Filipino star Nonito Donaire stopped Australian-based Armenian southpaw Vic Darchinyan in the ninth round of a 10-round non-title bout on Saturday to boost his bid to return to boxing’s elite.
Donaire was trailing on two of three judges’ scorecards when he snatched the victory in a rematch of former world champions trying to revive their careers.
He felled Darchinyan with a left hook, and although Darchinyan rose and continued, he never looked steady. Donaire’s punishing follow-up prompted referee Laurence Cole to call a halt at 2 minutes, 6 seconds of round nine.
Donaire improved to 32-2 with 21 knockouts. He bounced back from a loss to Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux in a super bantamweight world title bout in April.
Even in the glow of victory, Donaire said his thoughts were with people in his native Philippines, where more than 10,000 are feared dead in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
“First and foremost, prayers to people in the Philippines who were hit by the typhoon,” Donaire said. “Please have your prayers for people in the Philippines.”
For Darchinyan, the fight was a grudge match, but he was ultimately unable to avenge his 2007 fifth-round knockout loss to Donaire — his first career defeat.
Both fighters hurt each other with heavy blows in the second round.
A furious exchange at the end of the fourth had to be broken up after the bell and the toe-to-toe action continued in the fifth with Darchinyan seeming to have the edge.
Donaire, who had right-shoulder surgery after losing to Rigondeaux, looked tentative at times.
He admitted there was a moment when he was not sure he could continue.
“When he hit me in my cheek, I felt like he broke my cheek,” Donaire said. “Part of my mind was like: ‘Is this it for me? I’m losing the fight. Should I keep going?’”
“I put my heart into it,” he said. “I said: ‘You know what, I will never, ever quit.’”
His determination paid off and Darchinyan, 37, fell to 39-6-1.
On the same card, unbeaten Mikey Garcia of the US survived a second-round knockdown to knock out Roman “Rocky” Martinez with a left hook to the body in the eighth round and take the Puerto Rican’s World Boxing Organization super featherweight world title.
Garcia improved to 33-0 with 28 wins inside the distance. Martinez fell to 27-2-2 with 16 knockouts.