By Cliff Rold
It’s a shame they never crossed paths.
When the history of the Flyweight division in the 2000’s is written, two names will top the list. Nonito Donaire appeared the most talented to pass through the 112 lb. domain. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was, and remains, the division’s pillar of championship consistency and excellence.
The WBC/WBO bantamweight titlist Donaire (27-1, 18 KO) is long gone from 112, likely soon to debut at 122 lbs. and a shot at a third divisional crown (sorry, interim belts at 115 don’t count). Wonjongkam (83-3-1, 45 KO) probably won’t be going anywhere and, if the boxing gods are fair, the rest of the world will get a look at this masterful performer before its too late.
Donaire and Wonjongkam were the highlights of the boxing week, doing what they almost always do: win going away.
Let’s got to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Donaire A; Narvaez B+; Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Donaire A; Narvaez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Donaire B+; Narvaez A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Donaire A; Narvaez A/Post: B+; C+
Pre-Fight: Speed – Wonjongkam B; Sosa B-/Post: B+; B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Wonjongkam B; Sosa B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Wonjongkam B+; Sosa C+/Post: A-; C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Wonjongkam A; Sosa A/Post: Same
Beginning with the (relatively) larger men, Donaire ran into something top fighters do on occasion, something he ran into previously with Rafael Concepcion. Sometimes, winning is the best that will be said of a given night. Style points won’t be coming. In the pre-fight report card, Narvaez’s excellence on defense was cited as where his hopes for victory could be found.
For the first seven rounds or so, Narvaez was at least reasonably in the fight because of his defense and the ability to land clean shots. Donaire was struggling, Narvaez picking off shots, slipping others, and rarely giving Donaire more than the right to the body. A switch-hitting southpaw, Donaire was orthodox most of the night versus Narvaez, in form and approach.
Donaire may have been winning, but it wasn’t easy and there were rounds where Narvaez had a case. Those died down the stretch. Narvaez didn’t fight like he thought he could win and so stopped fighting almost altogether.
It was a rational decision. Donaire had rocked him the couple times he could catch the slick Argentine. Rationality is not always the path to glory. A WBO titlist one class below, Narvaez heads back down to 115 lbs. with no buzz and no interest generated for fights in his division. Donaire is almost certain to rise to 122 lbs., a division inferior to the bantamweight class he is in now with one exception: WBC titlist Toshiaki Nishioka.
Donaire-Nishioka would be a gem and the victor is not clear on paper. That’s what all good fights should be able to say. Contrast that with the other idea floating around: Donaire-Jorge Arce in the same class.
Is there a fight where the verdict could be more foregone?
Think about Arce versus anyone of elite talent in the last five years, factor in Donaire being better than all of those foes, and then imagine the level of unnecessary slaughter. Donaire’s pending future will be worthy of more discussion sooner than later.
Moving down a couple classes, Wonjongkam made what looked like an excellent match into a clinic of personal excellence at times. The Thai champion showed off, at 34, speed and reflexes of still highest levels. Sosa struggled to get to the body, finding the tips of Wonjongkam’s elbows in his way, and found more glove than flesh when aiming for the head, if Sosa didn’t find air. Wonjongkam’s head movement was effective.
The southpaw champion was a marksman at times with his counter right hook and, even when he made the mistake of reaching with the left cross, kept himself just out of range of a felling blow. Sosa, a seasoned and serious former titlist at 108 lbs., looked like a threat coming in. Sosa did well for himself but fell behind and never really got close. He is a good fighter. Wonjongkam increasingly provides evidence he may be a great one.
22-1-1 in title fights, Wonjongkam has done everything except finish making the division entirely his. It’s long past time someone does the right thing and get him a unification match. He may be the lineal champion, but with so many belts floating away, the pie cutting of competition leaves statistics suspect.
Wonjongkam deserves the larger stage facing another titleholder would provide. If lineal Jr. Flyweight Champion, now up a class, Giovanni Segura can win a belt, he would be the optimal choice.
That would also be true if the powers that be just skipped to Wonjongkam-Segura, but pot sweetening never hurts. It might only be a hardcore fan’s delight of a match, but it’s enough of a delight to make it worth seeing. If not a Segura fight, a showdown with the winner of this week’s coming bloodbath, Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion II, would also be a great choice.
Time is running out. There is still enough in the hourglass, and evidently more than enough in this fine champion, to merit the opportunity for another exclamation point on a likely Hall of Fame career.
Anyone opposed to seeing either pairing in 2012?
Report Card Picks 2011: 36-12
Lightweight: Richard Abril, off his three knockdown upset of Miguel Acosta, comes in strong. Acosta stays, just barely and costs Kevin Mitchell his spot for now. Mitchell remains on the fringe.
The weekend results and more are reflected a page 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]