BOXING BLUES AND DONAIRE
Quite a stretch for boxing lately: Baby Bro vs. Toe, Mayweather vs. Ortiz' finale, Hopkins vs. Dawson, and now Nonito Donaire vs. Omar Narvaez. Yuck. Please allow me to gargle. I don't mean to be a pessimist at all, just pointing out a stretch of recent fights that has me even more looking forward to five particular cards for the rest of the year: Alfredo Angulo vs. James Kirkland in a few weeks, Pacman vs. Marquez III, Abner Mares vs. King Kong Agbeko II, Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito II (which has a great undercard planned, including Bam-Bam Rios), and Carl Froch vs. Andre Ward.
Two points I wanted to bring to your attention:
(1) I try to respect anyone who steps into the ring, even if the boxer's performance isn't commensurate with his ability on a particular night (they are human), as I try to consider the self-preservation aspect of professional prize-fighting that most boxers have (Gatti, Corrales, Valero and similar warrior mentalities are the exception) that sometimes blood thirsty fans seem to forget, but I felt quite disgusted in seeing Narvaez and his corner celebrate last night as if lasting the distance against Donaire is what the fans in attendance paid their hard-earned money to witness. I respect Narvaez, and I was actually somewhat impressed with him, as Roy Jones Jr. alluded to at times during the HBO broadcast, great defense, movement, caginess, but I think he may have done himself a big disservice as far as the prospect of possibly fighting on American soil again. I get the impression he and his team don't give a rat's ass (as you like to say), they'll simply move back down in weight, I think they're still champion there, and can defend the belt five hundred more times as if the Donaire fight never happened (with their padded bank accounts courtesy of the fans who paid to witness such an "effort").
(2) You seem like the perceptual type, is it me or were you too able to notice Donaire's seemingly shaky mental state in between rounds in the Narvaez fight yesterday. I haven't seen Donaire fight too many times, so I'm not sure if he's usually like that (eliciting tons of psychological talk from his head trainer Robert Garcia), but it seems to be like despite all the natural God-given talent and Bruce Lee studies, Donaire had a look in his eyes in between rounds last night that leads me to believe he has difficulty relaxing in the ring and may still have some confidence issues he's working on (hey, nothing wrong with that, just an observation). What are your thoughts? — Amaury, Miami, FL
I don’t believe Narvaez or his cornermen meant to be disrespectful to the fans or to Donaire immediately following the fight. I think Narvaez was hoisted onto his teammate’s shoulders in celebration because the 36-year-old veteran viewed going 12 rounds with the bantamweight beast as a “moral victory.”
Narvaez was a 25-1 underdog against Donaire; 95-percent of the U.S. media believed that he would be stopped by the mid-way point in the fight, so in his eyes, he beat the odds.
I agree that it’s not very entertaining to watch an outgunned stylist use ring generalship to avoid getting KTFO. We would much rather see a massive underdog behave in a way that invokes boxing’s many idiomatic expressions used to describe machismo and courageous/reckless action: we want him to “lead with his chin“ and “wear his heart on his sleeve,” go “mano a mano” and “toe to toe” before he “goes down swinging.”
Of course, we’re not the ones who are going to wind up a lifeless heap on the canvas with a bruise on our brains. We’re not going to be walking on our heels and slurring our words later in life.
I’m not trying to excuse Narvaez for playing it safe but I get it. He’s still got his marbles with enough money to live comfortably in retirement and he’s already secured his legacy in Argentina (by breaking the legendary Carlos Monzon’s national title defense record), which is the only conoutry that matters to him. Narvaez had no intention of winning over American fans. This fight was just an opportunity for him to make one big payday and show his skills to the few purists watching who give a damn about that stuff. He knew he couldn’t beat Donaire, so the next best thing — for his health, and his sense of pride — was to go the full route without getting his neurons scrambled.
That course of action (or inaction) is not for everyone, but it’s what most of us would do if we were in his shoes. That’s why we have to give a little extra respect to the blood-and-guts fighters, such as the three deceased warriors you mentioned.
If fans (and media) want to see underdog challengers lay it all on the line in HBO- and Showtime-televised main events, they need pay closer attention to style matchups and demand that the talented “stars” of the subscription networks (such as Donaire, Sergio Martinez and Andre Ward) are matched with blood-and-guts bangers, brawlers and pressure fighters.
If we want to see a badass take the fight Donaire with the willingness to go out on his shield we need to demand (to Arum and to HBO) that his next opponent be Jorge Arce or Vic Darchinyan (if the Armenian bomber beats Anselmo Moreno), not Toshiaki Nishioka or Moreno (if the Panamanian southpaw beats Darch Vader).
Regarding Donaire’s mental state during the fight, I noticed (and Tweeted for those who follow Ringmagazine) that he appeared anxious, and at times over-anxious. I think there was more pressure on him going into the Narvaez fight than there was for any of his previous bout, including the Fernando Montiel fight. The Montiel showdown was his proving ground as a bantamweight. The Narvaez fight was supposed to the showcase for his star potential. He certainly did his part during the promotional buildup to the HBO Boxing After Dark broadcast, displaying his affable and entertaining personality to the New York City media and fans, and he gave it the ole college try once the bell rang but he didn’t have a willing foil.
I my guess is that Donaire was more focused on “putting on a show” in the weeks leading to Oct. 22 than he was with studying Narvaez and coming up with a gameplan to break the unbeaten veteran down. And once it was clear that he wasn’t going to score another highlight reel KO, he became dejected. I don’t think Donaire’s “mentally shaky” and don’t believe he lacked confidence on Saturday. I think he was just frustrated by his opponent and extremely disappointed in the way the fight played out.
I was also disappointed but not as much as I was with the outcomes to Hopkins-Dawson, Mayweather-Ortiz and Klitschko-Haye. Still, when you put those high-profile bouts together (along with the Maidana-Guerrero bout dissolving due to The Ghost‘s shoulder injury), I guess you can say the sport’s been on a downward slide since the summer. If that’s the case, I strongly suggest you try to find a stream of the Hernan “Tyson” Marquez-Luis Concepcion rematch this Saturday. Those two flyweight badasses will deliver.
I don’t know about Ward-Froch (which could turn into a tactical battle) or Pacquiao-Marquez III (which could turn out to be a quick blowout), but I think the Cotto-Margarito and Mares-Agbeko rematches will give us sicko ghouls plenty of blood, guts and sustained back-and-forth action. It sucks harder than a Vampire porn star that those shows take place on the same night, but I guess that’s why we have DVR and TiVo.
And there’s no way in hell that Angulo-Kirkland disappoints us. If that 154-pound showdown somehow ends in controversy I just might give up on boxing and turn into an MMA fan.