Nonito Donaire made sure he wouldn't be another heavily-favored champion from the Philippines losing his title to a former champion from Mexico.
On a HBO telecast that began with the taped replay of Juan Manuel Marquez's stunning sixth-round knockout of Manny Pacquiao last week in Las Vegas, Donaire exacted a measure of revenge for Filipino fans Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston where he retained his WBO super bantamweight championship with a knockout victory against Mexican challenger Jorge Arce at 2:59 of the third round.
"I went out there and pretty much timed him," Donaire, nicknamed the "Filipino Flash," said of the left hook he used to finish the fight. He also scored a knockdown in the second round when Arce tumbled backwards and his gloves touched the canvas from the champion's straight right hand .
"I knew he was going to open up,'' Donaire said. "He was a tough guy and he got me to the body a few times. But I caught him with the straight right hand and the counter (left) hook did him in."
The victory was Donaire's fourth this year, all in the 122-pound weight division, after winning titles previously at flyweight, super flyweight and bantamweight. His extraordinarily busy activity and success has him a top candidate for 2012's Fighter of the Year.
In the short-term, Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) was satisfied just being able to appease his country's fans still reeling from Pacquiao's upset KO by Marquez -- which ironically also ended with one second left in the round.
"A lot of fans were saying ‘You gotta get him'and ‘This is for the Phillipines,' " Donaire said. "And, it's true. But I love Mexico, too, and I have a lot of respect for Mexican fighters. I hope they can be proud of what I've done tonight."
As he spoke, Donaire noted that his trainer Robert Garcia is from Mexico.
Arce, who was fighting the 70th bout of his career, said afterward he's calling it quits. Normally a fierce aggressor, he was clearly respectful of Donaire's power and fought uncharacteristically cautious.
"My career is over. I'm leaving after the best man,'' said Arce (61-7-2, 46 KOs). "I have a family to take care of and I have my children. I promised them if I lost, I was leaving. It fills me with a lot of honor that I lost against the best."
Donaire said he hopes to fight either of the other two 122-pound title-holders, Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux. "First I want to fight Mares because he's been calling me out, but if that doesn't happen, give me Rigondeaux,'' Donaire said. "Bring them all on. It doesn't matter."
Both Donaire and Arce also gave their well wishes to commentator Larry Merchant who did his final telecast Saturday night after 35 years with HBO.