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Nonito Donaire Remains An Enigma

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Donaire Mathebula 120707 002aTSS Universe, who do you like in Donaire vs. Rigondeaux? Correct us if we're wrong, but we think a majority now see Rigo winning that, a different appraisal from a year ago. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Is the glass half empty? Or is it half full? Once again, there's an aura of disappointment after a Nonito Donaire fight. But why does this continue to be so?

The Filipino Flash remains an enigma. This time last year,many were convinced that Donaire was going to be the next pound for pound superstar of boxing. Three subpar showings later against Omar Narvaez,Miguel Vazquez Jr and now, Jeffrey Mathebula, and suddenly everyone is not so certain about Donaire's heir apparent credentials.

So we must ask ourselves: Have we all been a little guilty of overrating Nonito?

There's a fine line between frustration and disappointment. After watching Donaire's performance on Saturday night, my immediate feeling was that of frustration. I felt I SHOULD have been blown away by Donaire's performance. After all, when he's on it, Nonito possesses the all-round capabilities to become that rare breed of special fighter. But he can also infuriate.

On one hand, I see a fighter with extraordinary fighting abilities -his timing, footwork, weight transference when punching, athleticism and undervalued technical skills {his ability to parry and counter with the back hand is a lost art among current fighters} are of the highest order. Can we think of a better shot in boxing that encapsulates both the savagery and artistry of the sweet science as Donaire's counter left hook does? That stunning knockout of Fernando Montiel remains vivid in my mind.

On the other hand, I see a fighter who loads up too much with the left hand and who can sometimes becomes a tad predictable. How can a fighter with so much talent completely neglect the set up of his offense?A little patience and body work would also serve Donaire well in there.

Nevertheless, feeling frustrated with Donaire because we did not see more spark should not be confused with labelling his performance disappointing. Expectations are very high with Nonito. So much so, that unless we see a knockout, his fights are deemed almost as a failure. His Filipino counterpart has now gone five fights without a stoppage. Are Pacquiao's performances met with the same kind of hostility?

Overall, I thought Nonito put on a good display against a taller, rangier, awkward fighter. I can't recall Donaire ever having to give up as much height and length as he did on Saturday. With this in mind then, Donaire showed that he can mix things up if the situation arises -Donaire showed tremendous versatility as he walked his man down behind a high guard. Once inside, Donaire also showed that he can shorten up his punches in close which is in itself a skill that is often taken for granted. Let's not forget, Donaire almost had his opponent, who had never been stopped before I might add, out at the end of the fourth round -the headlines then would have read very differently on Sunday morning.

Having said that,Donaire did show a little vulnerability. I found it alarming how easy it was for Mathebula to land clean on Nonito at times with straight punches. Donaire's feet do most of the moving from the outside, but when he's in punching range, looking to land his vaunted left,defense seems to take a back seat as there's not much in the way of upper body or head movement at this range.Against the heavier punchers at 122 pounds, this could prove detrimental.

Lessons from the master

During his 135 pound prime, Roberto Duran was simply too much physical specimen for the vast majority of his opponents. At lightweight, Duran was a devastating puncher, whose animalistic demeanor often blinded his technical subtleties. A quick look at the third Ken Buchanan fight shows just how dominant the young lightweight version of Duran was. Buchanan, one of the finest pure boxers you'll ever see, saw his technique rendered useless against Duran's superior physicalities and aggression. At lightweight, Duran could bully his opponents.

As Duran moved up through the weights, so too did the danger of his opponents. Against bigger men,Duran was no longer able to fight in an ultra aggressive manner. If you take a look at the Duran who fought against Iran Barkley, you will see a complete contrast in his approach from the Buchanan fight. There's more in the way of jabbing, feinting, head movement and patience. Simply put, as he got older, Duran had to call upon the sweet science to aid him against larger prey. No longer the marauding aggressor of old, Duran had to out-technique many of his opponents from welterweight to middleweight.

