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Articles of 2010

Donaire Gets Cakewalk Win Over Undersized Foe Vargas

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Nonito Donaire looked rock-solid in the main event of the Latin Fury-Pinoy Power PPV card from the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas on Saturday night. But he was a super flyweight in with a man who battled as a minimumweight/straw-weight boxer, so no one should lose themselves in exultation at the third round stoppage victory for the “Filipino Flash.”  For those of you unfamiliar with that weight class, that meant Manuel Vargas weighed in at 105 pounds for that September bout against Donnie NIetes. For this scrap, he was 114 pounds, but Vargas may as well have been 100 pounds, dripping wet with flop sweat as he readied himself to surrender to the heavy handed Donaire (115 pounds; 22-1; from General Santos City, Philippines).

The challenger  Vargas (age 28; 26-4-1 entering; from Mexico; ex straw-weight champ) took the bout on just three days notice, after Gerson Guerrero failed an eye exam. He was in the gym training for a March 12 bout, against 108 pound champion Rodel Mayol,  so he was keen to make more money, and fight on a bigger stage. This was a non-title affair. The official time of the finish was 1:33 of the third. Donaire landed 35 punches of 106 thrown, while Vargas landed just four of 45.

In case anyone out there was fantasizing about a PPV price markdown, what with the switcheroo of foes, let it be said that Guerrero may well not have made it past three himself. His record isn't built on the firmest of foundations…

In the first, the 27-year-old Donaire, whose sole loss came in his second pro outing, showed a height and reach edge, in a big way. There looked to be a two division gap between the men. The latecomer backed up, mostly to his left. When he came forward, he paid; a left hook clanked his head with a minute to go. Donaire is such a calm customer, and he looked to be totally non flustered by anything Vargas showed him. In the second, a right hand buzzed the underdog. Then another. It didn't look like we'd see the sixth, let alone a distance scrap. Vargas' mouth hung open, but he wasn't shy. He'd hurl the occasional overhand right that Donaire evaded with relative ease. In the third, Donaire dropped Vargas with a left-right-left-right-left combo, and he lay on his back, cooked. Ref Joe Cortez counted to ten.

Gerry Penalosa (age 37; from the Phillipines; , a 20 year pro; 54-7-2 entering; two time world champ; 118 pounds) took on Eric Morel  (34; born in Puerto Rico; 1996 Olympian; ex fly champ; 117 pounds; 41-2 entering) in a fight for the vacant WBO world bantamweight crown. Morel used his legs to great effect, and came away with a split decision win (115-113 for Morel, 115-113 for Penalosa, 116-112 for Morel), a decision at odds with the announcers working the show. TSS agreed with the 116-112 Duane Ford card for Morel, liking his dialed in pugilism, while as always coming away with mad respect for Penalosa's cajones.

Morel looked the peppier of the two thirtysomethings in the first. He circled left, away from Gerry's left. The Filipino got the right hook to the body untracked in the second. Morel tried to take some steam out with a groinshot. Morel came out with a pile of power shots to start the third, sending a message. But really his legs spoke loudest; his mobility if used properly could give him an edge. Gerry's left eye swelled up by this juncture. In the fourth, Morel moved well but where was the O? It came at the end of the round actually, maybe enough to get the judges' nod. Morel didn't slow down in the fifth, but we wondered if he could stay energized and moving for the duration. In the sixth, the action stopped for a head clash. Gerry's right eye was cut. Then his left eye sprung a leak, again from an accidental head bump. The doc looked at Gerry, and he pronounced him fit to continue.

In round seven, Morel kept on keeping on, getting in, getting off, and getting away. That is, until a minute left, when Gerry landed a combo. The blood from the left eye bothered Gerry's vision in the eighth, but he kept chugging forward. He won the round, as Morel's dancing dropped off. In round nine, Morel was back on message, but Penalosa's body work was sharp. In the 10th, Morel's ring generalship looked to be the difference, if you are the sort who prizes that, even if there wasn't excessive offense to augment it. In the 11th, Morel didn't fade. He kept clear of Gerry's power launches, but was he throwing enough to win the rounds? He was on my card. In the last round, Morel kept on his Segway, maybe too much for what was almost certainly a megatight fight. We'd go to the cards. Steve Farhood had Gerry up big, Al Bernstein a bit less, and Nick Charles also saw Gerry the victor. TSS did not. The stats said: Morel went, while Gerry was.

Champ Fernando Montiel (age 30; from Mexico; three division champ; 118 pounds; 39-2-2 entering)  hooked up with Ciso Morales (118 pounds; 14-0 entering; from the Philippines), in a defense of his WBO 118 pound belt. Montiel likes to sweep with the left hook and voila. Morales ate one, to the gut, and went down with a minute left. He hit the deck, laying on his belly, and couldn't beat Robert Byrds' count. On replay, viewers saw that it wasn't a groin shot, but a belt-line crack thrown as Morales jabbed, which felled the kid. He didn't protest a crotchshot, for the record. The time: 2:06 of the first.

Filipino Bernabe Concepcion (age 22; 126 pounds;  29-2-1 coming in) won a UD10 from Puerto Rican Mario Santiago (age 31; 126 pounds; 21-1-1 entering) in the TV opener, and put himself ahead in the JuanMa sweepstakes. The lefty Santiago circled, and used his jab to good effect in the first. Bernie did get off a sharp right with Santiago's back to the ropes two minutes in. Manny Pacquiao sat in the audience, rooting on the fellow Filipino. Bernie got heated in the second, and his right hand touched up the Puerto Rican multiple times. Bernie fired after the bell in the third, showing distaste for a low blow earlier on. Santiago backed up, but it was hard to decipher his strategy in doing so. He didn't counter smartly, make Bernie pay if he got out of position. Why wasn't he using a heigh and reach advantage, his corner wondered. Bernie scored a knockdown off a right at 1:40 of the sixth. Could he finish? Santiago got his head, and his legs looked solid enough to stick around awhile. Santiago indeed got something done with body shots in the ninth. He knew he needed a late surge. That came in the tenth–he forged ahead, and got aggressive, and whaled away. A right uppercut was sharp, and he snapped with both hands. Where was this furor the rest of the way? He gestured at and screamed at Bernie, and won the last round by a wide margin. We'd go to the cards. 98-91, 96-93, 97-92, they said, all for the Filipino. He went 145-387 and Santiago was 149-789, supposedly, but this was a clear case of the stats giving a mistaken impression. So, how will Concepcion fare in a WBO featherweight title crack against JuanMa? He'll be the underdog, let's put it that way. JuanMa will like his lack of volume, his squared up style, his lack of pinpoint accuracy.

SPEEBAG Pacquiao took the mike and talked up his foundation, the Manny Pacquiao Foundation, which is accepting donations to help defray medical costs for the Filipino fighter Z Gorres, who suffered a brain injury in his last bout, against Luis Melendez  on Nov. 13 in Las Vegas. TSS readers can send money to: The Manny Pacquiao Foundation C/O Top Rank Boxing, 3980 Howard Hughes Blvd Suite 580, Las Vegas, Nevada 89109.

—Afterwards, Donaire said he'd next like to fight Darchinyan next.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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