by Kieran Mulvaney
The task for Nonito Donaire was twofold.
Most obviously and simply, he had to defeat Toshiaki Nishioka -- on the face of it, no easy task, given that the classy Japanese boxer was undefeated in eight years and had recently dispatched possible future Hall-of-Famer Rafael Marquez.
But he carried the extra burden of a man of whom much is expected: after a series of relatively underwhelming title defenses, the junior featherweight who is regarded as one of the best fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world had to do more than win. He had to win impressively.
In the early going, it appeared that one of those tasks could be checked off the list without too much concern. For the first few rounds, Nishioka didn’t so much show Donaire respect as outright reverence. His right hand glued to the side of his head to protect against Donaire’s vaunted left hook, he seemed reticent to deploy his southpaw left hand for fear of what incoming artillery he might receive in response.