Nonito Donaire Vs. Omar Narvaez Does It Again: A Stinker Of A Main Event

It was an evening in which a series of blue-corner unfortunates vied with each other to see who could finish on his feet. Yes, it was yet another night of one-sided fights Saturday, somewhat redeemed by two or so fairly exciting bouts that were midway down the card, but far better than what were supposed to have been the more “important” fights. The most memorable? A scintillating knockout by Miguel Angel Garcia over Juan Carlos Martinez in the sixth bout of the evening.

And guess what? This will really shock you. Hold on, this may kill you: The main event on the Nonito Donaire-Omar Andres Narvaez card was not one of the good ones. That’s right, the main event of the evening was, in fact, the very worst fight of the evening. It was a stinker. Sound familiar? Are you feeling like its time to “Occupy Top Rank?” Or maybe Floyd Mayweather, Donaire, Manny Pacquaio et al are just too good to be allowed into a boxing ring unless they allow someone to beat them up just a little.

Maybe we should simply mount these untouchables in amber and put them in the Museum of Natural History. I’m not including the Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins fight in this discussion, which sucked in a completely transcendent way. Still, it belongs in the same anti-pantheon of Very Bad Main Events Whose 24/7 Hagiography Is Better Than The Thing Itself.

The truth is, what we need are fewer scintillatingly talented stars and a lot more club brawlers like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, who proved that you don’t actually have to be superhumanly talented to be damned exciting to watch. This is the very same principle we see in other fields, by the way, such as theater, where a play that relies on BIG FAMOUS STARS can often suck because the rest of the cast is deliberately chosen not to upstage them. As we learned on Saturday night, great fights involve great fighters, not necessarily brilliant ones. Nobody really needs to see one super-sized talent shadow boxing for 12 rounds against a crash-test dummy. 

To Donaire’s credit, he did try to extract the much smaller Narvaez from his shell for the entire WBC, WBO world bantamweight title fight which he won by a shutout decision, but Narvaez pulled a Joshua Clottey, utterly ensconcing himself behind a padded hurricane fence. Donaire himself pointed out the Clottey similarity in the post-fight interview.

The fight should have been better. There was a nearly full house, with the official number at something like 4,450, and the audience was fired up — at least at first — and highly energized by a huge Filippino contingent, with clusters of Irish, Puerto Rican and Argentine folks there to cheer on their own. Having been on its collective feet for something like twenty minutes, almost since the end of the four-rounder undercard between Mike Brooks and Eddie Ramirez (another one-sided fight, by he way) the house was ecstatic when the lights went down for the ring entrances. And Narvaez was undefeated, with a solid rep and tons of experience. And he’s from Argentina. Nuff said. One would have thought he’d not let anyone scratch his perfect record without paying for it.

However, although Donaire weighed in lighter than Narvaez, at 116 and change to Narvaez’ 117 pounds, he looked much bigger when he entered (to a completely screwed up entry theme, which sounded as if the audio guys accidentally played three songs simultaneously). Much bigger, even if the intimidation factor was lessened somewhat by his pink stockings (for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.) It looked as if he were fighting an 11-year-old. Narvaez simply lacked the reach, if nothing else; the fact that he was able to land at all against Donaire was amazing. At first.

And in the early rounds he actually did land against the Filipino Flash, ironically doing to Donaire in moments what Donaire is so good at doing to others: counterpunching. Donaire dominated from the start, though, with two big body shots two minutes or so into round 1. Narvaez connected with a right and Donaire with a left counter at end of the round, and it seemed as if the testing and feigning period was over.

2nd round: Was there a welt on Narvaez’ head? Clash of heads? Who knows, but Donaire was throwing left jabs and hooks, which were entirely blocked by Narvaez, and if we finished here we would have summed up the fight pretty well. But the 2nd and 3rd rounds were actually the ones in which Narvaez found his mark by lunging in now and then, while Donaire dominated from the outside as if we were watching a miniature version of Vitali Klitschko-Tomasz Adamek, with Narvaez, however, avoiding the range finders from Donaire with what should now be called, officially, The Clottey Procedure. 

The booing also started in round 3, and as the fight progressed the hissing, the catcalls the enraged voices of individual audience members became much more interesting than the actual fight. That said, I have to confess that I wrote this in the 3rd round: “I’m really impressed with Narvaez, who is not intimidated and not letting the larger Donaire dominate him.” I actually wrote that, which shows what I know. But there’s more: “And he seems to be finding a way to connect now and then, which really surprises me given Donaire’s reach advantage.” This should show you how easy it is to believe what you want to believe. The fact is when the fight started, Donaire just looked too big, and the fight really should never have been made, but that’s my opinion, not promoter Bob Arum’s.

Now, instead of relating the non-event, I  am going to utterly delete all of my notes between rounds four and 12 except for the following items:

— “Round 7 and the audience loves the round-card girl who is utterly stunning.” (She was, as I wrote in an earlier post, simply unbelievable.) 

— “Narvaez is a punching bag… this isn’t even a sparring session. Christ, it would have been more interesting to see Donaire hitting the mitts with Robert Garcia than this. It would even be more interesting to watch Narvaez dance tango with the round card girl. It would have been more interesting to watch the round card girl hitting the mitts with Garcia.”

— “Round 8: the reporter next to me from Japan has tuned into the Cardinals on streaming video. The man is watching baseball, that’s  how boring this fight is. It’s basically Donaire fighting a ‘small person.'”

–“Is Donaire feeling like a bully? There’s a look of either chagrin or sympathy in his eyes. The reporter two seats over just said Narvaez is ‘a little Josh Clottey.'” (So you also know, dear reader, that although I made the Narvaez/Clottey comparison above, I did not think up the Clottey reference myself, because at that point in the fight I was incapable of thinking about anything but the beer I would surely be quaffing as soon as Donaire allowed me to leave by WINNING THE FIGHT.)

–“Round 9, the round card girl has done more to electrify the crowd than have the pugilists.” (What is it with me and this round card girl? Should I propose? No, I’m just a reporter. Maybe Paulie Malignaggi who is also here, could propose and I could vicariously enjoy that experience because I’m not enjoying the fight.)

–“Someone has yelled ‘Omar, open up, you’re losing’ as if he doesn’t know that.  The audience actually laughed at this. I just missed a punch thrown by someone other than Donaire. And someone — an old guy — just stood up and shouted something really angry in Spanish to Narvaez.  Narvaez is going to have to return to Argentina in a submarine, methinks.” 

–“Finally round 11 and everyone wants to go home. Someone just shouted ‘Omar, you suck.'” 

— “We are at the very end of the 11th round and it seems as if the fight has actually started as Donaire had Narvaez against the ropes and Narvaez fought back. Hard to believe that Narvaez, undefeated, would let this go down, but he seems to not want anything to do with Donaire.”

— “Well It’s ‘Occupy Madison Square Garden’ as the house is now chanting ‘This is bullshit’ “This is bullshit.” But the good news is the fight — if we can call it that — is over.  And so is the night. Now where’s that beer I promised me?

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.