“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” PLATO
By Alex P. Vidal
Our former buddy in the Rotary Club, Frank Atas, called me several minutes after the ring announcer declared Nonito Donaire Jr. winner by 4th round technical decision over WBA featherweight “super” champion Simpiwe “V12″ Vetyeka (26-3, 15 KOs) on Saturday at the Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort, Macao, China.
“Lex, if Donaire won on a 4th round technical decision, why is it that the scores of all the three judges were 49-46? Why not 39-36?” Atas asked. “The reason why I called is because I wanted to know if they changed the rules of professional boxing.”
Atas, a former boxer and ring official before he became a member of the Philippine Constabulary in the 70s, was partly right. In a 10-point must system, four times 10 equals 40. Since it was ruled as a “4th round technical decision” win for 31-year-old Donaire, the scores should have been 39-36 if the Fil-Am challenger lost only in one of the four rounds.
The four-point deficit on Vetyeka’s scorecard meant he lost in two of the four rounds and was deducted one point each for every headbutt inflicted on Donaire’s left eye.
Logically, 49-46 means Donaire and Vetyeka were swapping bombs in the fifth round when Puerto Rican referee Luis Pabon called it a night. But this wasn’t the case.
After fourth round or before the start of fifth round, Donaire (33-2, 21 KOs) informed Pabon he could no longer continue due to the nasty cut on his left eye and the blood bothered him in the last nine minutes. Pabon then ordered the three judges to score the next round under the WBA rules thus they all gave each boxer 10 points. The wisdom of awarding 10 points to both ring titans hinges on the numerical fact that a 39-36 score means the fight was terminated below four rounds.
Under the universal rules, Vetyeka could retain the title if the stoppage happened in the first three rounds or before the fourth round by technical draw. Donaire was very much aware of this from the very first drop of blood on his cut. Tactically, to survive four rounds could be the last ace in his sleeves that very moment knowing he was way ahead on points courtesy of a flash knockdown in the fourth canto.
A post-fight controversy smeared Donaire’s collection of his fourth world crown in different weight categories when sportswriters watching the fight at ringside claimed the headbutts were actually legitimate punches. The referee had supposedly erred to declare an “accidental headbutt” because Donaire was hit by a legal blow, according to several sports scribes.
If Donaire’s wound was caused by a legitimate punch, Vetyeka should have been declared winner by technical knockout (TKO) before or after the fourth round.
A defending champion who loses his title under an ugly turn of event like this one usually would be the most loquacious and hot tempered. But not Vetyeka, who gamely accepted his fate.
In fairness to Team Vetyeka, the vanquished African champion deserves a rematch.