One bout missing in bantam golden age
October, 20, 2011
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
Chris Farina/Top RankIt's too bad we won't get to see Nonito Donaire in a for-all-the-marbles bantamweight fight.Your random thoughts ...
• We are in a golden age of bantamweights, but it's coming to a close and, unfortunately, it likely will end without the top two fighters in the 118-pound division facing each other.
Nonito Donaire, No. 1 based on his monster second-round knockout of unified titlist Fernando Montiel in February, returns to fight Omar Narvaez, the undefeated and excellent (but much smaller) junior bantamweight titleholder, in an HBO main event Saturday night (10:30 ET/PT) at New York's Madison Square Garden Theater.
If boxing made any sense, the Donaire-Narvaez winner -- likely to be Donaire -- would next face the winner of the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko rematch for all the marbles (in what would undoubtedly be an exciting fight).
In August, Mares won a controversial majority decision to claim a belt from Agbeko in the final of Showtime's four-man tournament. Because of the controversy surrounding Mares' repeated low blows and the inaction of referee Russell Mora, who wouldn't penalize Mares, the fighters will meet again Dec. 3 in a mandated rematch at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Showtime.
Mares-Agbeko II will be another excellent fight, and the winner will be on virtually the same schedule as Donaire, making their pairing the logical next move. But even if you set aside the fact that Mares and Agbeko fight on Showtime and Donaire is now on HBO (after many fights on Showtime), there is still an issue: Donaire plans to move up to junior featherweight after Saturday's fight.
That means we won't have a chance to see him face the Mares-Agbeko II winner, at least not in the weight class where it matters.
• For weeks, I have heard the same question over and over: Why is it taking so long for the pay-per-view numbers for the Sept. 17 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz fight to be released? Speculation is running rampant that the fight must have tanked and that Mayweather, Golden Boy and HBO are hiding the numbers to avoid embarrassing the fighter. That is simply not true. All along, those directly involved in the fight have told me repeatedly that the fight did very well -- in excess of 1 million buys and most likely around 1.2 million or so, which puts it right up there among the top few non-heavyweight PPVs of all time. You'd think that would be something they would want to brag about. And it is. However, HBO can't disclose numbers without consent from the promoter, Golden Boy. And Golden Boy won't disclose the numbers without the approval of Mayweather. From what I understand -- and this is something I thought about not long after the numbers began to take much longer than usual -- the reason for the delay is because Mayweather is finalizing a settlement with the IRS over his tax bill and wants Golden Boy to hold off. Once the tax deal is complete, only then will we hear numbers that will give Mayweather another massive (and taxable) windfall.
• How can you not love Antonio DeMarco, who captured a vacant lightweight belt with a huge late-fight rally to stop the much more gifted Jorge Linares in the 11th round on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson undercard? DeMarco is probably one of the easiest guys in boxing to root for. He went from the abject poverty that forced him to eat out of garbage cans to winning a world title. And in the most glorious moment of his career -- when Michael Buffer was announcing him as a new champion -- DeMarco wasn't even paying attention. Instead of reveling in his moment, he was kneeling down to comfort the dejected and badly bleeding Linares on his stool.
• I don't want to go all conspiracy theory here, but how about this one that was suggested to me by more than one person with good knowledge of the boxing industry: Do you think maybe, just maybe, the reason that then-Showtime boxing boss Ken Hershman declined the network's option on Brandon Rios a few weeks ago was because he was in the final stages of negotiating his contract to become president of HBO Sports and he wanted Rios, one of the most exciting fighters in the world, on his new network?
• I rarely give the sanctioning organizations credit for anything (because they don't deserve it), but I will give the IBF props for doing the right thing twice in a row by ordering rematches between Mares and Agbeko, and Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Steve Cunningham. The IBF got it right both times.
• While Hopkins, Dawson and Jean Pascal go round and round, the most dangerous light heavyweight for all of them may very well be Ismayl Sillakh.
