There was an element of the cartoonish about what Nonito Donaire did to Fernando Montiel’s face in the 2nd round of their Feb. 19, 2011 rendezvous. You can imagine the artists and writers at a Warner Bros. storyboard session, coming up with a scenario where, during a zany bit of fisticuffs, one ‘toon caves in the face of another ‘toon, perhaps with an anvil hidden in his glove.
Only Donaire’s weapon was not an anvil; it was a left hook that the Filipino bantamweight used to dent the face of the Mexican he had flirted with fighting for more than two years. By the time they finally met, both had ascended to just outside the upper ranks of the sport, and it was that punch that finally heralded Donaire’s undisputed arrival as one of the best fighters in the world not just based on raw talent, but because of what he did with it. It was an awe-inspiring shot, not unlike the one that put him on the map to begin with — his 2007 KO of the Year against Vic Darchinyan.
Yet as amazing-to-the-point-of-absurd as it was, there was something deadly serious about it, too. Referee Russell Mora tainted the picture-perfect quality of the knockout by allowing the bout to continue when a completely blitzed Montiel somehow climbed to his feet. Moments before, Montiel had been lying on the ground, his feet and hands swimming in the air like he was dreaming that he was a cockroach, or that he was riding a bicycle underwater, or that he was Spider-Man scaling a wall. He might as well have had Tweety Birds circling around his head. (That Montiel rose to his feet at all was one of the most amazing/absurd aspects of the whole encounter.)
But back to the deadly seriousness, literally. Mora just last week admitted that he nearly got Montiel killed by allowing that fight to continue for a few more punches before stepping in and halting the contest. Not only did he besmirch the beauty of the knockout, then, but Mora almost did something far, far worse.
Even if it should’ve ended sooner, Mora couldn’t completely ruin everything. Donaire landed the best punch of the 2011, that’s for sure. The official knockout came. It was just a few seconds later.