CARSON, California — Nicholas Walters stopped Nonito Donaire with a second left in the sixth round Saturday night, winning the WBA featherweight title in dramatic fashion.
Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), a fairly unknown fighter from Jamaica, punctuated his breakthrough performance by knocking down Donaire (33-3) for the first two times in the four-division champion’s career.
After Donaire swung and missed with a huge left hand late in the sixth, Walter caught him above the ear with an overhand right. Donaire fell face-first to the canvas, and though he beat the count, he couldn’t continue in his second loss in four fights.
Walters also knocked Donaire down to one knee in the third round with an uppercut, and he absorbed Donaire’s biggest punches in an impressive all-around performance that thrilled the sellout crowd for Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight title bout against Marco Antonio Rubio.
“We worked hard for this victory,” Walters said. “Donaire is a super great champion. I know I have to respect him, and that’s what I did. He caught me with a few shots.”
Walters, nicknamed the Axe Man for his chopping blows, had won 10 of his last 11 fights by stoppage while climbing from obscurity and winning one version of the WBA title. Donaire was a serious step up in competition for Walters, but he handled the champion with activity and precision before finishing the fight.
“I’ve never seen a featherweight with as much power as Walters,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. “Nothing like the concussive power this kid has.”
Donaire fell hard to the canvas in the first round, but it was ruled a slip. He otherwise controlled the early action, and he staggered Walters with a flurry at the second-round bell.
But Walter stunned Donaire and knocked him down to a knee late in the third, putting an uppercut squarely on Donaire’s jaw. Donaire rose and survived the round, but developed a dripping cut near his right eye in the fourth.
Donaire lost his 122-pound titles to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April 2013. The Filipino-born, Bay Area-raised Donaire had been considered one of boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighters before getting schooled by Rigondeaux, but he bounced back with consecutive victories, winning the WBA 126-pound title in May.
Before this fight, Donaire said he had a revitalized passion for boxing after struggling for motivation in recent years. Winning his fourth world title exceeded his own expectations, and becoming a father changed his mentality toward his violent sport.
“I’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” Donaire said. “I know I can’t compete with guys like Walters.”