by Cliff Rold
Sometimes, talent isn’t enough. To be a star in boxing today in the U.S. means getting network dates and being known. It’s not the same as stardom in a broad sense. Fair or unfair, despite chilling knockouts of the likes of Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, three-division champion and current World Jr. Featherweight Champion Nonito Donaire is still fairly anonymous outside the circle of fight fans.
In 2006, Floyd Mayweather began his crossover from boxing star to sports star with a shellacking of the late, and newly minted Hall of Famer, Arturo Gatti. Knowing fight folks saw the fight as a mismatch. Gatti fans made it a pay-per-view success.
While there isn’t a commensurate draw to Gatti below Featherweight these days, Mexico’s Jorge Arce is the next best thing. One of the few genuine ticket sellers among lower weight classes over the last decade, Arce brings a name value to Donaire that could be critical in his expansion from the confines of hardcore admiration. Fighting in Houston, Arce will bring a rabid crowd of well-wishers and a blood and guts reputation.
Donaire will bring everything that matters once the bell rings.
It doesn’t look like a good fight on paper. For Donaire, it might be his most important.
Let’s go the report card.
Titles: Lineal World Jr. Featherweight (2012-Present, 1st Attempted Defense); WBO Super Bantamweight (2012-Present, 2 Defenses); IBF Super Bantamweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF Flyweight (2007-09, 3 Defenses); WBC/WBO Bantamweight (2011, 1 Defense)
Height: 5’5 ½
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 119.8 lbs.
Hails from: San Leandro, California
Record: 30-1, 19 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 9-0, 6 KO (11-0, 7 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 9 (Vic Darchinyan TKO5; Moruti Mthalane TKO6; Hernan Marquez TKO8; Wladimir Sidorenko KO4; Fernando Montiel TKO2; Omar Narvaez UD12; Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. UD12; Jeffrey Mathebula UD12; Toshiaki Nishioka TKO9)
Previous Titles: WBO Light Flyweight (1998-99, 1 Defense); Lineal/WBC Light Flyweight (2002-05, 7 Defenses); WBO Super Flyweight (2010); WBO Super Bantamweight (2011, 1 Defense); WBO Bantamweight (2011-12)
Height: 5’4 ½
Weight: 122 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 122.3 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 61-6-2, 46 KO, 3 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 14-4, 9 KO, 2 KOBY (22-4, 16 KO, 2 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 19 (Omar Nino KOBY1; Jose Victor Burgos L12; Juan Domingo Cordoba UD12; Michael Carbajal KOBY11; Yosam Choi TKO6; Melchor Cob Castro Tech. Dec. 6, KO5; Adonis Rivas TKO10, RTD6; Rosendo Alvarez KO6; Hawk Makepula TKO4; Cristian Mijares L12; Tomas Rojas TKO6; Medgoen Singsurat TKO1; Isidro Garcia TKO4; Vic Darchinyan KOBY 11; Simphiwe Nongqayi L12, TKO4; Martin Castillo KO1; Lorenzo Parra D10, KO5; Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. TKO12; Mauricio Martinez UD10)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Donaire A; Arce B
Pre-Fight: Power – Donaire A; Arce A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Donaire B+; Arce C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Donaire A; Arce A
How long has Jorge Arce been around? Long enough that one could make him boxing’s version of “Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon.” He connects a thread from Michael Carbajal to Nonito Donaire; he has wins over men who stopped Manny Pacquiao and drew with Ricardo Lopez (Singsurat and Alvarez respectively). Reviewing his career for this analysis, the depth of opposition in his career is pretty remarkable.
It can be deceiving. A lot of the best names on his record were fighters who were well past their sell-by date (see Alvarez again, Parra, Castillo). Arce has been incredibly well managed. He has also been a true professional. His longevity, even with sound management, is impressive given his style. He might not have always been the best man in his weight area, but he’s outlasted almost everyone who could make the claim around him.
He is also incredibly entertaining. He makes wars with just about anyone, hitting the boxing consciousness in almost toppling Carbajal and staying there with savage affairs like the first Hussein Hussein fight.
What he does so well is stay on top of men. He’s an excellent pressure fighter with heavy hands that wills himself forward. Where he’s run into trouble is when he gets matched with men who are prime and still have the legs to counter his aggression. Darchinyan, Mijares, and even Nongqayi on the best day of his life, all soundly outboxed Arce.
None of them provided the whole package Donaire does. While there can be some concern about hand injuries Donaire has been struggling with, Donaire is both naturally bigger and quicker. The speed gap is palpable. If he decides to use his feet and jab, Arce is going to have hell getting anything significant going. Given Arce’s problem with cuts over the years, Donaire’s jab could always open him up early and the matters get worse.
Donaire’s left hook can be a sneaky and deadly shot, a weapon Arce is going to find himself coming towards too often. The right hand is nasty too, and thrown straight and true. Donaire has shown a good chin over the years so a big punch miracle appears unlikely. For Arce to win, he’s going to have to be able to stay inside and wear Donaire down like he did to Vazquez Jr. last year.
The problem will be he isn’t fighting Vazquez. Donaire is far more fluid, more experienced, more of everything.
It’s hard to try and find anything Arce can do to win this fight. It’s hard to find anything Arce can do to avoid being target practice. Even if Donaire is less than 100%, he should still have enough ability to win going away. Arce has to be respected for all the fun he’s meant for fight fans, but that doesn’t mean a mismatch has to be respected as anything other than what it is. Stranger things have happened than an Arce upset, but not too much. Donaire is bigger, younger, fresher, faster, not as easy to hit, and hits harder.
This is going to be violent. This is going to be explosive.
This is going to be all Donaire, anytime from the first to the sixth rounds.
Report Card Picks 2012: 61-23
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]