Nonito Donaire Jr. may have lost Thursday night, but he certainly gained a measure of respect especially after being called a fading champion incapable of giving Naoya Inoue a competitive bout.
Boxing commentator Ed Tolentino said Donaire, 36, could have beaten Inoue, 10 his Donaire's junior, if Donaire were younger.
"You can see that Donaire offered the better skill-set. And Inoue was not that aggressive early on, clearly wary of Donaire's power," said Tolentino, of Donaire's unanimous decision loss to the Japanese in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight final.
Indeed, the experienced 4-division champion was able to time powerful shots against Inoue especially in the ninth when he staggered the hometown fighter with overhand rights.
A short left to the face cut Inoue over the right eye and, by the end of the ninth, the Japanese was already bleeding in the nose.
But the younger fighter used his speed and power to land damaging shots against Donaire.
In the 11th, Inoue sneaked in a vicious shot to the liver that forced Donaire to his knees, grimacing in pain.
"That knockdown in the 11th was huge and virtually brought out the 'Monster' in Inoue," said Tolentino.
The valiant Donaire survived the round and was able to finish the bout, but lost.
"Father Time has caught up with Nonito, but there is no shame considering the effort he gave against Inoue," said Tolentino.
Tolentino said the 4-division champion has nothing more to prove, especially with the way he challenged Inoue.
"Donaire's legacy is secured and this fight with Inoue may be the perfect swan song, him giving it his all and handing the young Inoue his toughest battle," he siad.
"He can walk away with his head high despite the defeat. Ultimately though, retirement will be his call."
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