Nearly a year after scoring a sensational second-round knockout to capture his second divisional crown, Nonito Donaire will attempt to win a third Saturday at San Antonio's Alamodome when he fights Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., who lost that same belt to Jorge Arce last May. Just like Donaire's encounter with Fernando Montiel, "The Filipino Flash" will meet a fellow knockout artist who also can box well, for the son of three-division champ Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. boasts 18 knockouts in 21 wins and a wide range of skills.
Will Donaire, a consensus top-five pound-for-pound entrant, solidify his status or will Vazquez Jr. score the year's first notable upset? Their CompuBox histories uncovered the following factors:
A Style in Flux?: When Donaire campaigned below bantamweight he used his vast physical advantages to dominate. In seven CompuBox-tracked fights below 118 he averaged 50.9 punches per round, landed 31.4 percent of them and connected on an impressive 46.6 percent of his power shots. Despite his 23-1 (16 KO) record going into his final sub-118 fight at world-class level, Donaire was more boxer than slugger in terms of punch distribution, for 57 percent of his punches were jabs.
Donaire also enjoyed good defensive numbers. His opponents landed 7.7 percentage points less (23.7 percent to 31.4), one percentage point fewer in jabs (19.0 to 20.0) and, most importantly, 17.6 percentage points fewer power shots (29.0 to 46.6).
It appeared this trend would continue when he destroyed Vladimir Sidorenko in December 2010. Although his distribution was 59 percent jabs (35 of 59.2 per round), Donaire connected on 53.6 percent of his power punches, 26.4 percent of his jabs and 37.6 percent overall. He out-landed Sidorenko 89-18 (overall), 37-8 (jabs) and 52-10 (power), leaving the former 118-pound titleholder a battered, bloodied mess.
But in his last two outings against Montiel and Omar Narvaez -- arguably his best opponents to date -- Donaire has become more of a puncher. The punch distribution shifted from jabs to power shots -- 51 percent power shots against Montiel and 60 percent against Narvaez. He's also been less accurate and less dominant defensively -- befitting the increased level of risk in his attack. Montiel landed 4.8 percentage points more of his overall punches (31.8 to 27) and Narvaez 9.8 percentage points more (24.7 to 14.9).
Still, there was much to like about Donaire. After all, he won both fights in commanding fashion. He landed 46.9 percent of his power shots against Montiel and out-landed him 15-7 in that category. Versus an overly defensive Narvaez, Donaire out-landed his rival 99-74 overall and 85-33 in power shots while maintaining a good work rate (55.5 punches per round).
There also seems to be a fear factor in his opponents. Since rising to 118, Donaire's antagonists have thrown just 24 punches per round -- 61 percent below the bantamweight norm. Will Vazquez be as reluctant? His history suggests he won't.
Variable Speed Motor: Like Donaire at his best, the 19-months-younger Vazquez is a long-range boxer whose power strikes shockingly hard at any moment. In defenses against Zsolt Bedak and Ivan Hernandez Vazquez used high work rate to score late knockouts -- 74.9 and 75.2 punches per round respectively (20.2 percent and 21.5 percent more than the 59.8 super bantamweight norm). That allowed him to pound out connect advantages of 242-145 (total), 105-40 (jabs) and 137-105 (power) against Bedak and 263-207 (total), 97-49 (jabs) and 166-158 (power) against Hernandez.
But Vazquez's volume falls against challenging styles. Against lanky Filipino southpaw Marvin Sonsona Vazquez averaged 38.5 punches per round and in his TKO loss to ultra-aggressor Arce it was 48.3. The good news for Vazquez is that he held Sonsona's output to 32.2 and his connect rate to 14 percent overall, 7.8 percent (jabs) and 17.9 percent (power) while landing 37.8 of his power shots. Even in defeat, Vazquez was more accurate (35.4 percent-28.4 percent overall, 26.9-15.4 jabs and 41.7-32.9 power) but Arce's will was too much to overcome.
Prediction: Both are equally adept at boxing and slugging, so it's hard to tell which man will assume which role. Also, neither holds a big anatomical advantage -- both are 5-5 1/2 but Donaire's 68-inch reach is two inches longer.
Both will be anxious to improve on their most recent performances against world-class foes. Donaire was frustrated by Narvaez's all-defense approach while Vazquez wants the Arce memories to fade. In the end, this fight pits elite versus very good, and elite prevails more often than not. Donaire by unanimous decision.
HBO WCB - Feb 4, 2012
Nonito Donaire vs. Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr.