by Nick Giongco
A freak back injury suffered by Irishman Ryan Burnett handed the World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight title belt to Filipino-American Nonito Donaire on a silver platter Saturday night (early Sunday morning in Manila) in Glasgow, Scotland.
Burnett didn’t come out for the fifth round when he hurt his back midway through the fourth round after missing with a right hand.
Donaire tried to finish him off by raining blows in the remainder but Burnett managed to survive but later told his cornermen that he could no longer throw his right.
This prompted the referee to declare a halt to the scheduled 12-rounder at the 13,000-seat SSE Hydro, making Donaire a champion again at 118 lbs after more than seven years.
Before misfortune struck for Burnett, who entered the match with a 19-0 card with nine KOs, was ahead on the scorecards after controlling the first two rounds.
But Donaire, who was armed with a 38-5 with 24 KOs, was in the thick of the match and appeared finding his rhythm when the end came.
“As a warrior, Burnett is an amazing fighter, early on he just kept coming at me. A win is a win and it wasn’t the way I would like to win but he’s an amazing fighter,” said Donaire, who turns 36 in less than two weeks.
“Age is nothing but a number. He was fast, strong and caught me with some good punches. I came into this fight as the bigger guy and my coaches snapped me out of it and told me to box.”
Still, Donaire wasn’t as ecstatic as a pure stoppage winner, knowing that the victory was kind of half-baked as he didn’t opt to whoop it up atop the ring and instead consoled the Belfast native.
Burnett was so much in pain that he had to be brought out of the ring on a stretcher.
But according to some ringsiders, Burnett had been badly hurt by a vicious Donaire left hook on the same spot where he complained of extreme pain as he got back to his corner at the end of the third canto.
During the break, Burnett had told his corner of a discomfort on that area of his body, according to the UK media.
Donaire win makes him the fourth reigning Filipino world champion after Manny Pacquiao, Jerwin Ancajas and Vic Saludar.
On Dec. 1 in Los Angeles, minimumweight Mark Anthony Barriga will attempt to join them while super-fly Donnie Nietes will get his turn on Dec. 31 in Macau.
The Donaire-Burnett clash was a part of an elite eight-participant bantamweight tournament called the World Boxing Super Series that will hold semifinal matches next year.
The remaining four fighters aside from Donaire are South African Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico and Naoya Inoue of Japan.
Donaire is paired with Tete while Rodriguez and Inoue make up the other final four tiff.
The finals will be held in May with the winner getting $10 million.