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Nonito Donaire Hits a Speed Bump…HAUSER

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Drivers see them all the time. They’re bumps in a roadway (typically painted yellow, three-to-four inches high, six-inches-or-so deep) designed to reduce the speed at which cars are driven. Think of Nonito Donaire as a finely-tuned Porsche with Bob Arum revving up the engine for a test drive toward super-stardom.

Donaire is charismatic in and out of the ring. The WBC-WBO 118-pound champion is on virtually every pound-for-pound list. His record is 27-and-1 with 18 knockouts (the loss came ten years ago in his second pro fight). In the age of Manny Pacquiao, it doesn’t hurt that Nonito’s nickname is The Filipino Flash.

On October 22nd against Omar Narvaez at Madison Square Garden, Donaire hit a speed bump. He didn’t careen off the road, but it slowed him down a bit.

Donaire was born in the Philippines on November 16, 1982; the third of four children. “We were poor,” he says. “We weren’t starving, but lots of times we were hungry. If there was a chicken to split up, it was an occasion.”

Nonito’s parents emigrated to the United States when he was eight years old, bringing his younger brother with them. Nonito and two older siblings stayed behind with their grandparents.

“My grandfather called me ‘midget’ because I was tiny,” Donaire remembers. “As a kid, you take that very seriously. I thought I was nothing. I was an extra mouth to feed; that’s all. I grew up in the streets and got picked on a lot because I was so small. I’d fade away into corners and try not to be noticed. I tried to befriend everyone so I wouldn’t have to fight. No one saw the fighter in me, including me.”

When Nonito was ten, his parents brought him to America.

“I remember very vividly looking out the window of the plane right before it landed in San Francisco,” he recalls. “It was night. I saw all the city lights and wondered, ‘What is that?  Fireflies?”

The transition to life in America was hard. Nonito spoke Visayan; not a word of English. When he was eleven, his father put him in an after-school boxing program to keep him off the streets.

“I worked hard at it because I wanted my father to be proud of me,” Nonito says. “I remember walking to the ring for my first fight. I was so scared, I pissed in my pants. I literally pissed in my pants. But the moment I got hit, I wasn’t afraid anymore. That’s what courage is; facing your fears and giving your all, no matter what. When I got hit, it was like another person took over my body. I had to defend myself and the courage came out. I scored three eight-counts and won the decision. After I won, my father smiled and gave me a hug. That was the first time in my life that I felt special.”

Donaire has an exuberant personality and an enthusiasm for life. He loves to talk. His mind darts back and forth. He’s easy to like.

He’s also a gifted impersonator with innumerable accents and dozens of characters in his repertoire: Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver (“You talkin’ to me?”) . . . Mel Gibson in Braveheart (“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”) . . . Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (“Boards don’t hit back!”) . . . He could do stand-up comedy and be a success.

But Donaire’s most obvious gifts are as a fighter. He’s blessed with great athleticism and explosive punching power. Make a single mistake against him, and your night can be over. He also has a good boxing mind that is currently being honed by trainer Robert Garcia.

“I pay attention to detail in everything I do,” Nonito says. “A friend of mine drinks beer and always moves his glass in a circle. I’ve noticed that. When we sit down together, I know what he’ll do. If I know what my opponent’s habits are, everything in the ring becomes like a slow motion chess match to me.”

Donaire has two signature victories to his credit. The first was a one-punch knockout over then-undefeated Vic Darchinyan in 2007.

“Against Darchinyan, I fought with anger because I felt that he had disrespected me,” Nonito says. “When I knocked him down, I was hoping he’d get up so I could hit him again. After the fight, he said it was a lucky punch that knocked him out; but I don’t believe in lucky punches. When I get hit, it’s because my opponent did something right and I made a mistake. When I hit my opponent, it’s because I did something right and he made a mistake.”

Donaire’s other signature win came against Fernando Montiel in February of this year. Again, one punch made the outcome a foregone conclusion. Montiel rose from a brutal knockdown but was unable to continue.

“The punch I knocked Montiel down with was the best punch I’ve ever thrown,” Nonito says. “The respect I have for him, that he got up and wanted to keep fighting; it’s hard to express the respect I felt.”

Donaire is good, and the consensus is that he’ll get better. “I’m always learning,” he says. “And a lot of what I learned came from studying Bruce Lee. Watching him taught me that, every day, I can become better and go beyond what I already am; that there’s always another lesson to learn; that I have to be dedicated and do things right to succeed in life.”

“I love boxing,” Nonito continues. “I love the beauty of boxing, the purity of boxing. I give my whole being to the sport. Being a great fighter isn’t about belts. To me, greatness is the smile you leave on people’s faces and in their hearts, the way you inspire them. I want to win belts; I want to make a lot of money. But I hope that, a long time from now, people smile when they think about me as a fighter and that I inspire them to want to be the best at whatever they choose to do in their life.”

