Whenever my fist bleeds, I always lick the blood off it, grin at my enemy and resume combat. Get back in there, Nonito Donaire! At least, hopefully. There's been no word that he did major damage to his left hand, which is the hand with which he usually does the most damage to others. It didn't get him to a knockout over the weekend -- in fact, he left the weekend with some bad reviews -- but I still think boxing's better off with Donaire's left hand healthy than not.
Our team, as always, capably handled some of the weekend's action in my absence. But some stuff has happened since then, too. The fallout is like so:
- Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s performance. One of the big debates about Chavez this weekend -- and there were a lot of them -- is whether he looked sluggish. Clearly, for the first 10 rounds, he wasn't as active as usual. Did that have to do with stamina problems related to making the middleweight limit? Did it have to do with Marco Antonio Rubio trying to play a lot of keepaway and engage only on occasion? As is often the case, the answer might be "both." The whole DUI incident suggests he might not have have taken training camp very seriously (Gasp! No, not JCC, Jr.!); you don't hear about boxers going all Guns N Roses "It's So Easy" during camp. He might've had some stamina problems, but he clearly had gas in the tank for those last two rounds -- one of which I thought saw him get wobbled by Rubio, not that HBO's team noticed it, so maybe I was just imagining things. Another of the debates is whether Chavez won just because of his size, not because he's good. Guess what? "Size" is part of what makes boxers good sometimes. Chavez is a big boy who constantly rehydrates to absurd figures after the day-before weigh-in, and I'm not surprised in the slightest that he was a cruiserweight the next day. Rubio complained afterward that he couldn't do anything with Chavez' size, as if that's not a legitimate advantage to have in the ring. Of course, how one achieves that advantage is a whole different debate.
- Chavez and drug tests. Steroid suspicions in boxing come in two varieties: A. Those without any credible evidence, even circumstantial (see: Manny Pacquiao); and B. Those with at least some grounds for reasonable suspicion. Chavez is good for answer B. He's previously had an encounter with a banned substance, a diuretic that could've been used to either help him make weight, or else mask a performance enhancing drug. We all know Chavez struggles with weight and doesn't try hard enough in camp, so his diuretic use for that purpose isn't at all far-fetched. But when neither the WBC nor Texas commission go through with any drug tests after the fight, and the WBC boss is Chavez, Jr.'s godfather, and everyone points fingers at everyone else about who's to blame, it all looks very fishy. (Texas eventually fell on the sword, but there's blame enough to go around for lotsa folk here.) Chavez has offered to take a test (he's also pointed out that Rubio also failed to take a test, a valid point if not as valid as with the dude who's got a history with banned substances), but that's usually what people do in this situation and it never happens. This all might be perfectly innocent and incompetent -- after all, Texas, the WBC and Chavez have a history of coming off like lunkheads -- but they sure have done everything in their power to make it smell like something else. Hanlon's razor and all that.
- Open scoring. People seemed confused like something else untoward had happened, what when the corners were given the scores of the fight, since the WBC's open scoring isn't used in America. Maybe I'm missing something -- sometimes I do -- but at their annual convention, the WBC said they'd be doing just this: They wouldn't have scores announced here, but they would provide them to the corners. Basically it sounds like a loophole on the U.S. ban and the Texas commission enabled it, and I have to imagine the WBC knew someone would or else they wouldn't have announced they plans to do this modified version of it. Look forward to more of this for fights involving the WBC, which is an exceptionally bad idea. The oddest thing about this, by the way, is that on one from Rubio's camp was informed this would be used, according to Rubio's camp.
- Next for Chavez. The talk is between Andy Lee and Antonio Margarito as Chavez' next opponent. The Lee talk is, I suspect, gamesmanship from Top Rank. It's TR's way of getting Lee's promoter, Lou DiBella, to shut up about demanding that his guy Sergio Martinez fight Chavez. Lee was turned down as a Chavez opponent earlier because he was a southpaw. To my knowledge, Lee has not become a righty. It's too bad, because Chavez-Lee is a super-sexy fight. Nah, it'll probably be Chavez-Margarito in a bit of a ghastly affair between suspected cheats, one of whom, Margarito, was a big welterweight, is a mediocre junior middleweight (whether because of size issues or something more sinister), will be a horribly small middleweight and is near-shot if not fully shot. But because I guess some Mexican fans would want to see this -- Why? Just because they know both men's names? -- it would also likely sell well and is therefore the safer bet. And betcha the WBC backs down on refusing to sanction this fight.
