Nonito Donaire ended Jorge Arce's career in Houston tonight in a junior featherweight bout that also served as the finale for HBO analyst Larry Merchant. As predicted, Donaire was simply too big, too powerful and too fast for Arce, and demolished the Mexican action hero with his trademark left hook at the end of round 3.
Arce (6-7-2, 46 KO) uncharacteristically retreated for virtually the entirety of the opening two rounds. Donaire (31-1, 20 KO), true to form, was throwing with intent, but couldn't manage to find the defensively minded Arce until the 2nd round, when a short right hand followed by a left hook put the Los Mochis native on the canvas.
That the first serious contact of the fight took Arce off his feet was merely a sign of things to come. Arce, seemingly offended by his temporary removal from his senses, attempted to pressure Donaire from there on out, but only managed to put himself in range of the dynamic Filipino's full arsenal.
Halfway through the 3rd, a flurry from Donaire had Arce tapping his chin, willing his opponent on. Donaire obliged, bobbing under an Arce right hand, using his shoulder to keep “El Travieso” in place for a crunching right. Arce stumbled towards the ropes and Donaire awkwardly lunged after him, landing a short uppercut before referee Laurence Cole sent him to the neutral corner.
Arce arose on shaky legs. Despite chants of “Si se puede” from the fervent Mexican-American crowd, he never recovered. With Arce against the ropes, Donaire landed a thudding left hook at 2.59 of the 3rd to definitively end the fight and with it, Arce's career. “Me Voy” said the Mexican veteran to HBO's Merchant: “I'm going.”
Donaire, for his part, said that he'd like to fight Abner Mares next and failing that, Cuba's Guillermo Rigondeaux. Promoter Bob Arum, standing in the background, looked like he was sucking lemons when Donaire mentioned Mares, who is under contract with rival promoter Golden Boy.
Both fighters thanked each other, and Merchant, effusively. An emotional HBO produced tribute to the analyst ended the show, and the year. For once in boxing, the message was clear: men like Merchant and Arce help make the sport what it is, but new heroes like Donaire will arrive to walk in their footsteps.