Of all the impressive things about Nonito Donaire’s performance last night, the most impressive thing of all might have been that he delivered that spine-tingling knockdown blow in the middle of receiving a right hand. Can you imagine where Fernando Montiel would be right now if he hadn’t slightly altered the momentum of that shot? I can: It’s called the morgue.
Yes, this was greatness confirmed. And it makes you eager for what might be next — with some trepidation, alas — after something of an eventful weekend for boxing.
- Next for Donaire. Donaire has the right idea, as expressed in his post-fight interview: Stay at bantamweight, make the division his, then move up. As high as I am on Abner Mares as a talent, and as much as I appreciate the smarts Joseph Agbeko has added to his grit, the winner of Mares-Agbeko will get slaughtered by Donaire. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. Almost everyone knew that Manny Pacquiao would obliterate Ricky Hatton, but it was worth it to become “the man” at junior welterweight. It became a cornerstone of his career achievements that made him the legendary fighter he is today. The issue is, will Donaire’s team listen to him? I suspect not, especially if Mares beats Agbeko, since Mares is with Golden Boy and Top Rank’s Bob Arum refuses to do business with them. The thing about Arum is, for all the talk of him being a “real promoter,” he so often stands in the way of the match-ups the majority of fans would want most; he knows he can get away with less when he has a hot commodity like Donaire, so he does. If that’s a “real promoter,” I’d rather have some phonies. So Arum will almost certainly steeer Donaire toward 122, where there’s a singificantly less appetizing match-up with Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr., and Donaire will go along with it. And then, maybe, some day, probably years and years from now — remember, Arum promised us Donaire-Montiel almost two and a half years ago — Donaire will move up to featherweight and take on Juan Manuel Lopez or Yuriorkis Gamboa, if either of them are left standing in 2015. When and if that happens, it’ll be the first dangerous fight for Donaire — he’s that superhuman in his gifts that it’ll take eight pounds and/or someone with a comparable speed/power blend like Gamboa to threaten him.
- Donaire’s pound-for-pound standing. I’ll weigh in on this soon enough — by the end of the month, in fact. But Donaire is, at minimum, a top-5 fighter in the world regardless of weight class. Talent-wise, eyeball test-wise, he’s long been there. But you have to beat the best to be the best in reality rather than in theory. Now he is. Will he be #2, #3, #4 or #5? On my list, prior to Saturday, those men were Floyd Mayweather, lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitchko. Donaire just beat a guy who was #11 on my list, higher on some others. Mayweather has a siginificantly longer resume but barely fights anymore; Marquez has a much longer resume too; Martinez recently beat a guy who was #3 on my list; Klitschko has a longer resume, but not against anyone of the quality of Marquez, Martinez or, now, Donaire.
- Donaire’s asterisk. I sure hope it’s worth it for Donaire to work with the disgraced Victor Conte, because judging by the reaction on Twitter last night, it’s going to follow him around in the court of public opinion. It is entirely plausible that Conte is clean now, as he claims. He very well could have learned his lessons from the days when his name and his company BALCO was synonymous with performance-enhancing drugs. And Donaire’s counter left hook was a weapon of mass destruction before he worked with Conte; just ask Vic Darchinyan. But when you do four years in prison for helping athletes cheat, there is going to be some very warranted skepticism of you. The higher Donaire goes, the more successful he gets, whenever he defeats someone with a bitter fan base, the more his name spreads from hardcore fans to more casual ones, the more we’re going to hear about Conte. And it won’t be without justification. This isn’t like with Manny Pacquiao, where a steroid scandal was invented out of whole cloth by Floyd Mayweather’s team without a scrap of evidence. This is a boxer affiliating with one of the most notorious cheats in recent sports history. I personally won’t assume any wrongdoing by Donaire until there’s actual evidence. But I won’t much blame the people who do.
- Next for Montiel. You can hardly say enough good about how bold Montiel has become over the last year in particular, first bucking Top Rank to go overseas to fight (and defeat) Hozumi Hasegawa to notch his career-best win, then going in once more as the underdog against Donaire. And you can hardly say enough good about how Montiel incredibly rose from near catatonia to a semblance of consciousness.(For that matter, you can hardly say enough ill about referee Russell Mora letting Montiel continue after he was unable to respond to his command to walk forward.) Given how Montiel has revived his career recently to once again become world-class, I’m not inclined to entirely write him off after a devastating loss like this. I’d like his chances, for instance, against anyone in the Showtime tournament, and I’d like to see him stay there and face some of those dudes. He is 31, and he is short, so I’d like to see him finish his career at bantam rather than move up to 122 like he’d talked about doing. I still believe in Montiel as a top-notch fighter. He just ran into a guy who is an extraterrestrial.
