By Graham Houston
Nonito Donaire has emerged as one of the stars in the lighter weight divisions, a classy boxer-puncher who went to a new level in his last fight when demolishing the previously unbeaten Raul Martinez in four rounds to retain his IBF flyweight title. Donaire moves up in weight on Saturday when he meets Panama’s Rafael Concepcion for the vacant WBA interim 115-pound championship on Top Rank’s “Pinoy Power” PPV show in Las Vegas, and after the way he blazed through Martinez it is difficult to see any result other than a convincing win for the Filipino who lives in San Leandro, CA.
Concepcion is tough and game, though, and he pulled off an upset in the Philippines last year when he outlasted and overwhelmed A.J. Banal in 10 rounds.
This fight is essentially a showcase for Donaire, but the hope is that Concepcion can be competitive and bring out the best in the “Filipino Flash”.
One thing we know about Concepcion is that he comes to fight. He was very game in defeat against Jorge Arce in Mexico last September, wobbling the popular “Travieso” with a left hook in the fourth but getting worn down to the point where his corner retired him after the ninth round.
I think that this fight probably came a bit too soon for Concepcion after the war with Banal just seven weeks earlier. He was holding his own for four rounds and even looked as if he might be on the verge of winning in the fourth, but then the much more experienced Arce took over.
Concepcion has won two fights since, blowing out an overmatched opponent in Panama and then swarming his way to a clear win over the tricky and elusive southpaw Kermin Guardia in New York.
Donaire is the faster and more skilled of the two men, but Concepcion is presumably the naturally bigger, stronger man, having fought at 120 pounds in his last fight while Donaire is moving up from 112 pounds. I am expecting Concepcion to go right at Donaire and try to hurt him to the body — it was Concepcion’s body blows that led to his win over Banal, who started well but was battered to the body so severely that he more or less gave up.
Unfortunately for Concepcion, he is meeting a fighter who is on a significantly higher level than Banal.
Concepcion is dangerous with the left hook, but Donaire has one of the quickest, deadliest hooks in the lower weight classes — not to mention his jarring left uppercut. Concepcion has heart and pride, but his aggressive style could get him into trouble against Donaire, who is an extremely sharp counter puncher.
This fight should be exciting while it lasts, but Concepcion’s only real hope is to carry the fight to the superior technician and try to bang his way to victory, and this could lead to him coming onto Donaire’s hooks and uppercuts.
Concepcion has heart and pride and he will give it his best effort, but I see him as being a bit outclassed and outgunned here and I am expecting a win for Donaire in about seven rounds.