Nonito Donaire showed that age is a just a number, knocking Reymart Gaballo out in the fourth round with a thunderous body shot to retain his World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight title on Saturday.
The veteran and ageless wonder Donaire continues to impress at 39 despite being counted out several times by boxing critics before the Philippine boxer moved back to the 118-pound division.
Donaire landed a vicious left hook to the body of Gaballo that sent the 25-year-old opponent down late in the fourth round at Dignity Health Sports Park in south central Los Angeles.
Gaballo remained on his right knee for several seconds before trying to get up. He rose partially but slumped back down again, grimacing as the referee officially stopped the fight at 2:59 of the round.
"I have no mercy," Donaire said. "He didn't expect the left hook to the body. I had to set it up. That was a very tremendous punch."
Donaire was fighting a Philippine compatriot for the first time since 2002. A likeable fighter outside the ring, Donaire showed his human side by putting his arm around Gaballo and telling him to not be discouraged after suffering just the first loss of his rising boxing career.
"I told him 'don't be down'. I told him 'I was having trouble figuring you out,'" said Donaire, who improved to 42-6, 28 KOs.
Donaire is now the face of Philippine boxing after the retirement of Manny Pacquiao, and his overpowering performance against Gaballo (24-1, 20 KOs) is another example of his late-career run.
This was his first defence of the WBC title that he won six months ago with another sensational fourth round knockout of Nordine Oubaali to become the oldest world champion ever at 118 pounds. Donaire dropped Oubaali three times, knocking him out with a left hand.
Like Pacquiao, Donaire lived in General Santos City, Philippines, until he was six and attended the same school as PacMan.
He moved to the United States at age 11 when he gained citizenship through family connections. Donaire's amateur record of 68-8 includes winning three US national championships.
Many believed Donaire was done when he lost by unanimous decisions to Jessie Magdaleno at 122 pounds in 2016 and to Carl Frampton at 126 pounds in April 2018.
In answer, Donaire rejuvenated his career by moving back down to 118 pounds, which seems to suit him just fine. He has now won four fights at 118 and gave Japanese champion Naoya Inoue all he could handle in 2019 before losing by a decision.
"I have been in this game a long time. We are going for the unified champion of the world," he said.
Lomachenko overpowers Commey
In New York, Vasiliy Lomachenko overpowered Richard Commey with a dominant showing, scoring a knockdown in the seventh round on the way to a unanimous decision in the non-title lightweight fight at Madison Square Garden.
The former unified lightweight champion Lomachenko, of the Ukraine, had little trouble with Commey landing punches at will including combinations of eight punches in a row.
Two judges scored it 119-108 while the third had it 117-110.
Lomachenko had Commey out on his feet in the seventh round after a knockdown that came off a short right hand. As Commey wobbled around the ring, Lomachenko stopped throwing punches, looked over at his opponent's corner and asked the trainers if they wanted to stop the bout.
Commey somehow survived the round and made it to the final bell but he had to absorb an onslaught of rights and lefts to the head to survive.
The former two-time Olympic gold medallist Lomachenko needed a dominant win over Ghana's Commey to show he is still a force in the star-studded lightweight division.
The 33-year-old improved to 16-2 with 11 knockouts while former IBF champion Commey dropped to 30-4, 27 KOs.