Hannali R. (Reseda, CA): I thought Nonito Donaire proved that he still belongs at the top of the sport with his victory over Darchinyan. How did you rate his performance? And what do you think about Rigondeaux’s bizarre request to stage a rematch in Miami?
Vivek W. (ESB): To be quite frank, I see this purely the opposite of anyone who feels this effort either “places him” or “keeps him” at the top of the sport. What I saw in Donaire was a talent who appeared totally unsure of himself, and very limited – in terms of self confidence. I’m a long time proponent of pure fundamental skills, and although I’d stop short of calling Donaire a “hype job”, when I think of the accolades received that labeled him “Fighter of the Year” and beyond, I’d be the first to say he never really had the level of talent to support such claims. Donaire’s speed and power alone made him a phenom. Beyond those two attributes, he has very little left in the tool kit and we were reminded of this again, last Saturday night.
It was very troubling to see such a young fighter who has never really taken many beatings appear to be such a shell of himself. I can’t recall another talent outside of Kelly Pavlik that faded so quickly, and I can’t truly put my finger on the core problem. What’s even more disappointing is the plethora of excuses, each aimed at replacing a reality that has suddenly set in. After Navaez, he said it was an “awkward style”. After Rigo, he said he wasn’t motivated, despite saying previous to the bout that he didn’t feel he needed to face him because he “hadn’t fought anyone”. In the aftermath of this loss, it “wasn’t his night”. When a fighter is used to being able to blast opponents out of the ring with ease, then suddenly they take a lopsided loss to someone who they literally have no answer for, it doesn’t get any more humbling, and answers don’t come easy.
Many remember Hatton recalling that he never gave much thought to the Pacquiao loss, because “anyone can be caught clean and cold”; yet the Mayweather loss had him “crying like a woman for months, because it was the first time in his career when he (nearly) went the distance with someone and literally had no answers”. In a similar effect, after facing better competition and realizing it wouldn’t be so easy, after flat out losing to a very skilled opponent in Rigo, he was left soul-searching after confirming that he actually doesn’t have as many ‘tools’ in the kit as he was led to believe, listening to the hype crazed media. The culmination of that soul-searching effort serves as proof that he still has no answers, and apparently walks with even less confidence.
Can he reinvent himself at this stage? Probably not. Can he execute a new gameplan in the heat of the battle? If he couldn’t against Darch, it’ll be tougher against someone who won’t commit the same mistakes. He pulled a first in the sport by calling someone out without actually calling them out, telling HBO’s Max Kellerman he’d like another shot at “your boy”, referring to Rigondeaux. Yet another sign of limited confidence. Rigondeaux heard the request and has put his stamp on a potential rematch, stating this time it would have to happen in Miami. Some found that comment comical, but I’d be the first to point out the fact that he earned the right to get what would equate to “home field advantage”. Everyone presented Donaire to be the best of the best, and Rigondeaux made it look like a sparring session. I think he has earned to choose the location.
For those who feel Miami isn’t a good fight city or that Rigo’s style is too boring to be a draw, let me help you out a little. First off, the job of a promoter is to market a fighter to their base and Goldenboy Promotions has laid the blueprint for those headliners who don’t really have one. All Arum has to do is stack the deck for a Miami based card using other prominent elements of Miami, and the fans will come out! It doesn’t have to be all Cubans if you lace the card with Puerto Ricans, Europeans, Mexicans, and/or African Americans, which Miami has all in great abundance, and so does Arum. Martinez doesn’t speak English, yet DiBella does a helluva job locating and reaching out to his base. There’s NO REASON why this can’t happen. Anything less would be absolute disrespect once again by Arum and HBO. (And FYI: I think a rematch ends the same).
Harold P. (Atlanta, GA): I had mixed reviews on Demetrius Andrade. I don’t know what to make of his performance and I wanted to hear your thoughts?
