Filipino star Nonito Donaire reclaimed the WBO super bantamweight world title on Friday with a gutsy unanimous decision over Mexico’s Cesar Juarez in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Donaire was in control early, knocking Juarez down twice with left hooks in the fourth round, but an aggressive Juarez turned the tide in the middle rounds, battering the 33-year-old Donaire, who was clearly slowing by the seventh round under an onslaught that left him with one eye cut and swelling.
Juarez, 24, should have been credited with a knockdown in the 10th, when his left hook sent Donaire down.
However, Donaire had enough left to land effectively in the final rounds and won the thriller by scores of 116-110, 116-110 and 117-109.
“Tremendous fight!” Donaire said. “We give him so much respect. We gave it all. I will definitely give him a rematch.”
Juarez, who fell to 17-4 with 13 knockouts, thought the scores should have been closer — but he did not dispute Donaire’s win.
“The judges were not fair,” he said. “It was much closer, like a one or two-point fight. But I do think Donaire won.”
With the win, Donaire improved to 36-3 with 23 knockouts.
A former world champion in five weight divisions, he captured the vacant WBO super bantamweight belt.
It is a title Donaire had held before — losing it by a unanimous decision in 2013 to Guillermo Rigondeaux, who was stripped of the crown for inactivity.
Donaire has now won three fights in a row since his return to 122 pounds in the wake of a sixth-round knockout loss to unbeaten Jamaican Nicholas Walters 14 months ago.
That defeat in Los Angeles saw Donaire lose the WBA featherweight world title.
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