Whenever my fist bleeds, I always lick the blood off it, grin at my enemy and resume combat. Get back in there, Nonito Donaire! At least, hopefully. There’s been no word that he did major damage to his left hand, which is the hand with which he usually does the most damage to others. It didn’t get him to a knockout over the weekend — in fact, he left the weekend with some bad reviews — but I still think boxing’s better off with Donaire’s left hand healthy than not.
Our team, as always, capably handled some of the weekend’s action in my absence. But some stuff has happened since then, too. The fallout is like so:
- Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s performance. One of the big debates about Chavez this weekend — and there were a lot of them — is whether he looked sluggish. Clearly, for the first 10 rounds, he wasn’t as active as usual. Did that have to do with stamina problems related to making the middleweight limit? Did it have to do with Marco Antonio Rubio trying to play a lot of keepaway and engage only on occasion? As is often the case, the answer might be “both.” The whole DUI incident suggests he might not have have taken training camp very seriously (Gasp! No, not JCC, Jr.!); you don’t hear about boxers going all Guns N Roses “It’s So Easy” during camp. He might’ve had some stamina problems, but he clearly had gas in the tank for those last two rounds — one of which I thought saw him get wobbled by Rubio, not that HBO’s team noticed it, so maybe I was just imagining things. Another of the debates is whether Chavez won just because of his size, not because he’s good. Guess what? “Size” is part of what makes boxers good sometimes. Chavez is a big boy who constantly rehydrates to absurd figures after the day-before weigh-in, and I’m not surprised in the slightest that he was a cruiserweight the next day. Rubio complained afterward that he couldn’t do anything with Chavez’ size, as if that’s not a legitimate advantage to have in the ring. Of course, how one achieves that advantage is a whole different debate.
- Chavez and drug tests. Steroid suspicions in boxing come in two varieties: A. Those without any credible evidence, even circumstantial (see: Manny Pacquiao); and B. Those with at least some grounds for reasonable suspicion. Chavez is good for answer B. He’s previously had an encounter with a banned substance, a diuretic that could’ve been used to either help him make weight, or else mask a performance enhancing drug. We all know Chavez struggles with weight and doesn’t try hard enough in camp, so his diuretic use for that purpose isn’t at all far-fetched. But when neither the WBC nor Texas commission go through with any drug tests after the fight, and the WBC boss is Chavez, Jr.’s godfather, and everyone points fingers at everyone else about who’s to blame, it all looks very fishy. (Texas eventually fell on the sword, but there’s blame enough to go around for lotsa folk here.) Chavez has offered to take a test (he’s also pointed out that Rubio also failed to take a test, a valid point if not as valid as with the dude who’s got a history with banned substances), but that’s usually what people do in this situation and it never happens. This all might be perfectly innocent and incompetent — after all, Texas, the WBC and Chavez have a history of coming off like lunkheads — but they sure have done everything in their power to make it smell like something else. Hanlon’s razor and all that.
- Open scoring. People seemed confused like something else untoward had happened, what when the corners were given the scores of the fight, since the WBC’s open scoring isn’t used in America. Maybe I’m missing something — sometimes I do — but at their annual convention, the WBC said they’d be doing just this: They wouldn’t have scores announced here, but they would provide them to the corners. Basically it sounds like a loophole on the U.S. ban and the Texas commission enabled it, and I have to imagine the WBC knew someone would or else they wouldn’t have announced they plans to do this modified version of it. Look forward to more of this for fights involving the WBC, which is an exceptionally bad idea. The oddest thing about this, by the way, is that on one from Rubio’s camp was informed this would be used, according to Rubio’s camp.
- Next for Chavez. The talk is between Andy Lee and Antonio Margarito as Chavez’ next opponent. The Lee talk is, I suspect, gamesmanship from Top Rank. It’s TR’s way of getting Lee’s promoter, Lou DiBella, to shut up about demanding that his guy Sergio Martinez fight Chavez. Lee was turned down as a Chavez opponent earlier because he was a southpaw. To my knowledge, Lee has not become a righty. It’s too bad, because Chavez-Lee is a super-sexy fight. Nah, it’ll probably be Chavez-Margarito in a bit of a ghastly affair between suspected cheats, one of whom, Margarito, was a big welterweight, is a mediocre junior middleweight (whether because of size issues or something more sinister), will be a horribly small middleweight and is near-shot if not fully shot. But because I guess some Mexican fans would want to see this — Why? Just because they know both men’s names? — it would also likely sell well and is therefore the safer bet. And betcha the WBC backs down on refusing to sanction this fight.
