Donaire Looks Excellent, And Forrest Too, With A Side Of “Meh” For Tarver

Saturday night’s uninspiring Showtime card delivered better than expected, with a good showing by two of the three favorites in the triple-header and an OK performance by the third. Let’s go in order of importance, in reverse order of who has the biggest names: Nonito Donaire – Luis Maldonado This Nonito Donaire is rapidly moving up my list of favorite fighters. His KO of Vic Darchinyan in July is my pick for knockout of the year. Donaire’s my kind of practitioner of the sweet science — speedy, but no shrinking violet, with power, a diversified offense and an inclination to unload it. Saturday night, when the flyweight (112 lbs.) belt-holder and his corner noticed Luis Maldonado charging in aggressively, Donaire began throwing the uppercut, a perfect punch for moments like that. It spelled the first knockdown in round seven, then another uppercut prompted the referee to call a halt to it in the eighth. Maldonado demonstrated some admirable toughness, so this wasn’t Donaire slicing through some easy opponent. It was a legitimate win and an excellent performance over a decently-regarded contender. In other words, if anyone thought his knockout of Darchinyan was a fluke — and it’s probably the upset of the year, in addition to the KO of the year — I think Donaire’s put that to rest. Not to nitpick, but I have a few thoughts about what Donaire could do better. First, he carried his left hand too low, which left him open to right hands from Maldonado; a fast right-handed puncher could take advantage of that in the worst possible way, but Maldonado is a lefty. Donaire began neutralizing some of Maldonado’s right hands by pawing with his left, which the ref shouldn’t have let him get away with, something I found annoying. Second, Donaire did, as the Showtime crew noted, get wild with some of his shots, opening opportunities for Maldonado. And third, if your nickname is “The Filipino Flash,” shouldn’t your trunks be red and yellow, not red and white, like the real Flash? This bad fashion choice is offset by his high red socks, which are awesome. Next for Donaire? I’d like to see a rematch with Darchinyan, but it may be a few months off, since Darchinyan’s got a date on Feb. 2 with Z Gorres. There was some talk of a matchup with Cristian Mijares at 115 lbs. or Jorge Arce at 118, both of which would be excellent fights. Donaire has spent some time at 115, so that’s not a reach. Vernon Forrest – Michele Piccirillo The main thing Vernon Forrest needed to do was handle Michele Piccirillo, the mandatory challenger for his junior middleweight (154 lbs.) belt, without looking horrid. Piccirillo wasn’t exactly deserving of the title shot, but he is precisely the kind of fighter who could’ve made Forrest look horrid against his will. Instead Forrest looked impressive in scoring an 11th round knockout. He forced the defensive-minded Piccirillo into a shootout, and despite Piccirillo making a brave go of it, he was outgunned. Forrest had all the right weaponry on offense and all the right moves on defense. Once at the top of the boxing world after two straight wins over Shane Mosley in 2002 — who at the time was thought of as the best fighter prowling the ring — two losses to the crude Ricardo Mayorga in 2003 and severe injury problems extinguished his rising star. Forrest’s now proven definitively, after this win and another earlier this year over Carlos Baldomir, that he is back where he needs to be physically. Forrest wants to avenge his losses to Mayorga, and I think he could, even though it looked a few years ago like Mayorga simply had Forrest’s number. But Forrest looks fresh, while Mayorga is shopworn after a few tough losses since 2003. It may be the best fight Forrest could get, because with all the glamor of the welterweight division (147 lbs.), it’s dubious whether he could lure a Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Miguel Cotto or Oscar De La Hoya into the ring, and none of the other best fighters at 154 are well-known, i.e. Sergei Dzindziruk, or appealing, i.e. Cory Spinks. If he can wait a little while — and at 36, I’m not sure he can — Forrest might make for some interesting battles and moderate paydays with some of the exciting young guns at junior middleweight like James Kirkland or Joel Julio. Antonio Tarver – Danny Santiago Despite winning by fourth round knockout, Antonio Tarver — the ex-“Rocky Balboa” villain and conqueror of Roy Jones, Jr. — didn’t look amazing beating up Danny Santiago. Santiago, nowhere to be found on the light heavyweight (175 lbs.) map, was very, very limited, and Tarver looks slower to me every time he fights. Against a clearly over-matched opponent, he looked reluctant to pull the trigger early. The 39-year-old Tarver did, to his credit, turn on his offensive spigot in the third and fourth, which made you wonder why he didn’t in his last two fights, a loss against Bernard Hopkins in 2006 and a win against Elvir Muriqi in June. It’s well past time for Tarver to abandon his absurd money demands and get into the ring with somebody real or hang up the gloves. Big-punching Jeff Lacy’s in the running, if he beats former “Contender” star Peter Manfredo, Jr. on the Mayweather-Ricky Hatton undercard. That’s reasonable, even if I’d prefer to see Tarver in against Chad Dawson. But I’ll believe Tarver wants to fight Lacy when I see it, given how he avoided Dawson by pricing himself out of the fight. Once, Tarver talked some sense; asked by the referee the routine line “Do you have any questions?” before his 2004 rematch with Jones, Tarver said, “I have a question. You got any excuses tonight, Roy?” It was a brilliant, sharp line, and he backed it up with a crushing KO. Since then, he’s been sound without fury, and we only got some tepid fury from him Saturday night.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.