• I don't love the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Kermit Cintron fight, but at least the Nov. 26 HBO bout isn't a mismatch. Cintron has a legitimate chance to win. One boxing insider put it to me like this: If Alvarez struggled so much with Alfonso Gomez last month, what do you think Cintron will do to him?
• As the build-up to Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III kicks into gear with the debut of HBO's "24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez" on Saturday night (10 ET/PT), we can only hope for one thing: to see Marquez drink his own urine and suck down raw quail eggs once again.
• When I was at the recent press conference announcing the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson fight on Dec. 10 in Washington, D.C., I ran into former flyweight and junior bantamweight champion Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, a pound-for-pound list stalwart during his heyday. It was good to see the D.C. native, who said he's enjoying retirement. He's on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year, and I hope he gets his well-deserved Hall call. I certainly voted for him. While we were chatting with some other boxing folks, the subject of just how good Johnson was when he was flyweight champion came up, as well as how he could never get a fight with the most notable names of his era in and around his weight class: Michael Carbajal, Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero and Ricardo Lopez. How good was Johnson? In my opinion, he would have dominated the flyweight version of Pacquiao. Easily. That's no knock on Pacquiao, who wasn't a fully developed fighter back then. It's more of a compliment to Johnson. He was that good.
• Had a chance to talk to Robert Guerrero in Los Angeles last week when we were at Hopkins-Dawson. I was glad to hear Guerrero say his surgically repaired shoulder was pain-free and that rehab was going so well that he was a little ahead of schedule.
• With its proliferation of titles, the wretched WBA has become such a bad joke that by 2015 every man, woman and child should be able to possess a belt if they want one -- for a small sanctioning fee, of course. With the addition this week of a WBA interim title at junior middleweight (the third world title it recognizes in that division), claimed by the vastly overrated Anthony Mundine, the WBA now boasts 34 trinketholders. Keep in mind, of course, that there are 17 weight classes in boxing (way too many). So now the WBA has exactly double the number of titleholders as there are divisions. In the WBA, only four weight classes have a single titleholder (cruiserweight, light heavyweight, junior flyweight and strawweight). Miserably, in four weight classes (super middleweight, middleweight, junior middleweight and bantamweight), president for life Gilberto Mendoza Sr. recognizes three titleholders. And in a whopping nine divisions, there are two guys running around with belts. Super champions, regular champions and interim champions, oh my! What a farce. Hey, at least there are no WBA silver champions, right?
• So David "The Flopper" Haye announced his retirement. I just hope his toe is OK.
• When we last saw Roy Jones Jr. in the ring, in May, he was unconscious (again) after absorbing a massive punch from Denis Lebedev. Naturally, Jones will return Dec. 10 against Max Alexander. One question: Why?
• When things got wild on Saturday night, with the way the Hopkins-Dawson fight ended followed by the confusing aftermath, is just when HBO's all-star broadcast team was at its finest. Talk about stepping up their games in a big moment. Max Kellerman did a tremendous job interviewing all the significant players -- except referee Pat Russell, whom the California commission would not allow to talk to the media. Jim Lampley was a master (as usual) at directing the traffic and putting things into perspective, while Emanuel Steward and Harold Lederman (who even got a little face time) explained everything in nuanced detail. The HBO team always does a top-notch job, but on Saturday they were at their very best when the moment demanded it.
• I'm looking forward to the Nov. 5 Alfredo Angulo-James Kirkland HBO fight. Everyone involved could probably save a few bucks by not even assigning judges. What's the point?
• If Wladimir Klitschko really, really wants to press the action, he can probably get rid of Jean-Marc Mormeck in the first round of their mismatch.
• Say a prayer for all-time great cutman and all-around nice guy Joe Souza, 77, who is suffering from liver cancer and doing increasingly poorly. And here's hoping for a full recovery for all-time great boxing writer Michael Katz, a friend and mentor, who is recovering from brain surgery.
• Happy birthday to the Golden Boy Promotions' "Golden Girl" Nicole "NTW" Becerra.