Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I have to say it without equivocation: Junior has evolved into a damn good fighter. OK, handling Marco Antonio Rubio with relative ease isn’t exactly the equivalent of taking down Sergio Martinez. Many of us wrote that Rubio represented a meaningful test, though. If that was the case, Chavez’s unanimous-decision victory Saturday night in San Antonio was a solid “B” and another significant step in his impressive development. Chavez wasn’t brilliant; he’ll never be that. But he demonstrated again that he knows how to use his superior size and strength – as well as uncommon toughness — to overwhelm even a capable opponent. He was just too physical for Rubio. And remember: Chavez accomplished this in spite of some issues. He once again had trouble making weight, which he claims weakened him. And, if allegations that he drove drunk only two weeks before the fight prove to be true, he obviously didn’t train properly. Chavez is better than most of us ever thought he’d be. Now he just needs to get his act together outside the ring to realize his potential.
Marco Antonio Rubio: Well, he gave it a shot. Rubio really faced an uphill battle against Chavez, who outweighed him 181 pounds to 171 when they stepped into the ring. The son of the legend was just too big and too strong even for a solid all-around fighter like Rubio, who acknowledged Chavez’s physical advantages afterward. Rubio also didn’t fight the right fight. He exchanged punches too often with the bigger man when he should’ve punched in flurries and then found a way to get out of harm’s way, which he did on occasion. Perhaps he just wasn’t capable of doing so consistently in light of the constant pressure Chavez applied. Rubio has nothing to be ashamed of; he acquitted himself fairly well under the circumstances. However, I wonder how many more such opportunities he’ll receive. Sadly for him, he might never get one quite as significant as this one again.
Chavez’s DUI arrest: Of the course, the most-disturbing aspect of Chavez’s arrest for drunken driving is that he allegedly got behind the wheel while intoxicated. Someone could’ve gotten seriously injured – or worse. The news was also disappointing from a boxing standpoint. Chavez was training for the biggest test of his career, a test with the potential to propel him to new heights. And he was busted for DUI only two weeks before the fight, a time when he should’ve been focused 100 percent on training. His commitment to his training has always been suspect in spite of his performances. He will have confirmed those suspicions to the entire world if he is found guilty of the offense. The only good that can come out of this is an opportunity to learn. Let’s hope Chavez did that.
Nonito Donaire at 122: Donaire is so revered these days that he can win a fight nine rounds to three in spite of an injured hand and people are still disappointed. That’s the price of extremely high expectations, which are born of such spectacular performances as those against Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel. Donaire didn’t give us high drama but he was very good against a capable opponent in his first real fight at 122 pounds, a split-decision victory sullied only by the score of an inept judge on the Chavez-Rubio undercard. Donaire apparently broke his left hand between the second and fourth rounds, which makes sense because that’s when Vazquez became more competitive. Still, Donaire largely had his way with the talented but overmatched Puerto Rican from beginning to end. He outboxed him, outpunched him and was never in significant danger, which was reflected in the two 117-110 scores. Was Donaire great? No. Was it a good night for him? Absolutely.
BIGGEST LOSER II
Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.: The former junior featherweight titleholder probably didn’t do himself too much harm with his performance against Donaire. He was overly cautious for much of the fight, which limited his chances of winning. He didn’t throw enough punches. And, very simply, he isn’t as good as Donaire. However, he accomplished something many believed he couldn’t: He competed. He began to pick up his pace in the middle rounds, which proved to be a challenge for Donaire. And while Vazquez went down once and was buzzed on a few more occasions, he more or less was able to handle Donaire’s power. As a result, Vazquez remains relevant among junior featherweights in spite of the setback. That said, he desperately needs to win his next major fight because he’s lost his last two. Three in a row might be too much to overcome.
MOST INEXPLICABLE CARD
Judge Ruben Garcia’s: The look of astonishment on Donaire’s face at the announcement of Garcia’s utterly ridiculous score of 115-112 in Vazquez’s favor – which translates to eight rounds to four – was shared by every sane person who watched the fight. I tried to imagine what Garcia saw in a fight dominated by Donaire, who clearly landed more and harder punches. I came up empty. I honestly don’t mean to be too hard on Garcia. Perhaps he merely had a bad night. I assume he’s human. Still, I’m compelled to point out that the other two judges scored it 117-110 in Donaire’s favor, or nine rounds to three. How could Garcia possibly see the fight so differently from his colleagues? The authorities in Texas need to get together with Garcia and find out because his score was one of the worst I’ve seen in more than 20 years of covering boxing.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Yoan Pablo Hernandez: I don’t want the two absurd scores of 116-110 in Hernandez’s favor to diminish from his performance against Steve Cunningham, whom he defeated by a unanimous decision to win the vacant RING cruiserweight championship Saturday in his adopted homeland of Germany. Hernandez, also the IBF titleholder, was both good and gritty. We saw his considerable power when he put Cunningham down twice in a dramatic fourth round, one in which Cunningham barely survived. We saw Cunningham wake up in the fifth and outwork his opponent over the next five rounds, which seemed to swing the fight in his favor. And then we saw a dead-tired Cuban who refused to lose in the final three rounds, one who summoned every ounce of his energy to finish with a flurry and ensure victory. Hernandez is now the undisputed king of the division. What’s next? How does Hernandez-Antonio Tarver sound?
Steve Cunningham: The 35-year-old veteran’s ability to survive the fourth round and take it to Hernandez from then on was remarkable. He could barely stand let alone fight after the first of two knockdowns yet gathered his wits to win six of the final eight rounds to earn a draw on my scorecard. His recovery was a testament to his fitness and resilience; his rally a testament to his determination and experience. The natural question now is this: Where does a 35-year-old with consecutive losses go from here? Well, I believe he proved beyond doubt that he remains an elite cruiserweight, probably second only to Hernandez, who deserves at least one more shot at another title. And don’t be surprised if he succeeds the next time. Cunningham is a young 35 with unusual ability and toughness, which he demonstrated one more time on Saturday.
Angelo Dundee: The legendary trainer wasn’t always a great interview. He never wanted to say anything that could be perceived as negative about anyone, which can be frustrating for a reporter seeking candor. That was Dundee, though. He loved the sport, he loved people. He didn’t want to hurt either. And he was always so damned cheerful. He would conclude every phone interview I did with him by saying, “Say hello to all my friends in boxing out there,” a reference to the West Coast. And he meant it. The people in boxing were his family, people he treasured. And people treasured him right back because of the person he was. And, of course, the work he did in the corner was sublime. It’s no coincidence that he mentored arguably the two greatest fighters of the past 50 years, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. Dundee had a golden heart and profound ability in his chosen field, which was a precious combination. He’ll be deeply missed.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., on how he might fare against Sergio Martinez: “If I fight the way I did today (against Marco Antonio Rubio), he would win. I know what I’m capable of. I will prepare and I will win.”