by Nick Giongco
STOCKTON, California – Nonito Donaire sent a strong message to the bantamweight bigwigs Saturday when he flattened last-minute replacement Stephon Young of the US with a thunderous left hook in the sixth round and retain the World Boxing Association (WBA) 118-lb crown in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Donaire was supposed to battle Zolani Tete of South Africa in the semifinal round of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), a special tournament involving the world’s finest bantams.
But Tete suffered a shoulder injury, forcing Young to step in as a substitute and get to fight in the main event instead in the undercard where he was supposed to see action.
The win shoved Donaire into the finals of the WBSS against the winner of the other semis pairing on May 18 featuring Japan’s Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico.
The referee didn’t even bother to count as Young (18-2-3 with seven KOs) was out cold even before his head hit the floor.
Donaire (40-5-2 with 26 KOs) was visibly concerned over Young’s fate that he came over to check on his fallen foe’s condition while doctors attended to him.
Young, who took the fight on three days notice, was down for about a minute before being allowed to get on his feet.
Before winning the WBA bantam belt, Donaire had won world titles at fly, super-bantam and feather. At one point, Donaire, 36, had also won an interim world title at super-fly.