Blog ► Donaire-Narvaez: How not to KO a little guy who barely threwBy Christian V. Esguerra
Nonito Donaire is back in town following his uneventful conquest of the reluctant Argentine challenger Omar Narvaez in New York last week.
Network giant ABS-CBN wasted no time in parading the pound-for-pound prince on national TV. He appeared in “Showtime” (where so-so judges judge talent) and the unimaginatively titled noontime show “Happy, Yippee, Yehey.”
The objective was clear. Make the Filipino Flash an instant superstar. One network insider once told me that ABS-CBN was desperate to build up Donaire as the “next Manny Pacquiao.”
It’s hard to miss Donaire—his sublime talent and all—especially with the relative dearth in promising Filipino fighters who could rise to the level of Pacman. ALA boys Rey Bautista and AJ Banal are fringe contenders at best, no matter how hard their handlers promote and coddle them with hand-picked opposition.
Ex-flyweight titlist Marvin Sonsona possesses marvelous talent, but still needs a lot of growing up to do.
So, we are fortunately left with Donaire, a superb boxer-puncher in the elite company of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a vintage Roy Jones Jr. They don’t exactly fight the same way, but the skills, hands down, are insane.
His are technical skills which even Pacman could have only dreamt of early in his career—or even now.
But not to rain on Donaire’s parade, the feeling here is that our guy is a desperate superstar-in-waiting. Like he’s being shoved into boxing fans because Pacman would be retiring probably in a year or two.
At least that’s how he appears to this corner with the way he is being marketed, particularly by one TV network. He and his gorgeous wife tweet a lot, too, to the point of “over-sharing.” Makes Floyd look shy in his own Twitter account.
As journalists are only as good as their last byline, boxers are only as good as their last bout. Which brings us to the Narvaez fight.
Donaire fought a naturally smaller guy, though a more experienced one. For 12 sleep-inducing rounds, he peppered the WBO superflyweight champ with left hooks, lead rights, uppercuts, with occasional jabs and some pawing.
In the end, he just couldn’t crack the tough Argentine. Donaire would later move on to Twitter to ridicule his opponent’s punch output, an average of 25 punches thrown per round. The bantamweight average is 60.
“The crowd didn’t deserve this. I’m sorry it didn’t come out the way we wanted. [Narvaez] didn’t come to fight,” Donaire was quoted as saying post-fight.
But a boxer doesn’t always have to “come to fight” to get a bad beating or knocked out. Narvaez’s miserable punching average could also be used as an argument against the cocky Filipino. The guy barely threw yet you couldn’t put him away?
Narvaez, as talented as he was, was forced into a defensive shell reminiscent of Joshua Clottey versus Pacman. Donaire’s ridiculous combination of speed, power, and footwork made the Argentine think defense and nothing else.
Prior to the Donaire fight, Narvaez was a punching machine. According to CompuBox, he averaged 79.2 punches thrown per round compared to Donaire’s 47 (which was below the bantamweight average) in their last five fights.
When they finally met in the ring, Donaire threw a total of 666 punches, of which only 99 landed (15 percent). Narvaez threw 299 punches and connected on 74 (25 percent).
Some telling stats: despite Narvaez’s reluctance to engage, Donaire outlanded him by only 25 punches. A total of 567 Donaire punches either hit Narvaez’s gloves or nothing but air. At least, the 35-year-old Argentine didn’t forget his defense.
Still, our guy preferred to look the other way, heaping all blame on his thoroughly outclassed opponent.
Said Donaire: “I was bored. When I know that the guy wouldn’t open up, I kind of got bored because no matter what I opened my hands, I opened my face and the least you can do is hit me with a jab, hit me with something.”
Here, this corner thinks Donaire was not being totally honest with himself. True, it takes two real fighters to produce a Fight of the Year material (think Gatti-Ward). But it doesn’t take two to tango in a bout where one is clearly superior in all departments to the other.
Fact is Donaire failed to create enough angles to go around Narvaez’s high guard. And when angles became available, he either could not take advantage of them or found Narvaez’s head too hard to crack.
Narvaez was creating some subtle angles of his own, primarily on defense to avoid Donaire’s lead right (the punch of choice against southpaws).
Donaire’s strategy apparently was to wait for Narvaez to make a mistake, mainly by throwing a right jab so he could counter him with his lethal left hook. He found occasional success, but couldn’t land a solid one.
Note that Narvaez threw a total of 183 jabs, which, on principle, meant that the opportunities were there, however few. He also out-jabbed Donaire, 41 to 14, even if our guy threw more with 266. The disparity wasn’t necessarily a big deal because Donaire was fighting a lefty.
For some perspective, Narvaez hit Donaire with some good counter right hooks in Rounds 2 and 3, each time our guy forgot his distance and came too close. At least a couple of them stopped him on his tracks. For the rest of the fight, Narvaez was reduced to a human double-end bag.
Are we being too hard on Donaire? Probably.
But that’s how fighters seeking greatness are supposed to be treated. Donaire himself raised the bar when he put the brash Vic Darchinyan to sleep to become a flyweight champ in 2007.
After beating up a string of smaller and outmatched opponents, he would go on to create even more excitement at 118. His second-round KO of erstwhile titlist Fernando Montiel erased all doubt that he belonged to the pound-for-pound list.
But then came the Narvaez sleeper. Donaire was clearly looking beyond the fight, talking about his desire to move up in weight and conquer the tough featherweight division. His Madison Square Garden debut was supposed to be a showcase.
For now, it’s probably best that he first test the waters at super bantamweight. A fight against WBO champ Jorge Arce should provide a good preview of how our man would handle non-stop pressure in a higher weight class.
Then there is Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux, the interim WBA jr. featherweight champion. The Cuban stylist, an accomplished amateur with two Olympic gold medals, matches Donaire in all aspects of the game. Just don’t expect a barnburner.
The featherweight division can wait. Can’t imagine Donaire handling naturally bigger and pressure fighters like Juan Manuel Lopez (despite his glass jaw) at this stage. No surprise if he gets decked when he showboats and lunges in for a punch. He can’t do that with the big boys.
And a last piece of unsolicited advice. The path to greatness is paved with exciting fights and meaningful victories, not with silly appearances in some inane variety show.
(Christian Esguerra has been a journalist for 11 years, covering the Senate at present for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He is a keen observer of anything boxing. Follow him on Twitter: @IanEsguerra)
More from this Column:
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- Execution is key for Viloria vs Mexican Segura
- Pacquiao vs Marquez: Third fight to decide who’s better
- Blog ► Donaire-Narvaez: How not to KO a little guy who barely threw
- Blog : Can Donaire help change image of ‘the devil?’
Beat Box Corner is an Inquirer sports blog edited by By Christian V. Esguerra.The views stated here do not reflect those of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
Tags: AJ Banal , Beat Box Corner , Boxing , Fernando Montiel , Floyd Mayweather Jr. , Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux , Joshua Clottey , Manny Pacquiao , Marvin Sonsona , Nonito Donaire Jr , Omar Narvaez , Rey Bautista , Sports