- Donaire's performance. I wasn't as down on Donaire's performance against Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. as some. I thought he was fairly aggressive, and he clearly won the fight without too much trouble against an opponent who once more didn't engage with him at a super-high rate. That said, it's clear Donaire has stagnated. He showed he could jab, but didn't. He showed he could work the body, but didn't. There's a school of thought that Robert Garcia didn't deserve Trainer of the Year last year, that he hadn't really made anyone all that much better and there was evidence of neglect from Garcia in some ways, and the anti-Garcia for TOTY got some help this weekend because there's not significant evidence that he's helped Donaire much, either. Donaire can go really far with his speed, power, and an overall pretty good skill set. But his flaws could catch up with him one day.
- Vazquez' performance. Vazquez had talked a big game about being aggressive, but he really wasn't. He was still pretty effective, or at least more effective than I expected he might be. Donaire was much more marked up than usual, because Vazquez hit him more than Donaire usually gets hit. I always liked Vazquez, and his performance -- even though he lost according to every judge but that one crazy judge -- did something for him to get another nice-sized fight going forward. It won't hurt him that he brings at least some portion of the Puerto Rican fanbase with him, either.
- Next for Donaire. It's Jorge Arce in a fight that's nearly as mismatched as Chavez-Margarito. I get why Donaire-Arce is happening; Arce is a popular fighter and he'll fight anyone and Top Rank no doubt wants to play up the Filipino-Mexican angle. And Arce isn't a bad fighter. It's just a bad match-up. Arce is the kind of guy who can spring an upset with guts and power, a la Arturo Gatti. But Donaire-Arce should look something like Floyd Mayweather against Gatti: An embarrassingly one-sided fight where one guy is simply too fast for the other one.
- Yoan Pablo Hernandez-Steve Cunningham II. There's a new Ring Magazine champ at cruiserweight, even if I disagree a great deal with the process that led to Hernandez winning the vacant belt over Cunningham in a rematch of their controversial bout. Marco Huck shouldn't have been removed from the rankings when he has been pretty clear that he might only stay at heavyweight for one fight, a decision that cleared the way for Hernandez-Cunningham II to be for the belt. Anyhow, good job for Hernandez to improve on his performance from last time. He made Cunningham pay with counters when Cunningham tried to institute the body attack that gave the Cuban trouble last time. Cunningham did that thing he does where he recovers from trouble to fight even harder, but Hernandez' offense didn't fade as badly as last time and how Ulli Wegner-trained fighters tend to do.
- Rankings. I might elaborate on this later, but I'm finding myself disagreeing with a lot of the divisional ranking decisions over at Ring Magazine these days. I don't see how Donaire should debut at #3 in a division after beating the #8 fighter in the division just because, as the decision was explained, he was good in other divisions. The divisional rankings should be for what someone does in the division, not what he did in other divisions or because he's a "beast." At least I agreed with the call to bring in Alex Alexeev at cruiserweight.
- Friday Night Fights. Pretty decent main event on ESPN2 the other night. Isaac Chilemba put on a gritty performance and might be making a move to full-blown contendership at light heavyweight soon. He was aided by two things, though. One is that Edison Miranda isn't what he once was, and definitely isn't as big a puncher at 175. The other is that the bad cut Miranda suffered during a head butt really affected him badly. He was much less effective after it.
- "On Freddie Roach." This show continues to be a good watch. It was depressing a little, how much they focused on the sorry state of the U.S. amateur boxing system, because it's one of the things that threatens the long-term future of the sport here in 'Merica. Also, why was that sports psychologist surprised that a bunch of teenagereseque boxers would laugh at her metaphor where she asked them to imagine "the juice squirting down the back of your throat"?
