Donaire defends belt with brutal body-shot KO

Donaire defends belt with brutal body-shot KO

Nonito Donaire showed boxing can still be an old man’s game.

Donaire, 39, successfully defended his WBC bantamweight belt with a fourth-round knockout win over Reymart Gaballo on Saturday night in the sparsely filled Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. In an all-Filipino clash, Donaire scored a victory with a second to spare when he landed a thudding body shot that Gaballo couldn’t recover from.

“I’ve been in this game for such a long time,” Donaire said in his postfight interview on Showtime. “I’ve had so much fight. I came in here and really … there was nothing [of] feeling out.”

Donaire (41-6, 28 KOs) said he was forced to make an adjustment to get the stoppage. With Gaballo neutralizing his left hook early in the fight, Donaire’s corner urged him to go to the body.

Donaire heeded the advice to land the eventual knockout punch.

In the closing seconds of the fourth round, Donaire threw a hard left hook to Gaballo’s body that forced the previously undefeated challenger to take a knee. Gaballo (24-1, 20 KOs) tried to get up before referee Ray Corona finished the 10-count. But when Gaballo got to his feet, the pain was too much to overcome and he went down for good.

“I thought he was going to get up because I know he has a lot of heart,” said Donaire in the postfight interview, adding that Gaballo didn’t expect it. “But that was a very tremendous punch that landed on him.”

Donaire’s victory was his first successful defense of the WBC belt since he upset Nordine Oubaali in May. Donaire had agreed to a unification bout in August against John Riel Casimero, the WBO champion, before that matchup was scrapped over drug testing protocols.

After beating Gaballo, Donaire was asked about a rematch with Naoya Inoue, the WBA and IBF champion who beat Donaire in 2019.

“That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we’re going for, is unification,” Donaire told Showtime. “Unified champion of the world.”

On the televised undercard, Brandun Lee (24-0, 22 KOs) picked up a seventh-round stoppage over Juan Heraldez (16-2-1, 10 KOs). Cody Crowley (20-0, 9 KOs) earned the biggest win of his pro career with a unanimous decision victory against Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (18-1, 10 KOs).