- Donaire’s performance. I wasn’t as down on Donaire’s performance against Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. as some. I thought he was fairly aggressive, and he clearly won the fight without too much trouble against an opponent who once more didn’t engage with him at a super-high rate. That said, it’s clear Donaire has stagnated. He showed he could jab, but didn’t. He showed he could work the body, but didn’t. There’s a school of thought that Robert Garcia didn’t deserve Trainer of the Year last year, that he hadn’t really made anyone all that much better and there was evidence of neglect from Garcia in some ways, and the anti-Garcia for TOTY got some help this weekend because there’s not significant evidence that he’s helped Donaire much, either. Donaire can go really far with his speed, power, and an overall pretty good skill set. But his flaws could catch up with him one day.
- Vazquez’ performance. Vazquez had talked a big game about being aggressive, but he really wasn’t. He was still pretty effective, or at least more effective than I expected he might be. Donaire was much more marked up than usual, because Vazquez hit him more than Donaire usually gets hit. I always liked Vazquez, and his performance — even though he lost according to every judge but that one crazy judge — did something for him to get another nice-sized fight going forward. It won’t hurt him that he brings at least some portion of the Puerto Rican fanbase with him, either.
- Next for Donaire. It’s Jorge Arce in a fight that’s nearly as mismatched as Chavez-Margarito. I get why Donaire-Arce is happening; Arce is a popular fighter and he’ll fight anyone and Top Rank no doubt wants to play up the Filipino-Mexican angle. And Arce isn’t a bad fighter. It’s just a bad match-up. Arce is the kind of guy who can spring an upset with guts and power, a la Arturo Gatti. But Donaire-Arce should look something like Floyd Mayweather against Gatti: An embarrassingly one-sided fight where one guy is simply too fast for the other one.
- Yoan Pablo Hernandez-Steve Cunningham II. There’s a new Ring Magazine champ at cruiserweight, even if I disagree a great deal with the process that led to Hernandez winning the vacant belt over Cunningham in a rematch of their controversial bout. Marco Huck shouldn’t have been removed from the rankings when he has been pretty clear that he might only stay at heavyweight for one fight, a decision that cleared the way for Hernandez-Cunningham II to be for the belt. Anyhow, good job for Hernandez to improve on his performance from last time. He made Cunningham pay with counters when Cunningham tried to institute the body attack that gave the Cuban trouble last time. Cunningham did that thing he does where he recovers from trouble to fight even harder, but Hernandez’ offense didn’t fade as badly as last time and how Ulli Wegner-trained fighters tend to do.
- Rankings. I might elaborate on this later, but I’m finding myself disagreeing with a lot of the divisional ranking decisions over at Ring Magazine these days. I don’t see how Donaire should debut at #3 in a division after beating the #8 fighter in the division just because, as the decision was explained, he was good in other divisions. The divisional rankings should be for what someone does in the division, not what he did in other divisions or because he’s a “beast.” At least I agreed with the call to bring in Alex Alexeev at cruiserweight.
- Friday Night Fights. Pretty decent main event on ESPN2 the other night. Isaac Chilemba put on a gritty performance and might be making a move to full-blown contendership at light heavyweight soon. He was aided by two things, though. One is that Edison Miranda isn’t what he once was, and definitely isn’t as big a puncher at 175. The other is that the bad cut Miranda suffered during a head butt really affected him badly. He was much less effective after it.
- “On Freddie Roach.” This show continues to be a good watch. It was depressing a little, how much they focused on the sorry state of the U.S. amateur boxing system, because it’s one of the things that threatens the long-term future of the sport here in ‘Merica. Also, why was that sports psychologist surprised that a bunch of teenagereseque boxers would laugh at her metaphor where she asked them to imagine “the juice squirting down the back of your throat”?
- Odds and ends. Yes, HBO commentator Jim Lampley’s new glasses lost a battle with fashion. This is coming from someone with a pretty nerdy-looking pair himself. Lamps was so hipster he crossed over nerd to hipster then back to actual nerd again… Referee Rafael Ramos’ catchphrase, I guess, since I haven’t heard him say it before, appears to be “No one is more professional than I.” That’s some rapper-level trash talk, yo… I’ve never seen taunting in the ring like what Donaire did in the 8th round where he appeared to be pumping up a bicycle tire. Goofy, but points for originality, definitely.