- Odds and ends. Yes, HBO commentator Jim Lampley's new glasses lost a battle with fashion. This is coming from someone with a pretty nerdy-looking pair himself. Lamps was so hipster he crossed over nerd to hipster then back to actual nerd again... Referee Rafael Ramos' catchphrase, I guess, since I haven't heard him say it before, appears to be "No one is more professional than I." That's some rapper-level trash talk, yo... I've never seen taunting in the ring like what Donaire did in the 8th round where he appeared to be pumping up a bicycle tire. Goofy, but points for originality, definitely.
How is pointing out that Rubio didnt take the test when there was no one there to collect and take the test (unless you were Vanes or Lowery) a valid point? it strikes me as akin to a 4 year old saying "I know you are but what am I". This stinks to high heaven and needs to be FULLY investigated. Hard questions need to be asked and answers given that actually make sense. How are samples for some taken with Texas(for now) on the record saying that there were no testers engaged at all that evening? Chain of custody is one thing that these testers do right that is well established nowadays. Was someone told to "go home"? Inquiring minds want to know the answers.
@WILLFRANK It is valid, as in that it is true. You mighta missed the sarcasm there in the parenthetical, though. I was saying, "OK, that's true, but YOU'RE the guy with the banned substance history."
I don't know who would "FULLY investigate" it. The WBC won't want to investigate it. Texas won't want to -- although there's more hope there, anyway. Some boxing media types are doing a surprisingly good job on the story, so there's a strange bit of hope there.
To answer your questions: 1. I'm not familiar enough with the process for who takes the samples to answer that. For all I know Texas officials take the samples and hand them off to the companies. It's possible -- and I'm only saying it's possible, because I'm not jumping to any conclusions one way or the other -- that the Texas officials took the samples and found out there was no one there from the lab and shrugged their shoulders and threw the samples away. That doesn't explain some other things (how were Vanes and Lowry picked at random? as a pair? or did their two names just happen to come up?) or why Texas didn't just store the samples, but incompetence and/or the specifics of the system provide potential answers, in addition to outright corruption.
2. Dunno. No evidence of that so far. Doesn't mean it didn't happen. Hopefully if something like that happened, someone can be convinced to come forward.
I also think this stinks. I don't rule out incompetence. But it's like I said -- if it's incompetence, it's incompetence that has managed to look an awful lot like corruption.
I seem to be in the smallish contingent of actual boxing fans who kinda enjoy watching Chavez Jr. fight and take him for what he is: a limited but improving fighter who gives everything he's got every time out, but probably won't ever beat an A-class talent.
As for the drug testing nonsense, I honestly think a big part of it is this idea that Jr. has to be shunned by "real" fans for whatever reason. He's not as good as his dad, he messes around in training, brings drama, was kinda force fed to fans on too many PPV's, etc. Pick one, but the point is that this is essentially business as usual in Texas and with an alphabet organization, both seem happy to pass the buck every which way.
Thought Jr. did fairly well against a guy who didn't engage a lot, and Rubio sure had to have been in shape, because Jr. laid some nasty leather on Rubio's midsection all night. Basically Chavez Jr. pushed him back for most of the fight and landed the heavier shots. A clear win, if not as exciting nor impressive as hoped.
Tried not to get too down on Donaire, but I was surprised by how easily he was hit when Vazquez actually opened up. And that might not be an issue, except his face got marked up pretty good from not that many shots, and that he hurt his hand enough to potentially affect the fight. Might not bode well against a guy who isn't impressed by his power and is willing to dig inside. I really wish a Donaire-Mares fight would've been on the table.
@PatrickConnor Oh, I like JCC Jr. as a fighter these days. I'm with you. And I think what you say he is, that's accurate.
There could be some animus toward JCC Jr. that's driving some of the drug testing outrage. Coming from someone who's more pro-JCC Jr. than anti- these days, I can tell you that it's my view there's enough odd and suspicious-looking business here that I'm in favor of this being pursued vigorously until the best available answers are received.
