By chopping down Nonito Donaire at the StubHub Center in California on Saturday night, Nicholas Walters sent out a chilling message to his rivals and announced himself as a genuine featherweight force.
The bout was contested for the WBA 'Super' world title, and both men entered the ring as world champions (Donaire Super and Walters Regular) with the aforementioned organisation. Yes, the WBA's title agenda is farcical. And yes, having two champions in the same weight class is ridiculous. But at least on this occasion their two main belt holders squared off for supremacy (Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin met for the heavyweight version of WBA superiority in 2013).
Walters (25-0, 21KO's) pressed forward from the opening bell and endeavoured to work his stiff, nagging jab. Donaire (33-3, 21KO's) experimented with countering hooks in the first session, but the work rate and pressure coming from the Jamaican ensured the round went his way.
Donaire, known as 'The Filipino Flash', enjoyed more success in the second round, when 'The Axe Man' ventured forward recklessly. A devilish countering hook from the four weight champion (five weight champion of you include an interim belt at super flyweight) sent Walters to Queer Street as the bell sounded, and he staggered towards his corner. The very same punch has brought about many of Donaire's triumphs, but Walters recuperated during his one minute rest.
Donaire attempted to take the initiative in the third stanza, but left himself open in the process. A sharp right uppercut on the inside forced Donaire to receive the first count of his 13-year professional career, and the fight began to drift away from him from that moment.
The 28-year-old Montego Bay resident proved to be far too big and strong for the talented, experienced and brave veteran, and he went on to dominate the altercation until the sixth round, when a soul destroying chopping right hand relieved Donaire of his senses and forced the referee to halt the action. The felled fighter did manage to beat the count - just - but his legs betrayed him and the referee had no other option.
"I invited him into me. It's like fishing, I gave him the bait and I reeled him in. But he is a great fighter and a great person." Walters said of the finish in his post-fight interview.
The graceful and dignified loser made no excuses for the crushing defeat he suffered, he simply admitted that he was well beaten by the better man on the night.
"Congratulations to Walters! He deserves everything. I have no regrets. I can honestly say I trained my best and I made a lot of sacrifices this camp. I'm honoured I lost to him in the fight we had. I hit him with everything I had and he just kept coming." Donaire wrote on his facebook page.
To be brutally honest, Nonito Donaire isn't a featherweight and he never has been. He moved up in weight following a demoralising defeat at the hands of the brilliant Guillermo Rigondeaux and he has looked poor in his previous outings at 126-pounds (lacklustre and lethargic victories over Vic Darchinyan and Simpiwe Vetyeke). Super bantamweight is the ideal division for the respected and fan friendly former champion. There are two blockbuster battles awaiting Donaire right here in the UK, as long as he drops back down to 122-pounds.
Scott Quigg, the WBA Regular super bantamweight champion, is crying out for a big fight and the British fans would be proud to host and welcome such a great fighter. Carl Frampton is the other British option for the Filipino. However, Frampton has a mandatory obligation to defend his IBF world title against Chris Avalos.
As for Walters, he is likely to walk directly into unification dust ups with the likes of Jhonny Gonzalez (WBC champion), Vasyl Lomachenko (WBO champion) and Evgeny Gradovic (IBF champion). His all action style, power punching and agile movement could make him a big draw for television executives. Walters is a lean and muscular man, who looks large, imposing and somewhat intimidating at featherweight. His frame suggests that he would be capable of stepping up in weight and challenging for titles at super featherweight.
By defeating an elite operator in such impressive fashion, the confident knockout artist thrust himself into the public eye. He put a target on his own back and he evolved himself from being just a good fighter, to a real champion with the potential to headline major events.