Boxing Review: Chavez Jr., Nonito Donaire win their fights at Alamodome
Ringside Seat by Gayle Falkenthal
SAN DIEGO, Feb 5, 2012 – When fans start doing the wave during a boxing match, it’s not a good sign.
Midway through the fight between Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. and Marco Antonio Rubio, the crowd at the Alamodome in San Antonio fired up the wave. Not that you could blame them. The lack of excitement in the fight at that point forced them to find something else to entertain them.
Photo: Naoki Fukuda
Meanwhile, fans on Twitter were doing the online equivalent of yawning.
Chavez Jr. gets advice from his famous father, consider Mexico's all-time greatest boxer. Photo: N. Fukuda/Top Rank
It is both a blessing and a curse to be born with a famous name and the legacy that goes with it. You reap the benefits of experience and connections; doors open for you more easily. But then there are the doubters who forever question your ability and reputation, seeing your achievements handed to you on a silver platter without putting in the work to earn them.
This is the dilemma facing Chavez Jr., son of one of Mexico’s most legendary boxers and athletes in any sport. In his WBC middleweight bout tonight with fellow Mexican fighter Rubio, Chavez Jr.’s unbeaten record of 44-0-1, with 31 knockouts was put on the line.
Chavez the son has never captured the public’s affection the way his father did. Chavez Senior was a six-time world champion in three divisions with a record of 107-9. This is a nearly impossible act to follow and perhaps it’s too much to ask.
Chavez faced scrutiny and critics again tonight as he faced the veteran Rubio. The 31-year old Rubio (53-5-1, 46 knockouts) is a steady, diligent fighter who isn’t easily intimidated. But Chavez Jr. barely made the weight prior to Saturday night’s fight. By some miracle, he cleared 160 pounds. By the opening bell, he weighted 180 pounds. Rubio is a natural middleweight fighting at 161. When your opponent outweighs you by 20 pounds, how can this be considered an even contest?
Even still, Rubio stood in well against Chavez, though it was somewhat like seeing an accident between a huge Dodge truck running over a Toyota Corolla. Chavez used the size advantage to take it to Rubio. However, the strain of making the weight and the sudden addition of 20 more pounds clearly slowed Chavez down, which is why we started seeing the wave.
Rubio and Chavez finally stepped it up and went toe to toe in the final two rounds. No more wave. Those rounds gave the crowd its money’s worth as the fighters traded some impressive shots. Chavez has inherited his father’s chin, which helped him survive the final barrage and win in a unanimous decision.
Photo: C. Farina/Top Rank
Chavez threw far fewer punches in the fight but had a higher connect percentage in total punches of 42 percent to 21 percent for Rubio; and a 49 percent to 24 percent advantage in power shots.
After the fight, Chavez admitted after rounds seven and eight he was starting to feel it and pay the price for making the weight. “I don’t want to battle again with the weight the way I did… I just have to be more careful with the weight and I can’t be overconfident with that.”
Chavez told HBO’s Larry Merchant he’d like to face Sergio Martinez, Antonio Margarito, or Miguel Cotto. Martinez and Cotto would clean Chavez’s clock. Chavez said, “If I fight like I did today, he (Martinez) would win.” Don’t be surprised if Margarito is put up for one last payday against Chavez, even though Margarito should be retired.
Chavez is only 25 and he is still learning from trainer Freddie Roach. The potential is there, but fight fans are going to run out of patience, and they can’t amuse themselves with the wave for much longer.
Nonito Donaire notched another victory against Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., but it wasn't a blockbuster as expected.
Nonito Donaire notched another victory against Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., but it wasn't a blockbuster as expected. Photo: C. Farina/Top Rank
It’s a shame and a bit of a mystery why Nonito “the Filipino Flash” Donaire isn’t a more popular boxer in the United States. He’s a charismatic personality with a winning smile, showy in the ring with blockbuster punching power and among the best pound for pound boxers fighting today.
Yet, Donaire’s fight with former junior featherweight champion Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. was only the “co-main event,” presented prior to the Chavez – Rubio bout. Boxers in the smaller weight classes often don’t get their due.
But much like the Chavez bout, the Donaire fight didn’t quite live up to the expectations of insiders. Donaire (27-1, 18 knockouts) took control of his contest early, systematically punishing Vazquez Jr. showing speed and focus. (21-1-1, 18 knockouts). But Vasquez, son of another well-liked fighter, stood in well and patiently kept moving forward. He simply could not keep up with the creative, swift and hard punching Donaire.
Nonito Donaire drops Wilfredo Vasquez, and goes on to win their bout.
Nonito Donaire drops Wilfredo Vasquez, and goes on to win their bout. Photo: N. Fukuda
Vasquez Jr. went down thanks to a left hook at the end of the ninth round. Vaquez told his corner between rounds Donaire just caught him off balance, but no matter how it happened, it hurt Vasquez and despite having turned the fight into a fairly even contest at that point, there was no coming back from that blow.
The two went toe to toe in the middle of Round 10 but neither could close the deal at that point, and both made it through the entire fight despite some exciting exchanges in the final two rounds.
Donaire won in a head-scratching split decision, with judges Levi Martinez and Don Trella scoring it 117-110 for Donaire, and Dr. Ruben Garcia scoring it 115-112 for Vasquez. What fight was Garcia watching?
Donaire displayed a bloody left hand after the fight. He said the damage took place somewhere between rounds two and four. He didn’t think it was broken, but said “There’s something wrong with it, that’s for sure.” There were conflicting reports as to the level of damage, but it seems to be minor.
Despite the win, Donaire said he wasn’t happy with his performance. “We’ll go back to the drawing board, work hard, and be thankful for everything.” This is the attitude of a champion.
Donaire now has a wide range of options including fights with Jorge Arce or Toshiaki Nishioka at 122 pounds; or going up to 126 pounds to face Yuriorkis Gamboa or Juan Manuel Lopez. Fans would love to see Donaire seriously consider a bout against Gamboa (and I’m one of them), but he might be smarter to take on Nishioka in the smaller weight class for more of a sure thing before ramping back up in weight.