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Azad Championship Report - More Random Thoughts from Ringside

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

This past weekend, I was ringside at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California where a “Boxing After Dark” doubleheader was staged that saw Nonito Donaire defeat Jeffrey Mathebula (to consolidate the WBO and IBF junior featherweight titles) and Kelly Pavlik outpoint Will Rosinsky over 10 rounds in the HBO opener. It was just a small part of what was a busy day of boxing across the globe. Some random thoughts on what took place...
-  Nonito Donaire is gifted in many ways; he can do certain things no other fighters can do. However, at times, the fact that he doesn’t do most of the fundamentally sound things other boxers have to causes his fights to have many dead spots between his spectacular moments. You just wish that for every bolt of lightning Donaire throws in his left hook, in between, he’d work off a sound jab and perhaps stay inside longer than he does and work the body. Sometimes, he’s more sizzle than steak and there’s a bit of a hit-or-miss quality to his performances. Make no doubt about it; he’s talented but a tad incomplete as a fighter. His nickname, the “Filipino Flash,” is apt in that he has the ability to strike quickly with explosion and power but fights in spurts. In other words, Donaire flashes.

Though dominating his last three fights, there were long stretches and dead spots met with boos. Many pundits who believe in pound-for-pound lists have Donaire in their top three or four. OK, with that said, don’t you expect just a bit more from someone that highly regarded?
-  It’s time for Donaire to be matched with more threatening foes. Let’s be honest; without the IBF belt, Top Rank doesn’t even consider Mathebula and HBO doesn’t green-light him (no matter what say about not recognizing the belts). Regardless, Donaire needs an opponent who will bring out his best and make him fight for all 36 minutes. “He needs Jorge Arce,” a high-ranking member of Top Rank said to me on Saturday night. No arguments there. Commercially, it would be a very successful venture (let’s be honest; selling Donaire in Southern California against an unknown South African was going to be tough and Brandon Rios pulling out didn’t help matters) and an entertaining scrap for as long as it lasts. But “Travieso” is certainly well into the back nine of his career and would be a big underdog.
It says here that the real fight to make is a unification bout with Abner Mares, who holds the WBC title. Mares is in the prime of his career. He’s undefeated (which is sooo important to some), has a pleasing all-around style and is Mexican-American. You put that fight on at the Home Depot Center and you would have a near sell-out (this facility holds around 7,500) and you’d have an electric atmosphere that would rival the nights when Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez engaged in their rubber match and when Paul Williams battled Antonio Margarito in this building.
But recently, the only thing that’s really benefited from Donaire’s last three outings is his bank account. Everyone else is getting a bit bored.
-  Speaking of Donaire-Mares, yeah, I know; there is the “Cold War” waged by Top Rank and Golden Boy that basically makes these conversations a non-starter. The solution is very simple: if I’m HBO and Showtime, I make it very clear to both companies that as it relates to any of their clients, there are certain fights we would accept for these particular guys and that’s it. You don’t want to make these fights, then go ahead and make whatever fights you please for your fighters on your own damn dime. Instead, what seems to be happening is the networks are actually aligning themselves with these promotional entities, only furthering the divide between the two.
If I’m Ken Hershman or Stephen Espinoza, regarding the aforementioned duo, I put each of them on the other’s acceptable short list and accept only those who are in that category going into the future (unless, of course, they want more fights involving Omar Narvaez). Till they stop placating the promoters, they are a big part of this problem.
-  I, along with everyone else, was stunned to learn that HBO had this fight close. Honestly, everyone at ringside had Mathebula winning no more than two or three rounds. Yeah, Mathebula threw a high volume of punches but they had nothing on them. For much of the night, he was on his heels and looked like a guy swatting at flies. Again, professional boxing is judged on not just the quantity of punches but their quality as well. All the hard shots were landed by Donaire (who sent the South African to the canvas in the fourth with a left hook) and it’s another example of why CompuBox numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. As the great John Wooden once said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
-  The attendance for this card was right around 3,200. It again goes to show that when staging a promotion in a particular area, you need the proper fight, geographic logic and affordable pricing. This card was a bit of tough sell given there was no real strong Mexican presence on the card (and out here, you need Mexicans on the card. That’s just the way it is) but the question is, why is Donaire being showcased everywhere but the Northern California area? It’s well-known that the Bay Area, where Donaire hails from, has a large Filipino base which to draw from. Donaire, like most other boxers without the Pacquiao or Mayweather surname, struggles to draw in Las Vegas and right now, his brand isn’t nearly big enough to draw well in neutral markets.
Let’s see how he draws in his home region.
-  Kelly Pavlik got in 10 good rounds of work this past weekend but he just doesn’t look like a particularly dominant 168-pounder to me. He’s still hardnosed, blue-collar guy but the overwhelming strength and power he had as a middleweight just isn’t there as a super middleweight. That said, he’ll still make for some good fights in that division. I just don’t know if he can topple this division’s elite.
-  Had a chance to see the pulsating contest between welterweights Kell “Special K” Brook and Carson Jones. This is exactly the type of litmus test every young fighter needs before really going up into the world class and challenging for titles. Brook, who had some very rough moments in winning a tough 12-rounder, will be a better fighter for this in the future. As for Jones, he put on one of the most determined efforts I’ve seen in a long time- he just may have gotten started a bit too late. At just 25 years old, he himself has a future in this sport. His record is very deceiving (34-9-2 with 24 KOs) given he wasn’t granted a lot of soft touches as a young boxer but that has made him one of the most seasoned fighters in the sport at his age.
-  Wladimir Klitschko not only defeated Tony Thompson again but in this rematch, he needed about half the time in dispatching him. Honestly, is there anyone out there who can give either Klitschko brother a real challenge? And yeah, I know this isn’t exactly the strongest era for heavyweight boxing but there comes a time where you just have tip your hat to this level of dominance. These guys rarely lose rounds much less fights. But the problem is their ring entrances are often more memorable than their actual fights.
-  I don’t want to make too much of Tyson Fury’s victory over Vinny Maddalone- a tough but limited guy- but I think he’s coming along nicely as a fighter. He seems to be getting into better physical condition and improving technically. He improved his record to 19-0 (14) in halting Maddalone in five and he’s still just 24 years old. It’s funny; for all this constant talk of who will be the next American heavyweight hopeful, I think the UK has two guys better than anyone America has to offer at this level in Fury and the well-schooled David Price.
Javier Fortuna continues to open eyes as a young prospect, as he impressively halted Cristobal Cruz on “Friday Night Fights”...Speaking of “FNF,” are they really going with both Glen Johnson and Jose Luis Castillo in their co-features?...Andy Ruiz Jr. is an intriguing heavyweight prospect...Ray Allen to the Heat could be big, if all he has to do is shoot open jumpers in relatively limited minutes...We are now less than 60 days from the opening kickoff of college football!...OK, the big announcement on who Saul Alvarez will face on September 15th will be revealed by Golden Boy this week. Honestly, I have no clue who it will be...I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at


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