- Next for Mike Jones. Jones restored his shine as a welterweight contender with his beat down of Jesus Soto Karass. We must remember at this point that Jones should have beaten a guy like Soto Karass like this the first time around. He is significantly more talented than Soto Karass, who’s been beaten by boxers with far less natural ability than Jones. But Jones looked as good as he should have. He also managed to find the right balance between aggression and caution. On the aggression front, his body assault was impressively ruthless; on the caution front, he avoided engaging with Soto Karass on his brawling terms too often. After a skittish 1st round, he largely controlled the rest of the fight, which I scored 117-111, giving Soto Karass the 1st, 4th and 12th. Now, Arum is talking about matching Jones with Andre Berto. It makes perfect sense, my prior rebuff of Arum for some of his rhetoric aside. Berto has business with Victor Ortiz first, but if he handles it, Jones-Berto is a fight to prove which occasionally-shaky young talent in the welterweight division is most legit. And I honestly don’t know who would win. That makes it a fight I want to see.
- Next for Soto Karass. Nights like Saturday, where both the losers gain something even in defeat, are heartening. Soto Karass always has been tough, but against Jones he was almost criminally so, psychotically so, certifiably so. That he won the 12th round after his face had been turned into a slab of bloody meat and his body had been turned nearly the same shade of red by as mean a body attack as you’ll see says it all about what kind of nerve this man has. I’ve always liked Soto Karass, even though his talent is minimal — he’s in good-to-great fights win or lose. If I had my way, the fight would’ve been stopped after the 10th, but assuming Soto Karass has anything left after this, Soto Karass vs. anyone is a fight I would watch. I’d prefer he not take on someone as gifted as Jones for a while, but if he headlines a Fox Sports Net event on some upcoming Saturday and takes on someone with a similar reputation, there’s a chance I watch that fight over whatever is on Showtime or HBO that night.
- Kenny Bayless’ performance. It’s rare that anyone has anything negative to say about perhaps the best referee in the sport, so maybe that’s why HBO’s broadcast team was saying nice things about Bayless after a poor performance in Jones-Soto Karass — it’s a tried and true reflex at this point. But Bayless, simply put, was (most likely) as wrong as wrong gets in saying that a cut to Soto Karass’ face was the result of a punch. He picked up two cuts in that 3rd round, did Soto Karass, and one of them was clearly, clearly, clearly from a butt. I saw it the second it happened, and it’s hard to imagine how Bayless didn’t — there were no punches thrown to Soto Karass’ head in the exchange where he immediately began bleeding. The replay showed it was clearly from a butt, too. What was a bit confusing in the corner after the 3rd is which cut Bayless was talking about when he said it was from a punch. So, I say he was “most likely” wrong. And I don’t see what’s praiseworthy about that.
- Roy Jones’ proselytzing. This makes three fights in recent memory where HBO’s Jones has thrown mini-sermons into his analysis, since he did it for both Jones-Soto Karass II and Donaire-Montiel, plus another fight recently, although I can’t remember which one. I understand that for some people, their faith is important, and so is sharing that faith. But for some of us, having someone else’s faith jammed down our throats when we’re trying to be entertained is antithetic to that entertainment. Jones needs to realize that church is on Sunday, not on Saturday night in the boxing ring. And, as friend of the site JasonTO has pointed out, it also hampers his analysis. Saying “God God God” isn’t analysis or insight. Jones, by focusing on that, wasn’t doing his job properly.
- Junior Witter and Rocky Juarez. Both perrenial contenders suffered defeats against little-known opponents Saturday. It’s fair to say they’re both done as perrenial contenders. It’s now up to them whether they want to become journeymen. If they can’t beat the guys they faced this weekend, it’s hard to imagine how they get back into contention ever again.
- Some other results. We hit the Friday Night Fights and ESPN3 card here and here. In other news, TeleFutura aired another main event on Solo Boxeo that was an ugly mismatch, and at this point it’s getting really offensive bordering on dangerous. I’m not saying every Solo Boxeo has to feature a 50-50 fight, but it would be nice if it was closer to a good FNF card each night, and the record that show is mounting is too few and far between in that regard. I understand that the idea was for Mercito Gesta to test his progress against an opponent who gave him a tough time once, but that fight ended definitively and it’s ridiculous that their rematch headlined a televised fight card of any note (remember, Solo Boxeo isn’t supposed to be a low-expectations club fight show like Fight Night Club, a subject for another day). The undercard fight also was lacking — it was the second consecutive weekend on Solo Boxeo where someone was dredged up from years of inactivity to be a sacrificial lamb. All of these fights went exactly as you would expect.