Looking back at Donaire's flyweight days, it's clear to me that -regardless of what many believe- he is now fighting above his natural weight.Donaire's physique is now reminiscent of Pernell Whitaker's in the mid nineties -fleshier and bigger around the lower half of the body. Nevermind Donaire's height, it's his arms, legs and shoulders we should be paying attention to. It's because of this, that I question how much more weight Donaire will be able to pack onto his already overloaded frame. It is also clear that Donaire's power does not have the same affect on his opponents like it did a few pounds below. As a result, it is my belief that Donaire can no longer overwhelm his opponents the way he used to at those lower weights. Donaire, like Duran had to, must now adjust to the bigger, more dense jungle he finds himself hunting in.Rather than load up with the left hook every single time, Donaire must learn to set his shots up better and utilize the jab more, thus making the left hook less predictable when he opts to throw it. Donaire also needs to concentrate more on his defense and also WHEN to use it. It's obvious that his opponents are no longer going to drop every single time Donaire connects with his left hook or his right uppercut. If he's to dwell within punching range against bigger foe, his defense must tighten up, otherwise he runs the risk of leaving himself open to counters.

Don't get me wrong, emulating Roberto Duran is easier said than done. Duran was a master craftsman who could combine just about every aspect of boxing simultaneously. There haven't been many fighters throughout history who were greater than “Manos de Piedra”. One thing is clear though. Duran's greatness is a direct result of his ability to adapt as he moved up in weight. If he's to achieve true greatness, Donaire must learn to do the same.

The Fight

Lets be honest here, any mix of fights between Nonito Donaire, Abner Mares, Toshiaki Nishioka and Guillermo Rigondeaux would be captivating to say the least. However, only one of those fights would be truly mouth watering. In recent times, boxing fans have tolerated a lot as they've been deprived of such fights as Juan Manuel Lopez versus Yuriorkis Gamboa and the super fight that never will be, Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao. Hopefully, boxing gets it right this time and everyone gets to see THE superfight at 122 pounds between Donaire and Rigondeaux. No disrespect to Jorge Arce, but if the fight with Donaire becomes a reality {which is looking increasingly likely} we can expect to see a high profile mis-match along the lines of Floyd Mayweather's annihilation of the late Auturo Gatti.

I'm not sure who I'd pick between Donaire and Rigondeaux. Both are super athletes with outstanding reflexes and coordination. Truthfully, I think Donaire has more layers to him, even though Rigo's technical ability is of a higher quality. Donaire's footwork -not that we saw much of it on Saturday night- is just that bit better in my opinion. I can also envision Rigondeaux having problems shutting down Donaire's left hand as Rigondeaux, a southpaw, would be carrying his lead hand quite low, possibly leaving himself vulnerable on offense. This is what makes the fight so intriguing. Rigo is like a sniper who can take you out from distance or in close. Likewise,Donaire can ambush from the sides or take you out from mid range. It's a must see fight that either man could win.

I really do think Donaire-Rigondeaux would be this era's version of Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns or Salvador Sanchez-Wilfredo Gomez.

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High Drama at Turning Stone where Ford Rallied to Overcome Kholmatov

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Top Rank Promotions was at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, tonight with a 9-bout card topped by a pair of world featherweight title fights. The main go for the WBA diadem vacated by Leigh Wood shaped up as a fan-friendly match and exceeded expectations. In a doozy of a fight, Raymond Ford pulled the fight out of the fire in the final minute, halting Otabek Kholmatov to become the third man from Camden, New Jersey to win a world title following in the footsteps of Jersey Joe Walcott and Dwight Muhammad Qawi.

