Kin Cheung/Associated Press
When we say that every single thing about Nonito Donaire’s highly controversial four-round technical decision win over Simpiwe Vetyeka—a win that netted him the WBA featherweight championship—was botched, it’s meant to be taken literally.
Absolutely 100 percent literally.
The whole thing, from Robin Leach’s awful ring introductions to the horribly shady way in which the fight ended and the verdict was reached, stinks to the heavens. For those of you who missed the fight, we'll break down the salient points for you.
The first round was fairly nondescript until the closing seconds, when referee Luis Pabon, one of boxing’s absolute worst officials who almost always finds his way into some controversy or another, somehow managed to miss a head-butt that opened a cut over Donaire’s left eye and punches that landed after the bell.
It didn’t appear from ringside or on the telecast that Pabon ever ruled the cut the result of a foul, and that left the remainder of the fight in an odd state of limbo.
Donaire, sensing some urgency from the blood, was forced into a more aggressive posture, and he stunned Vetyeka in the third round. In one sequence, the now-former champion seemed to reach out and grasp the ropes to avoid going down, which Pabon somehow missed and didn’t award as a knockdown.
The Filipino finally got his man in Round 4, felling Vetyeka with a huge left hook. But the South African champion regained his bearings and was fighting on level ground before getting buzzed again near the end of the frame.
And here’s where it went from a weird, badly officiated fight to something shady and difficult to understand.
After hurting Vetyeka for the second time, Donaire pulled back, pawing at his eye and essentially calling a timeout. Pabon indulged him immediately, summoning the ring doctor to look at the cut, which he ruled OK to continue.
Shortly after the bell ending Round 4, Pabon engaged in a long discussion with a WBA supervisor at ringside, ringing the bell for Round 5 and then immediately stopping the contest, ruling it would go to the scorecards for a technical decision.
That’s all well and good, but Pabon never ruled the foul was the result of a butt. At least he didn’t appear to with any of the customary signals that boxing fans have become used to seeing.
So if no foul was ruled, Vetyeka should've been the winner by TKO.
The scorecards were read, and Donaire was awarded a unanimous decision and a new world championship belt.
To his credit, Donaire, whose eye was swollen shut by that point, maintained his dissatisfaction with the ending and promised a rematch.
But don’t hold your breath.
The whole situation stinks.