Vivek W. (ESB): In my most humble opinion, what we saw in Andrade was a very raw talent. Extremely raw. I’ve been a supporter and was very curious to see how he’d perform. To his credit, although I’ve never rated Vanes very highly either, I do think he was a clear step up in talent for Andrade. I think the magnitude of being under the lights (on TV) combined with a somewhat dangerous puncher left Andrade a little shaky by fight time. I’ve seen him look better before, but that was against competition that simply wasn’t as good. If this is how he will perform against better talent, he’ll be in for a rude awakening, as Vanes brings none of the complications that someone like a Canelo, Cotto, Trout, etc., would bring.
Andrade stated that he’s ready for that level, but in a very candid response, and I say this speaking as a fan, I think he needs some more ‘rumble rounds’. By that, I mean some deep rounds against men who will test him. If he truly wants to elevate himself amongst the best in the biz, this is where it all starts. He needs to really work out the kinks and prepare himself for what that next level offers. As big as I’ve been on his talent, prior to now, I had always placed him in that same drawer as someone like a Gary Russell Jr. A man we know to have superior talent, yet absolutely nothing to show for it. It does guys like this a total disservice to speak the name of well known fighters they feel they can beat, when they haven’t faced anyone who comes remotely close enough to make us support those statements.
Right now, Andrade is in a good position. He got the exposure he wanted, and he has the fight world saying his name. He needs to capitalize. But first, he needs to iron out his wrinkles. My biggest performance criticisms of him would be footwork, and the fact that as a taller fighter, he fights too slumped over. He totally nullifies his own advantages by fighting smaller and not having a good base beneath him. A flush shot will send him to the canvas from the right puncher. Whether he finds himself hurt or not, it won’t matter, because on the score card he’ll lose points that could inevitably hurt him in the end. It’ll be nice to see how he evolves from here. Stay tuned.
Erik V. (Oceanside, CA): Mikey Garcia just went up in weight and destroyed a man who was very established. How would you rate his performance? And do you think he’s ready for the mythical P4P list?
Vivek W. (ESB): I see yellow flashing lights with Mikey Garcia like I do with many other up and comer’s in the sport. By that, I mean proceed, yet proceed with caution. I love what I see in the kid. He has solid power and above average technical skills. That being said, observing his fight as a neutral objector, or even putting myself in the mind of a trainer preparing a fighter to face him, I really think there’s quite a few loopholes to exploit within his style. I feel he has a very solid camp training him, so perhaps it’s his execution that left these loopholes; but nonetheless, they do exist. I think a fast fighter with a certain level of toughness and power could spell an absolute nightmare for Garcia. Particularly if he brings a heightened level of ring intelligence.
Right now, there’s quite a few names out there on the radar for Garcia, and judging by his size, it’s safe to say that he could go as far north as the jr. welterweight division by Summer of next year if he chose to. He has the size, the power, and the skill to compete at a higher level. Will he? That’s another question, but if he wants his prize money to rise, he’ll have no choice. Uchiyama isn’t a huge name, but would present a solid contest. Would he be willing to risk a loss against someone few know of? My money says he’d pull a Broner and go further north to seize better money opportunities, first. At 135, there’s Terence Crawford (Top Rank), which would be a helluva fight, but also one I see Garcia side-stepping at least for another 8-12 months! There’s Gamboa, which would be good while it lasted, but I think Garcia would chop him down late.
Besides that, you have Beltran, whom I’d also expect him to defeat, yet not in the typical quick fashion, perhaps. All in all, when you survey the landscape, there’s competition out there which will tell us far more about Garcia than anyone of his past. None of these men would be favored to defeat him at first glance, but I think Crawford has the skill and ring intellect to really bring the best out of Garcia. Would that “best” be enough? Hard to tell, but I’d love to find out. Relative to the mythical P4P list, I’ll just say this; he has looked as good as can be against every man placed before him to this point. That being said, I can’t say I’ve seen anything that stands out enough for me to place him there; or anything detrimental enough for me to argue with you putting him there. I don’t do ‘mythical’. Is he a top 5 fighter in the sport? Not yet, in my book. Can he get there. Absolutely.
(“Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, FaceBook, Twitter (@vivekwallace747), & Instagram (ViveksView)).