It wasn't the sort of get-back-on-the-horse performance Nonito Donaire and his followers hoped for Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas, but the end result put Donaire back on the winning side of the ledger and possibly helped the 30-year-old former three-division titlist rediscover his mojo.
After a tentative, almost skittish showing from Donaire through most of his rematch with Vic Darchinyan -- an opponent he dominated and blasted out by TKO in 2007 -- the old, familiar "Filipino Flash" arrived on the scene in Round 9. With Darchinyan in trouble and tucked in a corner, Donaire launched and landed a screaming right hand, a left hook and, from his bootlaces, a left uppercut before Laurence Cole had seen enough to end Darchinyan's night.
Key moment: At 2:10 in the ninth, Donaire landed his most damaging punch to that point -- a left hook that stunned Darchinyan and sent him into defensive mode. Donaire sensed it, stalked him and, moments later, crumpled Darchinyan with another hook upstairs. Darchinyan rose from the knockdown quickly enough, but he never got his footing back, and from there it wasn't so much a matter of if, but how long, Donaire would need to finish him.
We've got your number: Twenty-one. That's how many punches Donaire threw in Round 6 -- a dramatically low output for Donaire, but one that was fairly typical of his per-round numbers on Saturday.
Last word: Something was off about Donaire in his first fight following an April loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, his first defeat in more than 11 years. At different points in the fight, trainer Robert Garcia and Nonito Donaire Sr., the fighter's father, all but begged him to throw more often. Donaire looked nothing like the crowd-baiting, free-wheeling, all-angles puncher we've come to know over the years, but there were glimpses of his old swag as he closed the show by going after Darchinyan and emptying the chamber while going for the knockout. On balance, it was a step in the right direction for Donaire.