By Jake Donovan
All it took was for a two-word phrase on Twitter – one of which is spelled incorrectly – to turn a pair of normally humble fighters into instant bitter rivals.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Marco Antonio Rubio square off in the main event, but it’s the televised undercard that has garnered most of the attention this week, largely in part to an ongoing - dragged out - social network feud between their wives.
Nonito Donaire and Wilfredo Vazquez were literally at each other’s throats during Thursday’s press conference to promote this Saturday’s card in San Antonio. The pair square off for a vacant 122 lb. belt in the co-feature battle of what marks HBO’s first boxing telecast of the 2012 season.
Both fighters had nothing but kind words for one another leading up to Fight Week, with the worst thing said about the other was the prediction of a knockout coming from each side.
Then came the aforementioned Twitter exchange between camps; neither side has since figured out how to back down.
Most of the drama has involved Jackie Vazquez – the e-author of the two-word response to a Donaire tweet referencing a media workout – and Rachel Donaire, who has developed a knack for becoming the center of attention in recent times, regardless of who is at fault.
The nonsense unfolding online served as idle gossip for those who enjoy stalking the lives of others while safely tucked away behind their respective keyboards. But it’s clear that the fighters themselves – who’ve had little to say to each other prior to Thursday – are taking the matter to hear, unable to get through an obligatory face-off without laying hands on each other at the end of the presser.
The two camps managed to avoid each other during Wednesday’s media workout, despite being scheduled back-to-back. Tension was evident on Thursday, but Donaire did his best to diffuse the situation and instead remind everyone of the mutual respect between the two, or at least the respect that existed.
“What I’ve heard so far, it’s music to my ears,” Donaire said of the accolades he’s received and the heartfelt intro offered by promoter Bob Arum. “Where’s there challenge, I smile. All my life I’ve had challenges, and I’ve always come out on top. What they have said, they’ve really fired me up. This is what boxing is all about - challenges from both sides.
“Boxing is about heart. Filipino, Puerto Rican, Mexican – it’s all about heart. We take it, with all of the respect, that’s what it’s all about. It’s the beauty of boxing. This is going to be an amazing fight. Both sides have respect for each other. Both sides will do everything they can. They’ll bring their heart, to bring their pride. It’s going to be fun.”
The afternoon was fun for the most part, until the two fighters were within sniffing distance of one another. A simple pose-down for the cameras erupted into an on-stage skirmish, both fighters sticking their hands in each other’s face after words were exchanged.
Vazquez Jr, who has had next to nothing to say for the most part (his very words at the podium stating that he didn’t want to talk a lot), saw the moment as an opportunity to voice his displeasure over what has taken place. From there, the verbal jabbing began, leading to each knocking off the other’s sported ball caps before being separated by event handlers.
Prior to that moment, the second-generation former titlist appeared genuinely grateful at the chance to become a two-time champ.
“I’m just happy to be here,” stated Vazquez Jr., who seeks to reclaim the belt he lost in a heartbreaking 12th round stoppage loss to Jorge Arce last May. “I’m appreciative of the support from my father (and trainer) Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. and co-promoter Bob Arum. I’m here to regain my championship on Saturday evening.”
Though he didn’t specify it during the press conference, Donaire is here to add another championship to his legacy. The Fil-Am star – regarded as a Top 5 pound-for-pound entrant by most boxing experts – has won major titles at flyweight and bantamweight and is viewed as the centerpiece for an unofficial 122 lb. tournament of sorts, though dependent on how well he performs on Saturday.
Both fighters know what’s at stake on Saturday evening, and what it takes to achieve that goal.
Hopefully by then, everyone else will have figured out the role they were meant to play, leaving boxing fans to enjoy a good fight inside the ring rather than the ongoing soap opera drama beyond the ropes.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]