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Avila Perspective, Chap 164: Legend of Nonito Donaire and More

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For two decades Nonito Donaire has journeyed through the ranks of flyweights to featherweights knocking off those perceived to be unbeatable and superior to his own talents.

Now 39, the prizefighter known as the “Filipino Flash” still has work to do.

“I’m going to go after all of the other bantamweight champions,” said Donaire.

Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs) defends the WBC bantamweight world title against fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20 KOs) at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles on Saturday Dec. 11. Showtime will televise.

Gaballo was about six years old when Donaire had his first pro bout at the nearby Hollywood Park Casino, spitting distance from Dignity Health Sports Park. That was in February 2001.

“I’m very happy and it gives me great pleasure to have this chance to become world champion. I’ve been working my whole life to accomplish this goal,” said Gaballo, 25.

Three years ago, when Donaire lost to Carl Frampton for the vacant featherweight world title, most people dismissed the multi-division champion as simply a gate-keeper. So, he ventured to Scotland and knocked off Ryan Burnett for the WBA bantamweight title. Next, he knocked off Stephon Young.

He was the perfect foil for Japan’s Naoya “Monster” Inoue. Or so promoters and fans thought.

Donaire nearly toppled the reign of Inoue and put a crack on the Japanese fighter’s aura of invincibility. Never before, or since that fight two years ago in Tokyo, has Inoue experienced a more competitive battle where judges were absolutely necessary to determine the winner. Even today, many feel Donaire won that fight.

Classy as ever Donaire accepted the defeat and moved on.

When he met France’s Nordine Oubaali for his WBC bantamweight title there was much derision from the European. He had brushed aside American contender Rau’shee Warren like tumbleweed and defended the title twice more. It seemed he was not convinced of Donaire’s abilities. There was a hint of rudeness.

Aesthetics are not Donaire’s calling card. He usually walks into an arena with a smile and recognizes the fans for their support. When the fight commences the angular figure of Donaire probes and evaluates his foe with subtle bobs and weaves and feints.

Oubaali probably studied film of Donaire and saw an older veteran hanging on with his experience. But when the French fighter decided to attack and left the slightest of openings there was a flash of a left hook and down he went. He got up, proceeded to fight again and must have forgot the previous mistake because he left the same opening and Donaire repeated the same lightning left hook. This time the mistake was fatal. Oubaali would not be able to continue.

“For me, after the Naoya Inoue fight, I saw that I still had a purpose in this sport. I came in strong against Nordine Oubaali in my last fight because I have that purpose. That purpose is to become undisputed champion of the world,” Donaire said.

Donaire has weaved his magic 47 times during his career. Time doesn’t allow infinite opportunities in prizefighting. One goal he has in mind is a return match with Japan’s great Monster Inoue. Their first encounter left many questions.

First, a young Filipino slugger stands in his way.

“I’m here enjoying this moment and every moment I have left in my career,” said Donaire.

Let’s all enjoy this journey.

Showtime will also be showing a replay of the Gervonta Davis vs Isaac Cruz lightweight world title fight that took place on Sunday Dec. 5, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Liverpool Fights

The United Kingdom loves boxing and its prodigies.

Conor Benn (19-0, 12 KOs) has been touted as the next coming of Ricky Hatton, Prince Naseem and Conor’s father Nigel Benn. Now he faces American Chris Algieri (25-3, 9 KOs) not a particularly dangerous fighter on Saturday Dec. 11, at M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England. DAZN will stream the fight card.

But it always comes down to the number’s game. Many of the British fighters are the best in the United Kingdom, or best in Europe, but being the best in the world is a clearly different matter.

Those dang Americans and Mexicans keep blocking the way.

Instead of putting top Americans the British promoter has placed a less dangerous fighter in Algieri to test the mettle of Benn.

Algieri may not have the superior strength or speed of others, but mentally you won’t find anyone smarter. And not because he has various college degrees, but he also has ring smarts. His losses have only come against world champions like Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence Jr.

Is Benn equal to those three?

“Algieri is a better version of all my last opponents, and he beats everything they do in my opinion in terms of boxing IQ, cuteness, knowing his way around the ring. People say he can’t punch but anyone with 8oz gloves can punch,” said Benn wisely.

The world will find out about Benn on Saturday.