After Donaire knocked out Montiel, he was on the verge of stardom. Then Golden Boy tried to lure him away from Top Rank. Nonito was told by third parties with their own interests in mind that Top Rank (which had been building his career and still had him under contract) was keeping him under wraps to advance its own economic agenda with Manny Pacquiao. At one point, Donaire signed a contract with Golden Boy. That led to legal action and an ugly war of words.

“Facts are facts,” Top Rank CEO Bob Arum declared. “He’s not a pay per view fighter. Filipinos don’t support him. When we put him on pay-per-view, we did no buys. When he fought Montiel, it was all Mexicans. He has not connected with the Filipinos. I don’t think the Filipino people like him and that is largely because of his wife [who reportedly was advocating for Golden Boy]. She criticizes the way Jinkee [Pacquiao] dresses and she’s all tarted up. Jinkee dresses like a lady.”

That led to a self-righteous rebuttal from Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who raged, “Nonito Donaire and Rachel Donaire are first-class people. They really don’t deserve this sort of vicious and uncalled for attacks from Bob Arum. Bob Arum may be angry that they left him, but such is life. There is no reason for these idiotic comments. Bob Arum’s true colors came out, and they always will. That’s just the kind of person that he is. If Bob Arum thought that he still had [a binding contract] with Nonito and he was making these comments, then wouldn’t that make him an even bigger idiot? You just don’t say these kinds of negative things. That’s just a low-life who does that; and that’s what Bob Arum really is.”

A contract extension heals all wounds. The war was resolved when Donaire signed a contract that binds him to Top Rank for a minimum of four more years. Top Rank can further extend the contract if certain contingencies occur.

“It went out of control,” Arum said after peace with the Donaire camp had been restored. “I should know with all my experience that it’s self-defeating to carry on battles like this through the media. I apologized to Rachel, which is more than most politicians do when they say something wrong. I apologized sincerely and she accepted my apology. We’re all on the same page now.”

With the hostilities at an end, Arum began planning for the future. “You can’t be a superstar if you have only a regional following,” he noted. “You can have a regional base or an ethnic base. But to be a real superstar, which means that you generate a large number of pay-per-view buys whenever you fight, you have to have a much broader following.”

Toward that end, Top Rank brought Donaire to New York for the east-coast media exposure that would accompany his fighting in The Big Apple.

“Our goal is to make him a superstar,” Arum said during a pre-fight conference call. “We think that Nonito is such a great exciting fighter and such a pleasing personality that, as he rises in weight, he will become a major superstar in the sport.”

“Donaire is telling us that he wants to go up in weight and fight the toughest guys out there,” Top Rank director of public relations Lee Samuels added. “He wants to fight Mikey Garcia. He wants to fight Juanma and Yuriorkis Gamboa. I said to him, ‘These guys are good and they fight back.’ Nonito told me, ‘No problem.’”

But first there was the matter of Donaire defending his belts against Omar Narvaez in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The good news for boxing fans was that Narvaez was undefeated (35-0-2) and a “champion.” The bad news was that the Argentinean was 36 years old, lacked power (19 knockouts in 37 fights), was moving up in weight, and had won his WBO 114-pound bauble in one of those contests for a vacant title.

Donaire said all the right things in the days leading up to the fight. “Narvaez is a tremendous fighter. He has a great heart. He knows how to win.”

At the final pre-fight press conference, people were throwing around the names of Argentinean fighters like Carlos Monzon and Sergio Martinez. Perhaps the most relevant name from a promotional point of view was that of Carlos Baldomir, who came into Madison Square Garden as a prohibitive underdog against Zab Judah in 2006 and emerged with the WBC welterweight crown.

But the truth of the matter was that Donaire-Narvaez had been put together as a showcase for Nonito with Narvaez as a sacrificial lamb.

The Theater was close to sold out with 4,425 fans in attendance. The fight began with Narvaez fighting cautiously and Donaire biding his time, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake. The fight continued with Narvaez fighting cautiously and Donaire biding his time, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake. And the fight ended with Narvaez fighting cautiously and Donaire biding his time, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake.

In sum, it was like a twelve-round sparring session with few solid punches landed. Narvaez, a clever boxer, was there to survive and spent the entire night in a defensive shell. Each of the judges scored the bout 120-108 in Donaire’s favor. This observer’s scorecard read 118-110.

The encounter didn’t do much to advance Nonito’s ring career, but it didn’t damage it much either. He was in the ring with a fighter who knew how to protect himself. And Donaire already has good highlight-reel footage from his earlier knockouts of Darchinyan and Montiel.

As for the future; Arum proclaims, “We fully intend to make Nonito a pay-per-view attraction. It’s silly to guess how long that will take. It will come when it comes. And it’s silly to compare Nonito with Manny Pacquiao. They’re both Filipino, but Nonito has lived in the United States since he was ten years old. Every fighter is different. Top Rank will promote Nonito as his own person in his own way.”

In other words; the issue isn’t whether Donaire will be “the next Manny Pacquiao.” Pacquiao (like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, and Oscar De La Hoya) is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon. The issue is, “How big can Nonito become in his own right?”

We still don’t know how fast and how far the car can go.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was just published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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