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Takeaways From Rios and Donaire Wins

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Rios Alvarado 121013 003aRios tweaked his tactics and showed an edge in stamina on Saturday night against Alvarado. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Prior to his Saturday night fight against Brandon Rios, I felt that Mike Alvarado's edge in boxing ability would have been the deciding factor between the two “rough and ready” inside specialists. It almost was. After a closely contested first round at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, Alvarado began making things easier for himself by implementing his jab to keep Rios on the outside.Using his superior reach, Alvarado peppered the ever advancing Rios with crisp straight lefts and rights. Even at close quarters, as Rios managed to get himself in close, Alvarado seemed to be getting the better of the action there too by replicating the same defensive posture that Richard Abril had success with against Rios –chin tucked in behind a high left shoulder, with the right glove protecting the face from the left hook. Despite the oohs and aahs from the crowd as both were exchanging on the inside, it was Alvarado who was managing to tag Rios almost every time he threw, with his short hooks and uppercuts, whereas apart from the occasionally landed left hook up top and to the body, Rios was finding mostly elbows, shoulders and air. Approaching the midway point, Rios's money punch, his left hook, wasn't landing as much as he'd have liked and it was Alvarado, not Rios,that seemed to be on the verge of taking over the fight.

Then, two things happened that changed matters for good.

The first was Alvarado's early pace and high punch output took its toll. Because Alvarado lacked the foot speed to keep the fight at a distance, he had to rely on throwing punches, and lots of them, to keep Rios from getting in close.Undeterred by Alvarado's power, who himself was now throwing far less minus the earlier conviction, Rios's sustained pressure never wavered as he was now getting beyond the Alvarado jab every time he came forward. After five rounds, Rios was by far the fresher of the two fighters.

The second thing that changed the fight for Rios, and it's something I thought I'd never see from him, was a conscious tactical adjustment he made. With his left hook not landing as much as he'd have liked because of Alvarado's high right glove on the inside, Rios began throwing an overhand right from around the back of Alvarado's raised left shoulder. This is the difference between a fighter who's a natural at using a certain technique and a fighter who's adopted the technique for a certain opponent. When you look at Floyd Mayweather in the same defensive position, his hips are pushing into his opponent's abdomen, he's leaning back with his weight over on his back foot, his chin is tucked away behind his raised left shoulder, and he's constantly slipping, rolling and turning in conjunction with the punches that are being thrown. In this position, Mayweather's almost impossible to hit clean with overhand rights and left hooks. Mike Alvarado, in the same defensive position, had a deficiency to exploit. He did a decent job of protecting himself against the left hook {although Rios began landing it more too as Alvarado slowed down} but because he wasn't leaning back or rolling with the punches, Rios was able to find an opening for his overhand right, the shot that all but ended the fight. Alvarado was going through the defensive motions alright, but because of a flaw in his technique, Rios managed to penetrate his defensive shield.

Hurt by the right and with Alvarado up on the ropes taking too many unanswered blows, the fight was halted in the seventh round.

All in all, I thought it was a brilliant fight that fell just short of being a great. Many seem to think that the referee deprived us of something truly special but I disagree, wholeheartedly. Alvarado's arms weren't by his waist, but he was clearly defenseless against Rios's onslaught. The official, who's in there for safety precautions first and foremost, got it spot on in my mind.

I'm sure many out there would welcome a rematch between the two, but in all honesty, I see the same thing happening again. Alvarado is clearly the better boxer, but he lacks the power to keep Rios off of him, and the foot speed to outmaneuver him. At 140 pounds, Rios has a vibrancy and energy to him that was clearly wasn't there 135. Rios's physical strength at 140 was my biggest concern with him before the fight. Not any more.

However, while Rios will likely always get the better of Mike Alvarado, or possibly anyone else who remains right in front of him, talks of him being competitive with Manny Pacquiao are ridiculous to say the least. There's a gulf in hand and foot speed that would be too vast for Rios to overcome. Rios, who is a lineal attacker, would not be able to handle Manny's style of fighting –moving in and out at different angles. Pacquiao becomes an apex predator against those who take the fight to him. Rios would end up looking like David Diaz and Antonio Margarito in that one I'm afraid as unlike Alvarado, Pacquiao packs the punch to hurt Rios.

For now though, a win over a very tough opponent in Mike Alvarado, in a candidate for fight of the year honours will suffice.

Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka:

This fight was about as far away from the first fight as you could possibly get. From the opening bell, which saw very little thrown as both men were jockeying for position from the outside, the crowd immediately showed their disapproval, unfairly so in my book. Rios-Alvarado was far from an-all time classic, but it was always going to be very hard to top in terms of the ebb and flow of the action that took place earlier. A chess match was the last thing the blood hungry crowd wanted after what they had just witnessed.

