(Nonito Donaire punches Vic Darchinyan; credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)
Mikey Garcia tasted the canvas Saturday night on HBO. So did Demetrius Andrade. And Nonito Donaire was losing his rematch with Vic Darchinyan through eight rounds. But all three gathered themselves for wins that meant something, yet also demonstrated the limitations of each man.
MIKEY GARCIA-ROCKY MARTINEZ
After a nothing 1st, Martinez found a right hand counter that dropped Garcia, an occurence that had folk wondering whether Garcia was meant for 130 pounds after moving up from 126. But a tentative Garcia slowly reestablished control and never lost it, proving himself comfortable leading or countering against a reasonably sharp-boxing Martinez. By the 7th, Martinez was demonstrating the tenacity of his chin, as Garcia tagged him repeatedly with counter lefts and lead rights. But in the 8th, his body betrayed him where his head did not. Garcia's left hook body shot knocked out Martinez, impressively.
It was a difficult to evaluate performance for Garcia. Seeing him on the canvas was disconcerting for his ability to deal with junior lightweights, a division Garcia moved up to because he simply couldn't get his body into a featherweight frame anymore. Always cautious, always inclined to counter, Garcia was even more anemic than usual early. Once he got into a groove, it was basically over.
After the win Garcia called for a Yuriorkis Gamboa fight. It wasn't the first time. It might not be the last. It's a fight that makes sense for both men, one that Garcia would be favored to take — not sure Gamboa wants it, though. Not sure what Gamboa wants at all these days.
NONITO DONAIRE-VIC DARCHINYAN II
The Donaire who blitzkriegs opponents with incomparable speed and power made one cameo, maybe two or three tops, against old rival Darchinyan. One of them was near the end of the 4th, when the two men traded big shots. Another was in the 9th round, and that's the one that really mattered — when a left hook dropped Darchinyan and referee Laurence Cole gave a shaky Darchinyan a chance to recover, but he couldn't and Donaire teed off on him in the corner, with a niftily converted left hook/left uppercut selling Cole on the idea of stepping in and appropriately halting the bout.
Prior to that moment, Darchinyan, a total badass with underrated cleverness, was winning on two judges' scorecards through eight. The speed gap at 126 was not as dramatic as in their first meeting at 112, and Darchinyan was not the reckless brawler he was back then. Furthermore, Donaire was reluctant, as though Darchinyan was the only one in the ring committed to the sport. Donaire has been admirably willing to admit his focus has faded, but even if he hadn't admitted it, it has showed. His reflexes were dulled at 126, his confidence evidently (and, per his confession about worrying he had broken his cheekbone afterward) diminshed. His power bailed him out against Darchinyan. Would it against a true featherweight?
It might not matter because Donaire said afterward that he wanted junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux in a rematch. What will matter is whether Donaire comports himself like a real fighter for that bout. He was trained by Robert Garcia by phone for much of his camp against Rigo the first time, and his corner Saturday was a mess with his dad and Garcia competing for attention. I was once open to a Rigo rematch, on the logic that Donaire with a good camp might narrow the gap between the two. You can't have watched what Donaire did Saturday night and be sold on his preparation and/or desire.
DEMETRIUS ANDRADE-VANES MARTIROSYAN
After controlling most of the 1st, Andrade found himself on the end of a left hook knockdown as the round came to a close. Andrade would lose very few other rounds. His athleticism was superior, his work rate higher. Basically everyone had the fight for Andrade by the end, some of them as wide as the 117-110 variety, like one of the offical judges. It was a sound card. Yet one of them gave it to Martirosyan somehow, and another only had it 114-113 for Andrade.
That's not to say Andrade was all that impressive. He was ultra-hittable, his punches wild and loose. It's just that the quality of his performance was sufficient to win, especially given the putrid quality of Martisrosyan's. Vanes basically competed with any ferocity for about three rounds, and in the rest he was tentative like Donaire, only worse. Andrade's countering had something to do with that, but Vanes basically ignored opportunties Andrade gave him. As a viable contender, Martirosyan is effectively done for. It was a less disappointing performance than Donaire's, only because the expectations for Donaire are so much higher.
HBO's Roy Jones and Max Kellerman were openly pining for Andrade-Erislandy Lara, and among junior middleweights, it figures as the best boxing match for purists among bouts that aren't currently booked. It also would probably have to happen on Showtime. So what Andrade does next, I can't say. He showed something in this fight, the best win of his career. And a black quality former U.S. Olympian is something of a commodity.