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Avila Perspective, Chap. 138: Ageless Nonito Donaire, Mayweather and More  

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As Nonito Donaire gazed at his fallen victim, the much younger and seemingly stronger bantamweight world champion Nordine Oubaali, it was a stark reminder that youth, strength and hype do not equate to certain victory.

Age has its pitfalls, but skills pay the bills.

While Donaire proved once again that he’s destined for boxing’s Hall of Fame, he also sent out a three-ring alarm that he’s still a dangerous player on the world stage. Do not count him out.

All weekend the older veterans of not just the boxing world, but golf, Indy racing and tennis proved that experience that comes with age is still a major factor in sporting competition.

While Donaire was knocking out Oubaali, 300 miles away Jorge Linares nearly did the same to Devin Haney. And in other sports Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship, Helio Castroneves won the Indy 500 and Rafael Nadal is gunning for a 14th French Open title.

As Napoleon Dynamite once said: “you got skills.”

For decades now Donaire (pictured on the left) has proven over and over again that he’s more than a just a knockout artist. At the advanced boxing age of 38 the fighter known as “Filipino Flash” drew Oubaali into his line of fire and dropped him like a worn-out sparring partner.

It’s been quite a journey.

Hollywood Park

Just by luck I happened to see Nonito Donaire’s professional debut 20 years ago. It was not too far from the Dignity Health Sports Park that he laced up professionally for the first time at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, California.

I was there to see Fernando “Bobby Boy” Velardez, a super tough kid from San Bernardino who would later fight for a world title against Erik Morales. On that same card a young female fighter Karen Martin would win by vicious knockout. Donaire would also win by quick knockout over a kid named Jose Lazaro.

Inexplicably Donaire would lose his next fight in Northern California by decision in a five-round bout to Rosendo Sanchez. After that he would not lose another fight for 12 years.

I saw Donaire fight one more time at Hollywood Park Casino and then it took another three years before he fought in Southern California at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. A tough Mexican kid named Ricardo Barrera lasted four rounds until Donaire broke him down.

It was easy to see Donaire was simply too fast, too agile and could hit a ton with that left hook and right cross. Few could match his athleticism enough to test his skills until he met another Southern California hopeful at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula in January 2006.

Kahren Harutyunyan was a short, sturdy and ultra-intelligent fighter from Glendale, California who never looked for the easy fights. With Donaire he knew what to expect but when the Filipino Flash dropped him in the second round, it did not look like it would last much longer.

It did.

Harutyunyan and Donaire would trade blows for 10 entire rounds and after the torrid super flyweight NABF title fight, Donaire won by split decision.

I’ll never forget what Harutyunyan said after the fight: “I wish I had longer arms.” He would fight once more then graduate from UCLA and become a businessman. He also would later promote dozens of boxing cards in Southern California.

Donaire probably ended a lot of boxing careers. But that night he proved he was more than just super athletic, he also showcased boxing skills that allowed him to defeat tough competitors with chins of steel. Those skills were extremely necessary one year later when he clashed with another Armenian fighter named Vic “The Destroyer” Darchinyan.

IBF world champion Darchinyan was a southpaw wrecking machine who had defeated Nonito’s brother Glenn Donaire a year earlier and nearly killed Jose Victor Burgos with a 12-round battering. Burgos was sent to the hospital with a brain bleed but recovered and never fought again.

Donaire met Darchinyan in Connecticut and quickly displayed his ability to dart in and out with jabs and counters before receiving fire. And when Darchinyan charged in during the fifth round and he ran into a Donaire left hook and it was over.

It was the beginning of Donaire’s reign and recognition as one of prizefighting’s most exciting fighters. Many would include Donaire on their pound-for-pound top-10 lists.

“Three of my biggest fights were Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel and Naoya Inoue,” says Donaire who thinks a rematch with Inoue should be in order.

After 20 years as a prizefighter Donaire has returned to the forefront as the WBC bantamweight world titlist immediately after losing a razor close decision to Inoue in Japan. It proves that despite two decades fighting many of the best in the world, he maintains two vital and necessary elements to remain an elite prizefighter: skills and power.

“I’m still doing it and I’m healthy. I’m not going out there partying,” said Donaire. “I have an amazing wonderful wife. She taught me to be healthy.”

Donaire expects the championship journey to continue.

“I have a great talent, great reflexes and a great mind to get better,” said Donaire who lives and trains in Las Vegas. “That’s why I’m still excited after 20 years.”

Mayweather and Others on PPV

Floyd Mayweather returns to fight another exhibition with another non-boxer when he meets Logan Paul on Sunday June 6, at 5 p.m. PT from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Showtime pay-per-view will televise the entire boxing card.

Paul may not be a fighter but he has tremendous power in his punches. Mayweather, of course, is harder to hit than a gnat in a hurricane.

Former super welterweight titlist Jarrett Hurd (24-1) meets Luis Arias (18-2-1) in a middleweight scrap set for 10 rounds. Also, Badou Jack (23-3-3) fights undefeated Derwin Colina (15-0), a late replacement for Jean Pascal who failed a PED test.

Four Kings on Showtime

Not to belittle the documentary “The Four Kings” that will be debuting on Sunday, June 6 at 8 p.m. PT on Showtime, but most fans fail to realize that they did not fight each other all within a short period. It took nearly a decade for them to face each other.

It started with Sugar Ray Leonard meeting Robert Duran for the welterweight world championship in Montreal, Canada. They called it the “Brawl in Montreal” and it lived up to expectations. That took place in 1980. Then followed Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns and so forth until Leonard clashed with Marvin Hagler in 1987.

In between those seven years there was a lot of back and forth conversations, retirements and comebacks. But yes, they all fought each other and it was magical.

Thompson Boxing Promotions

On Sunday June 6, Michael Dutchover (14-1) meets Ivan Benitez (14-4-1) in an eight- round lightweight match at Omega Products International in Corona, California. Also, undefeated super welterweight Richard Brewart (9-0) and Donte Stubbs (6-1) tangle in the semi-main event. Both come from the Inland Empire area and are familiar with each other.

The Thompson Boxing Promotion card will be shown on its web site at 2:30 p.m. PT. Go to this link: www.Thompsonboxing.com

Fights to Watch

Sat. ESPN+ 11 a.m. Daniel Dubois (15-1) vs. Bogdan Dinu (20-2) WBA interim heavyweight title in Telford, England.

Sun. WWW.Thompsonboxing.com 2:30 p.m. PT Michael Dutchover (14-1) vs Ivan Benitez (14-4-1).

Sun. Showtime ppv 5:30 p.m. PT Jarrett Hurd (24-1) vs Luis Arias (18-2-1); Badou Jack (23-3-3) vs Derwin Colina (15-0); Floyd Mayweather vs Logan Paul exhibition.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Showtime

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, a so-called influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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