Weekend Preview: Donaire on display
Bernabe Concepcion (left) and Mario Santiago (right) are all smiles at the final press conference for their featherweight title elimination bout, which opens the Pinoy Power/Latin Fury pay-per-view card from the Las Vegas Hilton on Saturday. Their scheduled 12-round matchup might be the fight of the night. Photo / Naoki Fukuda
The main event: Ji-Hoon Kim vs. Tyrone Harris, 10 rounds, lightweights.
Location: Temecula, Calif.
Television: ESPN2, 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET
The backdrop: American fans will get a look at Kim, a Korean lightweight standout who has won 11 in a row, including a first-round KO of former prospect Koba Gogoladze in Las Vegas in May of 2008. Kim faces gate-keeper Harris, who dropped a 10-round decision to Gogoladze in 2006 but has gone 9-3 since, losing only to former titleholder Steve Johnston, prospect Josesito Lopez and contender Urbano Antillon. Harris KO’d prospect Marvin Quintero in his last fight.
Also fighting: Ruslan Provodrikov vs. Javier Jauregui, 8 rounds, junior welterweights.
Rating the card: C +. The main event should be a good matchup between the aggressive up-and-comer and well-schooled southpaw spoiler, but the combatants are fairly low profile. The eight-round co-feature pits an undefeated Russian (14-0, 9 knockouts) prospect against an aging former lightweight belt holder from Mexico.
The main event: Nonito Donaire vs. Manuel Vargas, 12 rounds, junior bantamweights.
Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Television: Top Rank Pay-Per-View, 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET
The backdrop: Vargas (26-4-1, 11 knockouts) replaced battle-tested veteran Gerson Guerrero, who failed his pre-fight eye exam, as Donaire’s opponent in Top Rank’s Pinoy Power/Latin Fury card. The good news about Donaire’s late substitute is that he has only lost twice in the past 9¾ years, and those losses were very competitive decisions to world-class opposition. The bad news is that those fights took place at flyweight and strawweight. Donaire should be too big, strong and fast for the solid-but-lighter Mexican.
Also fighting: Fernando Montiel vs. Ciso Morales, 12 rounds, bantamweights; Eric Morel vs. Gerry Penalosa, 12 rounds, bantamweights; Mario Santiago vs. Bernabe Concepcion, 12 rounds, featherweights.
Rating the card: B -. If Donaire and Montiel were fighting each other instead of lesser opposition, this pay-per-view card would be must-see TV. Instead, fans who tune-in will see showcase bouts involving the ultra-talented fighters and two even matchups in supporting bouts. Morales, an undefeated (14-0, 8 KOs) youngster from the Philippines, is a prospect. He shouldn’t be in the ring with a multi-division titleholder of Montiel’s stature. Morel and Penalosa are two seasoned vets with contrasting styles: The Puerto Rican is a stick-and-move specialist, the Filipino is a stalking counter-puncher. It’s a good matchup on paper but it could become a stinkfest if Morel, a former flyweight beltholder who has looked sharp at bantamweight, decides to move his feet more than his hands. Santiago-Concepcion will probably be the best fight of the show, which takes place at the Las Vegas Hilton. Both featherweights are athletically gifted, in their primes and battle tested. Santiago, older (31) and more experienced, is a southpaw boxer who relies on speed and reflexes but has better than average power. Concepcion, the younger man (only 22), is an aggressive puncher who relies on brute strength to overwhelm his opponents. He can be outboxed, but Santiago can be outworked and he can be put on the defensive with constant pressure. Both fighters came up short in competitive challenges to then-beltholder Steven Luevano. Santiago dropped Luevano (and then was floored himself) en route to a draw in 2008. Concepcion rocked Luevano in the first round of their bout last August and then dropped the southpaw for the count — a second after the bell sounded for the seventh round — which resulted in his disqualification. The winner of Saturday’s bout will get another title shot, this time against Juan Manuel Lopez, who stopped Luevano for the title in January.