Bantamweight Nonito Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) staked his claim to a spot in the upper echelon of the mythical pound-for-pound ratings with a stunning technical knockout of Fernando Montiel at 2:25 of the second round Saturday night in Las Vegas. The miracle is that Montiel (44-3-3, 34 KOs) got up from the counter left hook that dropped him and left his legs kicking in an uncontrollable spasm.
Referee Russell Mora apparently was so amazed that he let the fight continue. But after two more unanswered shots from Donaire, Mora rushed in to signal an end to a fight that was over the moment Montiel hit the canvas. Donaire took possession of the WBC and WBO bantamweight title belts from Montiel.
Donaire's advantage in hand speed was evident from the outset. He showed respect for Montiel's powerful left hook by keeping his right hand high to protect his jaw, but he dropped his left and circled comfortably, showing early confidence that he could land at will.
After generally controlling the first round, Donaire absorbed a right from Montiel but came back instantly with a counter-left that landed thunderously flush on the right side of Montiel's face. In slow motion on the HBO telecast, it looked like Montiel's head was in the midst of its own private earthquake. Hi shead spun on its axis one way, and his body toppled the other direction.
When Montiel reached the canvas, he rolled onto his back, and his legs kicked the air uncontrollably. He was clearly out. Yet, summoning his will against all logic, Montiel struggled to his feet before being counted out. His eyes were vacant. No one was home, but Mora waved Donaire in. After a right-left combo, Mora thought better and moved in to rescue the Mexican fighter from further damage.
Donaire, who was born in the Philippines but moved to Los Angeles at the age of 10, was humble in victory as he thanked all his handlers. He said he would like to unify all the major belts in the 118-pound class, which means going after IBF champion Jospeh Agbeko and WBA champion Anselmo Moreno.
But HBO announcer Max Kellerman clearly encouraged him to consider jumping up to the 126-pound featherweight division to take on champions Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa. At 5-6, Donaire is a half-inch taller than both of those men. So, his body should be able to handle the move. But the bout against Montiel was only his third at bantamweight.
Donaire has time, and he has personal goals he wants to achieve. He's not so full of himself that he feels the need to jump up right away for bigger money. If he lets things play out for another year or so, there's no reason Donaire can't conquer the bantamweights and then move up the ladder for the next challenge. If he continues to fight as well as he did against Montiel, it's Donaire who can set the agenda.
Kellerman was quick to proclaim Donaire No. 2 on the pound-for-pound list behind fellow Filipino Manny Pacquiao since Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been inactive for more than nine months. But Sergio Martinez, who is the best at middleweight and junior middleweight would rank ahead of Donaire. The heavyweight champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, lightweight Juan Manuel Marquez, Bernard Hopkins, Timothy Bradley, Lopez, Gamboa and a few others merit consideration. There should be no rush to anoint Donaire now, but there's no denying he stamped himself as one of the coming forces in boxing.