By Cliff Rold
HBO’s Saturday offering looked on paper to be a pair of potentially exciting fights bound to result in the favorites standing in victory. Fans got more than that in both affairs as both WBC Middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and new WBO Jr. Featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire got a healthy twelve rounds of grueling work.
Across the pond, Yoan Pablo Hernandez once again got past Steve Cunningham in a reportedly thrilling affair. For those who yearn for big men who deliver big fights, who whine of a lack of war at Heavyweight, Cruiserweight remains boxing’s hidden gem.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Chavez B; Rubio B-/Post: B; C+
Pre-Fight: Power – Chavez B; Rubio B+/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Chavez B-; Rubio B-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Chavez B; Rubio B/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Speed – Donaire A; Vazquez B/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Donaire A; Vazquez B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Donaire A; Vazquez B-/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Donaire A; Vazquez B/Post: A; B+
Regular readers will note the lack of post-fight grades for Hernandez-Cunningham. For now, a lack of thought is also present, as explained below in the ratings update summary.
For now, attention turns first to the 122 lb. clash between Donaire and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Apologies are owed to the latter. Sans a depth of amateur background, Vazquez made himself a serviceable contender and won a belt before falling to the aged Jorge Arce. That result saw him written off here.
While the result against Donaire was probably a 9-3 type affair in rounds, Vazquez did himself proud. He took some thunderous shots early, got off the floor late, and gave Donaire his toughest fight in recent memory. He is to be commended for his grit, determination, and the hard work that has built a solid fundamental base. Vazquez is a real pro and, with youth, still a force at Jr. Featherweight.
Donaire was a mixed bag for the night. He battled through what looked like a hard night on his hands. His post-fight presentation of blood stained wraps spoke to it. It doesn’t explain a lack of focus or his inability to get away from the jab all night. He showed good defense in spots, but was hit a lot. He is so blessed with speed and power, one wonders if he’s built the full compliment needed to deal with a complete fighter who can answer those traits. For the second fight in a row, Donaire won but failed to impress.
He is an exceptional talent but coronation as one of the next in line after Mayweather and Pacquiao fade as the sports overall top talents may have been hasty. He skipped out of the deep and talented Bantamweight class before making clear that he had truly mastered the field. At 122, a fight with WBC titlist Toshiaki Nishioka now looks to be an even closer affair than originally assumed.
It’s for the better, leaving him new things to prove and room for boxing fans to speculate about real, and tough, contests.
At Middleweight, the vibe some felt towards an upset in favor of Marco Antonio Rubio proved unfounded. Rubio was outmuscled inside all night by a small Cruiserweight allowed entry into a weight class at least one if not two smaller than he is by way of the absurd day-before weigh in rules.
It is not meant to disparage young Chavez. He fought hard, took plenty of shots, and gave the fans a battle. Even late, with his corner knowing the fight was sealed, he pressed on and looked for a knockout. Chavez is limited, and his painful lack of speed is going to catch up to him against elite talent he can’t avoid forever.
Until then, he’s going to make damn good fights and work his butt off in the ring. Improved conditioning and nights like Rubio might even make him a surprise one day against someone presumed likely to beat him now. If not, he’ll sell tickets and bring fans to the game. That’s good enough.
What is not good enough is the disregard for the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions by the WBC. There has been some chatter about the lack of a post-fight urine test but the scoring issue stood out more to these eyes. Open scoring isn’t allowed in the U.S. Their officials could be seen at ringside informing the corners anyways. While it may have been allowed in Texas, it should not have been. That it happened for the son of the WBC’s most favored fighter ever, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., smacks of the sort of stink of years past.
What’s next? Ringside scorers giving Jr. thumbs up before the fight? Marginal cut stoppages sending fights to awkward cards? Chavez won fair and square on Saturday. The potential for the look of favoritism by the WBC, already shown in their foot dragging in ordering, without further pause, a showdown between Chavez and lineal Middleweight king Sergio Martinez, bears monitoring.
Report Card Picks 2012: 3-1
Cruiserweight: Hernandez moves up to the champion’s slot while Cunningham remains number one after a reportedly narrow loss. As yet, this scribe has not seen the full fight, but what was seen indicates a contest as close as reported. Cunningham’s chin does him harm again
Middleweight: Chavez moves up two slots and Rubio remains in the top ten. Chavez moves past N’Jikam after N’Jikam seemingly refused a face-off with Gennady Golovkin.
Jr. Featherweight: Donaire moves to third off his win over Vazquez, but his healthy struggles on Saturday, injured mitt or not, leave him just behind Nishioka and Rigondeaux. Vazquez, who gave strong effort, moves up a slot.
The full ratings update is a click away.
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]