Bart Barry

Alamo City duo: Chavez Jr. and Donaire prevail by decisions


SAN ANTONIO – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. may be a child of privilege, the son of Mexico’s most legendary prizefighter, but he is not a punk.  And if a man calls him out in the Spanish-language press, as fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio did repeatedly, that man will likely get more of a fight than he expected once he finds Chavez Jr. in the ring.

Saturday at  Alamodome, in the main event of promoter Top Rank’s “Welcome to the Future” card, Chavez Jr. (45-0-1-1, 31 knockouts), THE RING’s No. 5-rated middleweight, decisioned Rubio (53-6-1, 47 KOs) by unanimous scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113, in another of what is becoming a tradition of entertaining Chavez Jr. fights.

The ringside scorecard agreed with all three official judges, scoring a match with many evenly fought rounds 116-114 for Chavez.

“I felt good about myself the entire fight,” Chavez said after retaining his WBC middleweight title.  “(Rubio) wasn’t as tough as I thought he would be.”

After an even pair of opening rounds, Chavez-Rubio gained momentum in round three, when Chavez began to march forward and impose his larger frame on Rubio.

But Rubio made a sage adjustment and surprised the younger Chavez by retreating, countering and outboxing him in the fourth.

Rounds five, six and seven found Chavez pushing forward, mauling Rubio when possible and being countered effectively when not.  Throughout the match’s middle stanzas, including its eighth, Rubio landed the more accurate blows while Chavez landed the harder ones.

The ninth and 10th rounds continued the match’s narrative, with the taller Chavez fighting small, shoving Rubio backwards – with left-shoulder, right-cross combinations – and getting about as well as he gave.  Either round could have gone to either man, though Chavez gained greater favor with the judges by moving perpetually forward.

“He was too big for me to handle,” Rubio confessed after the fight, citing several times Chavez superiority of size.

After beginning round 11 over a wobbly front knee, Chavez stabilized himself, and with help from Rubio, made an exceptionally entertaining penultimate stanza.

The match’s final round began with light chants of “Yunior!” from the San Antonio crowd and went the way most every one of its predecessors had gone, with Chavez the slightly bigger man.

“Both guys fought their hearts out,” said Chavez trainer Freddie Roach.  “The bigger shots were the difference.”

Saturday’s co-main event, billed as a chance for “Filipino Flash” Nonito Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs) to rehabilitate his reputation as an action fighter against a belligerent Puerto Rican foe like junior featherweight Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (21-2-1, 17 KOs), went only partially as planned for Donaire.

While he left the ring with a split-decision victory (ringside judges scored 112-115, 117-110 and 117-110), and the WBO’s super bantamweight title, Donaire also left the ring with a broken left hand.

“I hurt my hand somewhere between the second and fourth round,” Donaire said after the fight.

As is the case so often with matches preceded by fighters having to be separated at press conferences, Donaire-Vazquez Jr. began tentatively, with a slow first round in which each fighter concerned himself more with denying his opponent satisfaction than finding any of his own.

In the second round, Donaire gradually began to exploit his advantage in speed, timing Vazquez Jr.’s hung left jab and landing two hard right-cross counters.

But if Donaire’s strategy was to implore Vazquez Jr., THE RING’s No. 8-rated junior featherweight, to come forward and exchange openly, it was a strategy that didn’t work in rounds three, four and five.  Donaire, in apparent homage to Roy Jones Jr., dropped his lead hand to his shiny red trunks and tried to catch Vazquez Jr. with check-hook counters.

At the fight’s midway point, Donaire – though comfortably ahead – began to taste more leather from Vazquez, eating as many Vazquez Jr. right crosses in round six as he had in the 15 minutes that preceded it.

“Vazquez was tougher than expected,” Donaire said afterward.  “I couldn’t find my rhythm.”

Following a slow start to round eight, Donaire began to impose his physicality some, pushing Vazquez Jr. backwards and countering him with a pair of right crosses before setting his hands on his knees and bobbing playfully, in a show of surprising disrespect.

Vazquez Jr.’s fortunes changed dramatically in round nine, when Donaire, responding to the Alamodome crowd’s growing discontent, landed a unique combination – left uppercut lead, left hook – that dropped Vazquez Jr. on the blue mat.

The Puerto Rican rose, though, completed the stanza and succeeded in pressing the action for the opening two minutes of the 10th, before allowing Donaire’s superior athleticism to steal that round in its final minute, and then the championship rounds as well.

“Robert Garcia asked me to do certain things I wasn’t able to do,” Donaire said of his trainer’s instructions.  “We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

The ringside scorecard concurred with two judges, marking the fight 118-110 for Donaire.

Attendance for “Welcome to the Future” was announced at 14,120, with promoter Top Rank’s Lee Samuels adding that it generated “over a million (dollar) gate.”


Photos / Naoki Fukuda

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