LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao no longer has a monopoly on astounding performances by Filipino fighters.
Nonito Donaire made sure of that with one monstrous left hook to the head of Fernando Montiel that in effect ended a much-anticipated bantamweight showdown before 4,805 Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
Montiel fell flat on his back, was somehow able to stagger to his feet but the fight was stopped after a quick combination by Donaire at 2:25 of the round, giving the Filipino-born American Montiel’s two 118-pound belts.
The knockout itself was breathtaking, the sheer drama of the moment drawing a gasp from an evenly divided crowd.
Andre Ward, a close friend of Donaire, spoke for everyone when he said simply: “WOW!”
The even-more astonishing aspect of the moment was who Donaire knocked out. This was no chump. This was one of the best fighters in the world, a tested veteran who is rated No. 7 on THE RING’s Top 10 pound-for-pound list and had lost only two close decisions in his career.
And Donaire dismissed him with a single punch, one that rivals Pacquiao’s one-punch, second-round KO of Ricky Hatton in 2009.
On top of that, it was Donaire’s second consecutive other-worldly performance. In his last fight, he dominated former titleholder Wladimir Sidorenko before stopping him in the fourth round in December.
In short, this little fighter from the San Francisco Bay area has become much like Pacquiao, a tour de force who reduces elite opponents to pitiful victims and thrills the fans at the same time.
Even cynical boxing writers were in awe. Those of us on press row just looked at one another with our mouths hanging open but not saying a word immediately after the knockout, which is saying something. Afterward, several writes just said, “Some punch, some punch.”
Donaire was beyond happy afterward.
“I just want to enjoy this moment, to soak it all in,” he told RingTV.com, unable to wipe the smile from his face. “I’m grateful for everything, I really am. I feel like I’m getting better every time I fight. It’s really a blessing.”
The fact that the five-plus minutes preceding the telling moment were uneventful added to the drama.
The fighters entered the ring to loud ovations by their constituencies, Donaire the Filipino fans and Montiel the Mexican fans. The tension was thick as we sat back in anticipation of what we expected to be something special.
Donaire landed a few decent punches in the first round but the fighters spent the initial three minutes largely feeling one another out. Nothing much had changed when, about two minutes into the second round, Montiel missed with a right and Donaire countered with a left none of us will ever forget.
Montiel (44-3-2, 34 knockouts) landed on his back with his legs still moving, apparently leaving him semiconscious, as Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) retreated to a neutral corner with glee on his face and his hands in the air. He knew Montiel was badly hurt.
Somehow Montiel got to his feet and, after getting the OK from referee Russell Mora, was able to continue. Donaire pounced on his prey, though, landed another solid left and followed with a right. That was enough for both Montiel and Mora, who stopped it at the point.
Much of the crowd went wild as Donaire leaped on the ropes, his hands thrust in the air, to acknowledge his screaming fans.
More important, they were acknowledging him, as we all must. Donaire has it all. He’s an oversized bantamweight. He is sublimely skilled. He is ridiculously quick, much too quick for Montiel. And, yes, he has unreal punching power.
Donaire said he plans to stay at 118 pounds for at least one more fight and try to unify the titles, which would mean facing the winner of the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko fight on April 23. And if that fight can’t be made, then he would move up to 122 and tackle the elite that division.
In the end, no matter the quality of his next opponent, don’t be surprised if something similar to the events of Saturday night occur again. This guy is on one hell of a roll, one that shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down any time soon.
Indeed, it’s time to write about Donaire what I’ve written about Pacquiao: Let’s enjoy this while we can because you don’t see fighters of this ilk very often.
Homepage and blog item photos by Chris Farina-Top Rank