This was a match with several twists and turns. Kholmatov, a 25-year-old Uzbek who resides in south Florida when he isn’t training with the Diaz brothers in the California desert, started fast, forcing Ford to change his tactics and become more of the aggressor. Heading into the final round, Kholmatov was ahead by three points on two of the scorecards while Ford had a 1-point advantage on the other. Moreover, it appeared as if the momentum had shifted back in favor of the Uzbek. But Ford, bleeding from a cut under his left eye, saved his best for last. He landed a punch that began a sequence that ended with Kholmatov turning his back on Ford as he reeled drunkenly into a corner post. There were 7 seconds remaining in the fight when referee Charlie Fitch waived it off.

Ford, with his promoter Eddie Hearn in attendance, improved his ledger to 15-0-1 with his eighth win inside the distance. It was the first pro loss for Kholmatov who had knocked out 11 of his previous 12 opponents and went to post a small favorite.

Co-Feature

The ESPN announcing crew created the impression that the IBF title fight between Luis Alberto Lopez and Reiya Abe was a 50/50 fight, but the oddsmakers who installed Lopez an 8/1 favorite knew better. Mexicali’s ever-improving Lopez, in his third defense of the title he won in England with an upset of Josh Warrington, dominated from the onset before ending matters in the opening minute of the eighth round.

Abe, 25-3-1 heading in, was making his first start outside Japan. It was all uphill for him after his left eye started to swell shut in the second round. Lopez, who improved to 30-2 (17 KOs) continued to stalk him and finally cranked up the juice in round eight, forcing referee Mark Nelson to step in and save Abe from future punishment. Nelson, to his everlasting credit, took the fight out of the hands of the ring doctor who was remiss in allowing the match to continue as long as it did.

UNDERCARD

A bloody welterweight contest slated for “10” between Atlanta’s Brian Norman Jr (25-0, 19 KOs heading in) and Detroit’s Janelson Bocachica (17-2-1) was called off after three rounds and declared a “no decision.”

Bocachica, blood streaming from a cut in the corner of his left eye, put Norman on the canvas with an overhand right in the opening frame. Norman hadn’t previously been knocked down. Over the next two rounds, Norman suffered a bad cut in the corner of his right eye and Bocachica suffered a cut on his hairline that bled profusely. Replays showed that Bocachica’s cuts were the result of accidental head buts and that Norman’s cut resulted from an elbow.

In a spirited 6-round junior welterweight match for Empire State bragging rights, Syracuse’s Bryce Mills (15-1, 5 KOs) turned away Buffalo’s Gerffred Ngayot, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 58-56 and 60-54 twice.

Mills, 22, brought a large contingent of fans and he rewarded them with a busy-bee performance that animated the crowd. A native of war-torn Congo who has lived in western New York since the age of six, Ngayot declined to 6-2.

In the first stoppage of the evening, Troy Isley, in his second fight with the noted trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre in his corner, halted Fresno’s Marcos Hernandez at the 1:30 mark of round seven. A counter right hand did the damage. Hernandez (16-7-2) stumbled face first to the canvas and although he beat the count, referee Mark Nelson properly said “enough.”

This was the best performance of his pro career by Isley (12-0, 5 KOs).

Twenty-year-old Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz improved to 11-0 (3 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Edwin Rodriguez (12-8-2). This was Cashflow’s first fight training under the aforementioned “Bomac.” A 30-year-old father of four who has never been stopped, Rodriguez was never in serious danger.

Tokyo Olympian Rohan Polanco, a Dominican who has been training in Massachusetts, advanced to 12-0 (7) with a dominant 8-round decision over Tarik Zaina. The scores were 78-72 and 79-71 twice. Polanco scored knockdowns in each of the last two rounds, the first more of a push but the second legitimate and he would have likely won by stoppage if the bout had lasted 10 seconds longer. It was the first pro loss for the Morocco-born Zaina (13-1-1) who fights out of Tijuana.

Las Vegas middleweight Nico Ali Walsh (10-1, 1 NC 5 KOs) won a workmanlike 6-round decision over Cincinnati’s Charles Stanford (7-6). The judges had it 59-55 and 60-54 twice.