Good observations on Donaire-Vazquez, too.
I'm going to take the opportunity to vent: the untelevised bout of Martirosyan vs Lowery was as big an abomination in person as it appeared on paper beforehand. A sanctioned beating; what you would expect against a fighter coming in 5-10 in his last 15. Filler for unwitting dupes. And Top Rank knew it was crap, otherwise it wouldn't have been shoved down from the top of the undercard. It left me angry watching it, and a little sad after. To be clear: I'm not aiming this at the boxers. The evil eye is directed toward TR
- quick impressions: the difference in audible pop between Chavez and Rubio was really striking. Even when we thought some rounds "looked' even there was no doubt who was winning them. // Watching the replay later was surprised the HBO crew didn't mention Chavez with his foot on the rope between the ~9-10th (?) rounds. It just looked odd; would have liked to have known if he was cramping or what the issue was // Also kinda surprised how fast that mouse developed under Donaire's right eye ... by second round I think it was visible ...and not that much activity of out Vasquez to that point
@rjmoonrock I really don't get the idea of the Vanes fight. I've kind of taken to ignoring the lad. He's a blowhard who has made hideous decisions in his career. I think some blame can be laid at his feet -- rather than doing the Angulo fight, he's taking crap like this, and you have to think he has some control. Top Rank, yeah, they get some serious blame too. Why did they even bother with this? Your anger is righteous, though. There are too many mismatches in boxing, but this one is a bit worse because Vanes is so deep into his career. On the other hand, it's not like Pongsaklek Wonjongkam fighting 0-1 fighters in Thailand. So on the scale of "brutal mismatch," I would move it pretty far up the scale but not to the highest levels, which says something about our sport, don't it?
I didn't notice this Chavez/foot thing. I'll have to go back and re-watch.
Very good point on Donaire. Wonder if the new weight won't see him get marked up a bit more than usual, a la Pacquiao at the higher weights. Maybe, as tall as Donaire is, his body is saying, "You're not going to be able to take the punches as well at 122."
Rubio team are just talking to be heard. Their is no way that the inept WBC and Texas could orchestrate some secret massive conspiracy. If they could why not just provide a false negative rather than raising alarms by testing no one that night. Lets not forget Rubio is also blowing up 11 pounds on his smaller frame. The weight gain is not even unusual, think of guys like Hatton or Gatti. Certainly I struggle to understand why Chavez should be responsible for testing.
@ThePJ Maybe because they thought Rubio wouldnt make any noise and blow the whistle on the WBC's supposedly shady practices? for example, did they suspect that Tomas Rojas was going to "come clean" about taking a dive as he now says he did? who knows what happened-- it needs to be investigated and real answers that actually make sense given. Sorry, I dont buy the WBC's assurances that everything was just a chain of mistakes made by the Keystone Kops given their track record.
@WILLFRANK@ThePJ Well, right. I mean, the downside of most secret mass conspiracies is that they require some pretty serious intelligence to pull off, and for everyone involved to stay absolutely quiet -- and staying absolutely quiet isn't human nature. The WBC and Texas don't have much of that intelligence stuff. It's why I tend not to jump to conclusions on suspicious-looking stuff before all the facts are in.
As for the individual points the two of you made:
1. As secret mass conspiracies go, a false negative would be one way to go. It would probably require more secretiveness and mass conspiracy acumen, though, and we've established that there is a lack of intelligence here.
2. It doesn't strike me as particularly suspicious that JCC Jr. blew up 20 pounds after weigh-in. Like we discussed, he's a big boy. The kind of fighter most likely to gain big after weigh-ins, too, are the kind of people who slack off in training, like JCC, Jr. What is suspicious about him is that diuretic use. Yes, there's an innocent explanation of that, too, but it's a behavior heavily associated with PED use, so it raises a red flag.
3. Chavez isn't responsible for the testing, agreed. But I don't know anyone who's saying he should be. It's the WBC, Texas or both.
