floored Luevano, referee Jay Nady immediately called for the stoppage of the match. Concepcion was trailing Luevano before the DQ. It was the first loss for Concepcion in 23 matches.

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