Ali Walsh was making his second start with Ismael Salas in his corner. Stanford, 37, fought 15 days ago at Madison-Square Garden on the undercard of Foster-Nova, losing a 6-round decision to an undefeated opponent.

In the lid-lifter, heavyweight Brandon Moore (14-0, 8 KOs) won a ho-hum 8-round decision over flabby Utah trial horse Helamon Olguin (9-7-1).

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Jake Paul KOs Ryan Bourland but Amanda Serrano’s Fight Falls Out

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Jake Paul brought his brand of boxing to Puerto Rico along with Amanda Serrano but it wasn’t all roses and champagne despite another first round knockout by the influencer boxer on Saturday.

Puerto Rican seven-division titlist Serrano was forced to pull out of the featherweight world championship match due to a damaged cornea.

Doctors would not allow her to fight.

“I wanted to fight,” said a tearful Serrano.

No matter, Paul (9-1, 6 KOs) carried the show with a devastating knockout win over American cruiserweight Ryan Bourland (17-3, 6 KOs) before a sold-out crowd of more than 18,000 fans at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan.

Once again Paul fought a legitimate pro boxer and once again he mowed down another prizefighter via first round knockout. The continuously improving Paul who moved around like a seasoned veteran while punishing the body of Bourland.

Body shots followed by a blazing combination of blows proved too much for North Dakota’s Bourland. After several volleys of blows it was apparent that Paul had hurt the cruiserweight with a left hook to the chin and then a follow-up barrage had Bourland in a save-me-defensive stance. The referee stepped in and stopped the action at 2:37 of the first round.

“I was hoping for more rounds,” said Paul after the speedy knockout. “I’m just to glad to be in Puerto Rico.”

Now making his residence in Puerto Rico, the new age fighter stood behind Serrano as she explained to the crowd that she was not able to fight Germany’s Nina Meinke in the main event due to an eye injury. Apparently, it may have occurred during the braiding of her hair two days ago.

“I want to say I’m so sorry,” Serrano said in tears. “I’m a warrior and I would never agree to cancel a fight.”

Nina Meinke who was poised to challenge Serrano was surprised but supportive of Serrano.

“I’m so sorry. I’m absolutely gutted,” Meinke said.

Paul, whose company Most Valuable Promotions backs her, said that every fan in attendance could get refunds. He also said they would try and re-schedule Serrano versus Meinke in the future.

Other Bouts

Despite 12 rounds of holding and clinching WBO light flyweight titlist Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (28-3-1) retained the title by unanimous decision over number one challenger Rene Santiago (12-4). It was a strange decision that saw Santiago land the clearer and more accurate punching. Both fighters are from Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s Krystal Rosario (3-0) won a very close scrap against Los Angeles fighter Gloria Munguilla (5-1) by majority decision. Rosario was bigger, faster and stronger but Munguilla was able to connect at times with more flush punches.

Actor Wanna Walton (1-0-1) and Californian Joshua Torres (0-1-2) fought to a majority draw after four rounds in a super featherweight fight. Neither fighter fired many blows in the four-round affair.

Christopher Diaz (28-4, 18 KO+s) needed one round to figure out Headley Scott (18-2) before dropping him with a leaping left hook in the second round. After Scott beat the count Diaz connected with another left hook to end the fight.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney in Hollywood, Jake, Amanda and More

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.- Adorned in a white suit, Ryan “King Ry” Garcia arrived on a big white horse followed by a handful of fair maidens dressed in various colors and some twirling hula hoops into the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Thursday.

Inside the historic theater that once served as the Hollywood Canteen during World War 2, where actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth greeted soldiers, but this time it was the boxing media waiting.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) will challenge undefeated Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) for the WBC super lightweight world title on April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. DAZN pay-per-view will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

It doesn’t get more Hollywood than this.

Inside the 97-year-old theater, once the two opposing factions arrived, the pageantry turned into a war of words, taunts and accusations.

This is boxing.