4. If the WBC thought that Rubio wouldn't make a stink about this, they weren't paying attention. He was talking about PED use even before the fight. I'm kind of surprised, given their pre-fight complaining about the ref and all other sorts of things, that they didn't do due diligence and make sure that the regular drug testing procedures would be in place. But hey, it's not that far-fetched that the WBC wouldn't be paying attention to Rubio's complaints. They aren't very "aware," as an organization. And if Rubio's team took for granted that the WBC would go through with the usual testing procedures, they weren't paying attention to the WBC on any of this, either. That's not me "blaming the victim," because it's not at all the fault of Rubio's team that no testing happened, either. That's just me saying, "If you were so worried about it, why didn't you check into it beforehand?"
5. I might be missing something with your point on Rojas, WF. Rojas said a promoter asked him to take a dive, not the WBC, right? And anyway, that Rojas came clean about this (and it's worth noting that his "coming clean" is also not the truth) would seemingly point to the difficulty of keeping secret mass conspiracies going.
I don't buy that this is incompetence and I don't buy that it's a conspiracy. I have a stack of money sitting on the table, ready to push over to buy either thing once we get enough information. Or we might never get the information we need. Caveat emptor.
It sounds to me like you've concluded there's some wrongdoing here, and stupidity isn't a possibility, or at least it's a remote one. When using the phrase "mass conspiracy" I was more responding to ThePJ than you, though. My issue is, there's not enough proof either way to conclude anything yet.
Your comments, though, are filled with questions worth asking -- and helped me come up with some of my own. In that sense, it's a good thing. I might do a separate post about questions that should be asked. But me and all the thousands of other boxing bloggers don't tend to get to do much question-asking. I spend a couple hours a night just writing and editing what comes in here -- I'd love to find some more time to report, but it's not easy with the day job,too. Anyway, yes, Gabe's story was good. I'm not the biggest fan of him or most of his work, but that story was really well-done. It did leave some questions unanswered, though, and I read it having new questions after.
Who is alleging mass conspiracy? I'm simply saying becuase the Texas folks and WBC now have "answered" questions (and not in a very satisfactory manner) doesnt nearly mean that the "story" is over. Those answers deserve skepticism, and given the track record of the players involved, such skepticism is warranted (shady Texas, slimy Suliamann, and a Junior already with a past record of using drugs to cut weight). The blithe "oh we've never done this drug testing before" is laughable-- drug testing HAS been done in Texas before-- this wasnt their first time at the rodeo. What practice was followed then? Break it down-- who was responsible for what. What was the chain of custody? Why was there a departure this time? And , most basic of all, how the hell was a specimen collected as part of a drug testing regimen when they're on the record saying that 'they forgot' to hire the testers?. Who collected it? How did they get authorized to do so? Did Vanes simply pee into a "WBC" logoed dixie cup and the guy with the beret who is always on these TV fights simply put some cellophane put over it? Give me a break. Instead of trying to debunk those asking questions, how about finding out what REALLY happened? I certainly think that there's plenty of holes in the "official story" and it would behoove someone to do some more reporting (Gabe Montoya's laid a pretty good foundation). Unless we collectively all just shrug our shoulders and move on. On to next week's "why boxing sucks" teeth gnashing article. I guess if people can delude themselves that Mitt Romney is the natural conservative heir to Ronald Reagan, then people can think Texas/WBC have been unfairly tarred in this latest incident and their protestations taken at face value simply cause "thats what they said". Without any more, i'm not buying it and hope that with hundreds of boxing bloggers seemingly in the Twitterverse someone doesnt leave it alone until we get some semblance that passes the smell test.
As for Rojas, i may have mismatched the allegations with the target. Not sure who he blamed for the taking a dive allegation, since I believe that article was in Spanish and I only heard that second hand. BUT he most certainly directed angry allegations against the WBC when he lost the title in Japan-- more or less claiming that as a Mexican champion they should have "taken care of him"-- leaving the impression that what went in on the ring (i.e., his losing), was not in the script.. In repsonse, the WBC issued that bizarre press release which reads like the old SCTV satire of The Godfather. That is what I was specifically referring to. Proof? No, but certainly sufficient context to not buy what they say hook, line and sinker.