(UPDATED) The Filipino Flash is back.
Nonito Donaire, Jr. gave the Philippines a little something to cheer about in the midst of the death and devastation left by super typhoon Yolanda, stopping old foe Vic Darchinyan in the ninth round of their 10-round non-title bout in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Trailing in the scorecards of two of the three judges after eight rounds, Donaire (32-2) stepped it up in the ninth and caught Darchinyan (39-5-1) with a left hook followed by a solid right that sent the Armenian-Australian crashing to the canvass at the 1:10 mark. The 37-year-old Darchinyan got up at the count of four, but Donaire immediately went for the kill, tagging Darchinyan with another right that sent him reeling into the ropes.
Donaire then chased Darchinyan around, finally trapping his opponent in a corner and landing successive blows that forced referee Laurence Cole to wave it off at the 2:06 mark.
The win allowed Donaire to bounce back from a stunning unanimous decision loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux last April, and he immediately called out the Cuban for a rematch during the post-fight interview.
"That's who I want," he said, referring to Rigondeaux.
The stoppage win also put a definitive conclusion to his domination of Darchinyan, whom he first knocked out in 2007 in the fifth round of their International Boxing Federation flyweight title match. Darchinyan had always claimed the loss was a fluke and more of a lucky punch.
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Donaire, who had his father Nonito, Sr. in his corner for the first time in years after the two reconciled a few months ago, won the first two rounds before Darchinyan started taking control, landing big punches and staggering Donaire in the fourth and fifth rounds and padding his lead with masterful boxing in the sixth and eight rounds. At one point, he landed a punch that Donaire later said probably broke his cheek and nearly ended the bout.
"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?' But you know what? I put my heart into it and said I would never, ever quit."
Donaire entered the bout at a crossroads of his colorful career. Many observers said he had lost his hunger against Rigondeaux after a busy 2012 that saw him win four fights in dominating fashion en route to being named named Fighter of the Year by numerous media outlets. His wife Rachel gave birth recently to their first child, and there was a question of whether the 31-year-old Filipino Flash still had the motivation that helped him win titles in three weight divisions.
"I tried to work hard every day in the gym to get back," he said. "It was more of 'How can I get better?' It's hard for me to be better when part of you still wants to do something different."
After the bout, Donaire posted a message of thanks on his Facebook page, calling it a win for the Philippines.
"It wasnt MY win tonight, it was the PHILIPPINES win. We are strong and we have faith. Thank you Lord for keeping me safe, giving me a sound mind, helping me see what needed to be done. Thank you to the Archangels and especially all the fans and Filipinos who watched despite the typhoon. I have a lot of work still to do but first I need to get the cheek x-rayed for fracture and rest. God Bless!"