by Cliff Rold
Just a few years ago, this would have been a fascinating unification fight at 112 lbs. Nonito Donaire would have been favored, but the fight would have been fairly anticipated among hardcore followers. Somehow, the addition of pounds, and the vision of destruction Donaire has provided in his last two outings, seemingly renders this clash a foregone conclusion.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBC/WBO Bantamweight (2011-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF Flyweight (2007-09, 3 Defenses)
Weight: 116.25 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 116.1 lbs.
Hails from: San Leandro, California (Born in the Philippines)
Record: 26-1, 18 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 5 KO (7-0, 6 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 5 (Vic Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Wladimir Sidorenko, Fernando Montiel)
Title: WBO Jr. Bantamweight (2010-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Flyweight (2002-10, 16 Defenses)
Weight: 117 lbs.
Average Weight – Five Most Recent (Recorded) Fights: 114.9 lbs.
Hails from: Cordoba, Argentina
Record: 35-0-2, 19 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Jr. Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 20-0-1, 8 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Adonis Rivas, Luis Lazarte, Brahim Asloum, Carlos Tamara)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Donaire A; Narvaez B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Donaire A; Narvaez B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Donaire B+; Narvaez A
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Donaire A; Narvaez A
Donaire has a lot of physical advantages in this fight. He’s taller, faster, and when he catches men flush, they go. Add in that Narvaez is already past the midway mark of his 30’s, and the odds stack higher against him. Being a southpaw is an edge against certain opponents, but Donaire is a southpaw as well and has never really been bothered by fellow lefties.
So where is Narvaez’s hope for victory?
It’s in his defense.
For Donaire’s advantages to be maximized, his offense will have to work for him. Narvaez can be a rhythm disrupting pain in the ass to lay a glove on. He is, even for the lighter classes, a bit shorter than the norm at 112 and 115 and yet feels comfortable on the outside. Narvaez is prone to patiently walking around the ring, creating the illusion of lax defense. He suckers opponents into him, hands up in time to block shots or to slip those he doesn’t. His head movement and reflexes are impeccable. Then he’s off circling, or plain walking, away again.
It gets under the skin of foes, wearing at them mentally even before the offense starts coming. Narvaez has a quick, off tempo right jab, an effective right hook as lead and counter, and an accurate overhand left. Narvaez, who is more willing to come inside as fights progress, will also throw eye-catching flurries to the belly, but he’s smart enough to get out and avoid unnecessary exchanges most of the time.
Donaire has the potency and talent to blitz almost anyone at his weight. Narvaez looks like a slow starter and could be susceptible to an early assault. But is he really starting slow? Or is he starting with a plan in place? And, if stories of Donaire burning weight quickly for this fight are true, could stamina be a factor late?
Will it matter if Donaire connects He’s had a solid beard over the years, but he’s never been in with a talent the likes of Donaire. Darchinyan, Sidorenko, and Montiel all had proven chins too. If Narvaez can take the heat, we’ve got a fight.
Or, if not a fight, at least a fine chess match. Narvaez has waited a long time to take major fight. At Friday’s weigh-in, his body looked ready. Inside the ring, his mind has always been up to the task. The problem here is that the talent gap just appears too wide and Donaire is more suited to the higher class. It won’t mean an easy night. Donaire probably won’t look as good as he has in his last two fights, but he’ll do just enough to win a decision where many rounds are a nightmare to score, particularly late. The pick is Donaire by surprisingly competitive decision.
Report Card Picks 2011: 35-12 (Pending the Dawson-Hopkins Appeal)
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]