It was a tale of two nights in the four fights on the split Pinoy Power/Latin Fury pay-per-view Saturday. In the main events, featuring the two top fighters of the evening, junior bantamweight Nonito Donaire and bantamweight Fernando Montiel, said featured fighters slaughtered the two opponents who didn’t belong in the ring with them.
In the two most evenly-matched fights of the night, between bantamweights Eric Morel and Gerry Penalosa and featherweights Bernabe Concepcion and Mario Santiago, Morel and Concepcion pulled out close fights that were closer than some of the scorecards indicated (although all four fighters could’ve afforded to put their foot on the gas in a bid to make the fights less close). Boxing loves itself some “defensible result/indefensible scorecards” these days. It’s hooked on it. I can’t understand why. It makes me want to buy a hammer and hammer my head until I’m so stupid I don’t care anymore.
Final score between the Pinoys and the Latins: 2-2.
NONITO DONAIRE-MANUEL VARGAS
You can at least appreciate the knockout, and Donaire’s ability to adjust in his last two fights to opponents who presented him with different challenges than he expected.
Donaire dominated the first two rounds with sharp boxing, good defense and excellent power. Vargas, a late replacement opponent, seemed more interested in surviving than winning, which isn’t the insult it might seem if you consider that the guy’s last fight was at strawweight. But occasionally he’d come forward and try to land to the body, then to the head. It just so happened that in the 3rd, Donaire decided to get pretty with it. He hopped this way, then that, then back again, and suddenly it was “huzzah” with a big left uppercut that put Vargas on his back, from where he couldn’t rise.
Donaire looked better this time out with Robert Garcia in his corner; he was sloppy against Rafael Concepcion, and that wasn’t entirely due to the fact that Concepcion missed weight and then didn’t even try to boil down any.
Donaire’s fought some good opposition since his 2007 upset KO of Vic Darchinyan, but he hasn’t fought anyone worthy of him, frankly. He’s moved from flyweight to junior bantamweight, and he had trouble making weight this week. He needs to get in the ring with Darchinyan again ASAP before he can’t get to 115 again, or move up against Montiel or another bantamweight, where there’s a lot of good competition awaiting him. Enough of this level of competition. Donaire is a pound-for-pound fighter; he needs to fight someone else in that ballpark.
FERNANDO MONTIEL-CISO MORALES
Morales is a prospect who wasn’t at all ready for a step up in class like this, clearly, and Montiel should just about be done wasting our time fighting underqualified opponents. Montiel scored his 1st round knockout with a clean left uppercut to the body.
I like Montiel, honestly, but I just can’t call a guy the “bantamweight champion of the world,” as he was introduced before the fight, if he’s fought five opponents since Martin Castillo — a junior bantam, by the way — who weren’t deserving of being ranked in to top 10 of any division.
End of story. Fight somebody real, Montiel. Stop talking about it and do it. Eric Morel would do, or Donaire, or Hozumi Hasegawa, the guy you called out.
ERIC MOREL-GERRY PENALOSA
The Twitterati seemed to think this was either a clear Penalosa win or a close Penalosa win. My “alternative means” (ahem) of catching the fight sans DirecTV left me unable to view the 9th round, but I had Penalosa winning six of the rounds I watched.
So it’s gotta be weird that one of the judges — Jerry Roth, I believe — scored it 116-112 for Morel, the deciding card in a split decision where the other two judges had it 115-113 for Morel and 115-113 for Penalosa. Sigh.
Like I said, both men could’ve done themselves favors by working harder in there. Why was Penalosa so conservative? Morel wasn’t hitting him with anything hard — mainly his jab, occasionally stepping forward with effective combos, but nothing that seemed to give Penalosa’s chin much to think about. They swapped round through six on my card, almost all of them close, with the 8th being the first round anyone back-to-back, and that was Morel. But Penalosa finished strong, taking the 10th, 11th and 12th largely because, of the two, he was the aggressor. Morel simply wasn’t “making” the fight.
I’m not sure where Penalosa goes from here; there was some talk of him retiring if he didn’t win this fight, although the closeness of it — and the general sense that he probably deserved the victory — may give him a “grandfather” clause. Yes, I meant that as an old person joke, but Penalosa, at 38, is still a viable fighter. He had an opponent in front of him who was a style nightmare for him, given his history against boxer-mover types, and he nearly won it. And he did it despite two bad cuts from head butts.
Morel is once again set up to fight Montiel, as this was a fight for the interim version of the belt Montiel holds. Montiel-Morel has been scheduled, postponed and talked about for going on a zillion years, so we’ll see if it happens, especially since Montiel hasn’t mentioned Morel as the man he wants to fight next.
BERNABE CONCEPCION-MARIO SANTIAGO
This was the best fight of the evening, but it could have, and probably should have, been even better. Santiago and Concepcion both proved they were capable of hurting the other, with Concepcion decking Santiago in the 6th on a big right hand and Santiago rocking Concepcion in the 10th and final round.
Concepcion could have made his life easier if he didn’t spend so much time waiting, waiting, waiting and loading up on the right hand, which did damage when it connected. Santiago could have made his life easier by putting some more punches behind his excellent jab.
I missed parts of the 3rd and all of the 9th (thanks, “alternative means”) but mostly had Santiago winning rounds in a fight that was harder to score even than Morel-Penalosa. Santiago would control large swaths of rounds with his jab and the occasional combo when he got Concepcion along the ropes, only for Concepion to take over for about a minute with harder, more effective punches.
The unanimous decision — 98-91, 96-93, 97-92 — was far too wide. How was this fight an eight rounds to two sweep for Concepcion? In what world? Santiago may have himself to blame for not being more aggressive when he should have, but he should have done no worse than a close decision loss. He should live to fight another day, certainly, and I hope he’ll be in line for a big fight soon, and maybe he’ll have learned a lesson about being less conservative in his next outing.
For now, it’s Concepcion who gets the big fight next, assuming Bob Arum sticks to his plan to match the winner of Concepcion-Santiago with Juan Manuel Lopez. I wouldn’t assume anything, by the way. Arum these days is especially devoted to the “bait and switch,” so we’ll see what happens next. But if Concepcion fights like this — a power puncher whose mannerisms are similar to Manny Pacquiao’s, but who is nowhere near as busy or effective — Lopez probably will make easy work of him.