Also, Ireland’s great Katie Taylor defends the undisputed lightweight world championship against Kazakhstan’s Firuza Sharipova (13-0). If Taylor wins, that sets up a possible showdown with Brooklyn’s Amanda Serrano who fights next week.

If both Taylor and Serrano win their bouts they will set up perhaps the biggest fight in female boxing history early next year.

“There’s so many big fights out there for me, the bigger names that could possibly happen next year, so I’ve got to get through Saturday night first and focus on the bigger fights ahead,” Taylor said.

Lomachenko in NYC

With the lightweight division stacked with talent its easy to forget about Vasyl Lomachenko.

Don’t be hasty.

Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) meets Richard Commey (30-3, 27 KOs) on Saturday, Dec. 11, at Madison Square Garden Hulu Theater in New York City. This battle between former world titlists on the Top Rank card will be shown on ESPN.

Over the length of his boxing career Lomachenko has built a following in awe of his technical prowess. But as often the case with highly technical amateur fighters, once they become professionals that technique can get in the way.

Pro fighting is broken down into one simple form: knock out the opponent or beat the other guy up.

When Lomachenko fought Teofimo Lopez a year ago he got tangled in his own technique before tearing off the spider webs and fighting. It was too late.

Commey can fight and he can hit. Lomachenko is the smaller fighter but has always been very smart in the ring. This fight will foretell their respective futures.

Fights to Watch

Sat. AXS.TV 8 a.m. Sunny Edwards (16-0) vs Jayson Mama (16-0); Donnie Nietes (43-1-5) vs Norbelto Jimenez (30-9-5).

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Conor Benn (19-0) vs Chris Algieri (25-3); Katie Taylor (19-0) vs Firuza Sharipova (14-1)
.
Sat. ESPN 6 p.m. Vasyl Lomachenko (15-2) vs Richard Commey (30-3).

Sat. Showtime 7 p.m. Nonito Donaire (41-6) vs Reymart Gaballo (24-0); replay of Gervonta Davis vs Isaac Cruz.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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Former World Bantamweight Champion Richie Sandoval Passes Away at Age 63

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Richie Sandoval, who won the WBA and lineal bantamweight title in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s and then, not quite two years later, suffered near-fatal injuries in a title defense, has passed away at the age of 63.

News circulated fast in the Las Vegas boxing community on Monday, July 22, the grapevine actuated by a tweet from Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler: “Boxing and the Top Rank family lost one of our own last night in the passing of former WBA bantamweight champion Richie Sandoval. It hurts personally and professionally to know that Richie is gone at age 63. RIP campeon.”

Details are vague but the cause of death was apparently a sudden heart attack that Sandoval experienced while visiting the Southern California home of his son of the same name.

Richie Sandoval put the LA County community of Pomona, California, on the boxing map before Shane Mosley came along and gave the town a more frequently-cited mention in the sports section of the papers. He came from a fighting family. An older brother, Albert “Superfly” Sandoval, became a big draw at LA’s fabled Olympic Auditorium while building a 35-2-1 record that included a failed bid to capture Lupe Pintor’s world bantamweight title.

Richie was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic boxing team that was stranded when U.S. President Jimmy Carter (and many other world leaders) boycotted the event as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

As a pro, Sandoval’s signature win was a 15th-round stoppage of Jeff Chandler. They fought on April 7, 1984 in Atlantic City. Chandler was making the tenth defense of his world bantamweight title.

Despite being a heavy underdog, Sandoval dominated the fight, winning almost every round until the referee stepped in and waived it off. Chandler, who was 33-1-2 heading in and had avenged his lone defeat, never fought again.

Sandoval made two successful defenses before risking his title against Gabby Canizales on the undercard of Hagler-Mugabi in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace. In round seven, Sandoval, who had a hellish time making the weight, was knocked down three times and suffered a seizure as he collapsed from the third knockdown. Stretchered out of the ring, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors reduced the swelling in his brain and beat the odds to save his life. This would be Richie’s lone defeat. He finished his pro career with a record of 29-1 (17 KOs).

Bob Arum cushioned some of the pain by giving Richie a $25,000 bonus and offering him a lifetime job at Top Rank which Richie accepted. And let the record show that Arum was good to his word.

A more elaborate portrait of Richie Sandoval was published in these pages in 2017. You can check it out HERE. May he rest in peace.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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