Aside from the taunts and words of derision tossed at each other, the Haney father and son combination admitted that Garcia was the one fighter willing to fight Devin.

“He (Garcia) raised his hand when no one else did,” said Bill Haney the father.

Devin Haney sat next to his father on the stage anxious as ever to prove his talent in the prize ring. After his victory over Regis Prograis that followed wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos, the former undisputed lightweight world champion is now dwelling in the super lightweight division and holds the WBC version.

“I was killing myself trying to make the weight,” said Haney about moving up to the 140-pound super lightweight division.

Haney has long been familiar with Ryan Garcia since their amateur days as they met in the boxing ring six times as youths.

“They fought six times in the amateurs with both of them winning three apiece. Now they meet with championship gold and the chance at being the face of American boxing on the line,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter and head of Golden Boy Promotions. “In other words, this one counts!”

Garcia and Haney have taken similar paths.

Garcia fought professionally numerous times in Mexico where it is legal to fight under the age of 18. So did Haney. Both faced unknown opponents, sometimes last-minute changes forced them to fight foes that were not originally scheduled.

As pros, the two similarly and eagerly sought to face the best opponents possible despite their inexperience. Both proved more than capable.

Garcia quickly amassed a surprisingly large following of fans through social media and through his exploits of sudden knockouts from his uncanny speed.

“Everything I have today, I earned it,” said Garcia. “Nobody gave me a handout, I never had money, I’m really a small town boy.”

Haney proved able to defeat veteran world champions feared for their technical expertise with his own buttery-smooth fighting prowess.

“I am happy to be here. I worked hard to be here. I sacrificed a lot to be here, and at the end of the day, the world will see it on April 20,” said Devin Haney.

Next month in Brooklyn the two longtime foes will be performing. Will it be the biggest grossing pay-per-view of the year 2024?

Jake and Amanda

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano are boxing’s best tag team.

Several years ago, Paul recognized that Serrano, a seven-division world champion Puerto Rican was capable of much more than fighting on the small stage.

Genius.

Paul signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions company and together they have been able to draw a mixture of fans long ignored by other promoters.

Welcome to the age of the influencers.

For the past several years Paul has fought MMA stars, boxers and other social media influencers. And when he signed Serrano she fought Katie Taylor in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden where their fight drew more than a million pay-per-views.

Paul (8-1, 5 KOs) meets Ryan Bourland (17-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round cruiserweight fight on Saturday March 2, at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. DAZN will stream the card.

He will be co-piloting the fight card with the great Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) who will be defending the undisputed featherweight world championship against Germany’s Nina “the Brave” Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs).

Once again Serrano and Paul will share a very good fight card that also features female super flyweights Krysti Rosario-Ortiz (2-0) and Gloria Munguilla (5-0).

Others on the card include Javon “Wanna” Walton, a featherweight out of Atlanta, Georgia. If he looks familiar there is a reason. He was featured in the Sylvester Stallone film Samaritan and also appeared in the HBO series Euphoria.

Walton has always boxed and now will be a part of the Paul and Serrano team.

Paul has that magic touch for attracting fans to boxing.

Just today Most Valuable Promotions signed Indian prizefighter Neeraj Goyat. The welterweight fighter was recently seen on social media approaching Paul in his training camp and daring the fighter to meet him in the boxing ring. The short video clip attracted more than 150 million views.

Paul, ever the think-out-of-the-box promoter, signed Goyat immediately.

“In just 2.5 years, MVP has organized some of the world’s most significant boxing events, and I’m excited to work with MVP to elevate the status of professional boxing in India and bring attention to boxers from India globally,” said an excited Goyat.

“His viral callouts of Jake Paul certainly got our attention,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian.

Out-of-the box thinking.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Sat. DAZN 1:30 p.m. Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Nina Meinke (18-3).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:10 pm Otabek Kholmatov 12-0, 11 KOs) vs. Raymod Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs); Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) vs Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs)

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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