It's what they got.

Nevertheless, I felt the fight was enjoyable from a technical perspective. Prior to the bout, the left hook of Nonito Donaire was well documented. From the opening bell, it was apparent that Nishioka had done his homework and believed its hype. The problem here though, was that he seemed to be thinking of nothing else BUT Donaire's left hook. By stepping to his left and away from Donaire's left hand, using a very unconventional guard which saw his lead hand higher than his rear {right glove up by his ear and his left under his chin} Nishioka actually did a good job of negating his opponent's best weapon. It was a very cerebral move from Nishioka, almost Bernard Hopkins-like in it's execution. However, unlike many of Hopkins's past opponents who only had a single weapon and were pretty much ineffective once it was taken away from them, Nishioka found himself in with an opponent in Donaire who's very versatile on offense. Because Donaire seemed to be too dependent on his left hook during his previous three outings, I feel Nishioka felt that if he could take it away, then everything else would fall into place for him –possibly by forcing Donaire into overloading with right hands as a substitute, which would allow for the Japanese southpaw to take a subtle step to his right and fire a straight left as just as Donaire's missing the target with his right. Unfortunately for him, this never happened. Instead, Donaire kept his composure, remained patient and stuck to boxing his man.

It must have been difficult for Donaire, who, with the crowd on his back demanding more action, and an opponent in front of him who was refusing to give him any, stayed focused and began to systematically break Nishioka down. Had Donaire began loading up with the left hook or any other punch for that matter, then he would have been playing directly into Nishioka's hands. Instead, Donaire attacked sporadically, throwing uppercuts, jabs and straight right hands, from different angles at different targets. With his thought process well and truly cemented on Donaire's left hook, Nishioka found himself losing every round because he wasn't doing anything BUT negate the left hook. I don't think, however, that Nishioka was set up to survive like Omar Narvaez was, as I believe there was always tactical intent behind Nishioka's negativity. As he fell further behind on the scorecards, Nishioka began to attack more, which, as has turned out to be the case with most of Donaire's opponents who opened up against him in the past, proved to be his undoing. Not long after being sent down by a lead hand uppercut,Nishioka uncharacteristically followed his man blind to the ropes where he lead off with a jab, only for Donaire to counter simultaneously and drop Nishioka again with a straight right hand. Not only is Donaire a superb athlete, he's also an astute tactician and knows how to set a trap in there. Moments later, Nishioka was saved from any further punishment when his corner intervened. With the ninth round TKO victory, Nonito Donaire became the new universally recognized super bantamweight champion of the world.

It's the same old scenario with Donaire. Against opponents who take chances on offense, he has the quick trigger punching ability to end a fight with a single punch. There aren't many true one punch knockout artists left in boxing. Nonito Donaire is among the last of a dying breed.

In terms of future opponents, Donaire has plenty of options. For the hardcore among us, two fighters come to mind. Guillermo Rigondeaux is an obvious choice, who, with his counterpunching ability and exquisite technique, wouldn't leave many openings for Donaire to expose, which could possibly lead to a fight with plenty of feinting and not enough punching. I'm not sure Donaire will want to go down that avenue again anytime soon. Likewise with Anselmo Moreno, a defensive specialist who I consider to be the best pure technician in boxing at the moment. That fight would surely please the aficionados, but I'm not sure it would quench the thirsts of those who prefer their action of the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios kind.

The most crowd pleasing fight for Donaire right now would be the high volume and exciting Abner Mares. But as we know, there are ongoing promotional issues that exist which could prevent it from taking place, as well as Mares's tough November date with Anselmo Moreno himself.

Whomever Nonito Donaire decides to fight next, I'll be watching.

Out of all the upper echelon fighters in boxing, you could say that Donaire is the most complete, who at the same time, doesn't jeopardize his offense to aid his defense or vice versa. Mayweather and Ward are tough to hit and are expert tacticians, but you're not going to see many knockouts from them. Pacquiao and Martinez are sensational on offense, but if they were to be marked on defense alone, they'd be nowhere near the top of the mythical pound for pound rankings.

That's why I like Donaire. He's got good defense, great offense, speed, power, ring intelligence and he can press the attack or can lay back and counter –he's the complete fighter. If Donaire managed to not only secure fights with the likes of Mares, Moreno and Rigondeaux, but actually beat them too, then Mayweather, Ward, Pacquiao and co. would have some serious competition on their hands.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

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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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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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