LAS VEGAS -- Nonito Donaire unanimously outpointed Rafael Concepcion on Saturday night to take the WBA interim title in his super flyweight debut.
Donaire, the 26-year-old Filipino star who vacated his IBF flyweight title to move up in weight, improved to 22-1 with his 21st consecutive victory. Judge Max De Luca scored the fight 117-111, Duane Ford had it 115-113, and Jerry Roth called it 116-112.
"I'm here to give honor to my country," said Donaire, cheered on by a large Folipino crowd at the Hard Rock. "We are great fighters. I came here to represent and fight with all of my heart."
Donaire used a potent jab to cut open a gash under Concepcion's left eye midway through the second round.
"The cut really bothered me in the first few rounds, but I got used to it," Concepcion said. "This fight was a marathon and I was here to run the entire race.
"I was expecting a fight from a real Filipino fighter, not a runner. He didn't want to fight. He wanted to run. ... I knew he was a great fighter, a great technician. If he would have had a warriors' heart, we would have exchanged more."
Donaire ended the third round with a flurry of punches that nearly knocked down Concepcion (13-4-1), who fought with blood dripping down his face most of the night.
Donaire did show some weaknesses in the middle rounds. That inconsistency led to Concepcion landing a few big punches, but Donaire was never in danger.
He closed the fight by relying on his jab to control the final two rounds to secure the win. It resembled his success in the opening rounds.
Donaire, who successfully defended his flyweight title three times, is determined to get fights with Fernando Montiel and Jorge Arce, the super flyweight division's two biggest names, before moving up, perhaps eventually to lightweight.
"Those are the guys on top of me," Donaire said. "I want to fight them to prove I belong."
Concepcion, who earned the respect of the crowd for going the distance, weighed in four pounds over the 115-pound limit, a violation that cost him 20 percent of his $65,000 purse. Even with a win, he wouldn't have been awarded the championship.
"Those extra pounds were definitely a disadvantage," Donaire said. "But I am a warrior. I would have still fought if he was 20 pounds over weight. If he didn't have the extra weight, I would have knocked him out in the beginning.
"I'm ready for the big guys in that weight class. That guy was a 122-pounder tonight and he was tough, but I proved I could fight at that weight."
Donaire said he hurt his right hand landing an upper cut in the early round.
"But no matter how messed up or sprained it was, I am here to fight," he said.
On the undercard, Steven Luevano retained his WBO featherweight title after being floored by challenger Bernabe Concepcion following the seventh round bell. Concepcion, who was trailing on two of the three judges' scorecards, was disqualified.
"The bell definitely rang and he hit him late," said Freddie Roach, Bernabe Concepcion's trainer. "I don't have any argument with that. But it was not intentionally by any means. My fighter was just excited. The disqualification was justified."