State of the Game: Junior bantamweights
This is the fourth in a series of stories from “The State of the Game,” the popular annual feature of THE RING magazine. We’re posting one weight class per day, starting with strawweight and working our way up to heavyweight. The package was featured in the July issue of the magazine, which is on sale through June 28. Today: Junior bantamweights.
It’s often been said that in boxing, the top two percent of the fighters make about 98 percent of the money. Well, we’re about to feed directly into that inequity. Not only do the top two percent get most of the money, but they get most of the attention too, and in “The State Of The Game,” we focus primarily on that top two percent – the cream of every weight class. Maybe it’s not fair to the 145th best junior featherweight in the world, but hey, there’s a reason he’s only 145th best.
Still, you have to admit, we go deeper and include more fighters in State of the Game than just about any other article you’ll read all year. Where else will you find Wladimir Klitschko, Fernando Guerrero, Alfonso Gomez and Hekkie Budler all discussed in the same story?
Basically, the State of the Game is just what it sounds like: an all-encompassing exploration of where every division in boxing stands at this particular moment. As for the state of the sport as a whole, we know the balance of power is continuing to shift away from American fighters and away from the heavyweight division, but does that mean boxing is any worse off than it was a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago? In a global sense, and judged in relativity to the economic climate across most of the world, no. Remember, some people in both the boxing community and the mainstream media opined three years ago that Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather was going to be the last megafight we’d see for years. How laughable is that now? We’ve since had four different pay-per-views cross the million-buy mark, and if Manny Pacquiao vs. Mayweather ever happens, it will crush every number Mayweather-De La Hoya posted.
Of course, all that this means is that the guys at the very top are getting exponentially richer while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet. Hey, that’s the way boxing has always been, and in a nutshell, that’s how life works. Boxing has loads of problems, no doubt, but year after year, it entertains and amazes those loyal followers who persevere through all the crap to get to the good stuff.
When it comes to long and circuitous roads to rematches, Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan have nothing on Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones. But it’s still been a long and circuitous road since their July ’07 bout in which Donaire scored both the Knockout and Upset of the year, and it’s anyone’s guess if and when they’ll meet again after talks for a fight in August apparently broke down. If Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather taught us anything, it’s that there’s no detail too small to prevent a fight.
Hopefully Donaire-Darchinyan II will happen, because it’s by far the most significant and appealing fight that can be made at 115 pounds. Donaire, scheduled to face Puerto Rican Hernan Marquez on July 10 instead, moved up from flyweight two fights ago and Darchinyan moved back down from bantamweight two fights ago. Although some believe Donaire is just too talented and a bad style matchup for the Aussie-Armenian, others view this as a fight in which Darchinyan has an excellent chance of gaining revenge. Here at THE RING, we just view it as a fight we’d love to see.
Former RING junior fly champ Hugo Cazares and Omar Narvaez are the next most-significant fighters in this weight class. Cazares outpointed Nobuo Nashiro to take the Japanese fighter’s title after the two had battled to a draw last year. Narvaez, the former longtime flyweight titleholder from Argentina, easily outpointed Everth Briceno to win a belt in a second weight class.
The rest of the division is a nice balance of names you know and names you don’t. The ones you know include the never-boring Jorge Arce, still hanging in there after 61 pro fights, and Alexander Munoz, the two-time ex-titlist who handed Nashiro his first defeat. The names you probably don’t know include unbeaten South African Simphiwe Nongqayi, who easily outpointed Arce in ’09 but then struggled to a draw with unknown Malik Bouziane; Kohei Kono, a Japanese fighter who lost a one-point split decision to Nashiro in ’08; and Drian Francisco, an unbeaten Filipino who knocked out Roberto Vasquez last October and Ricardo Nunez in April.
Think About It: Donaire is undefeated in four-round fights, with a record of 4-0. He’s undefeated in six-rounders with a 3-0 record. He’s undefeated in eight-rounders at 7-0. He’s undefeated in 10-rounders with a 1-0 mark. And he’s undefeated in 12-rounders at 8-0. So how does he have a loss on his 23-1 record? Because he’s winless in five-rounders. We don’t see many bouts scheduled for an odd number of rounds, but Donaire had one in 2001, his second pro fight, against an unknown named Rosendo Sanchez. Donaire lost a close unanimous decision after five rounds (he claims he deserved to win), and hasn’t lost since. He’s 23-0 in fights scheduled for an even number of rounds, and 0-1 when scheduled for an odd number. Guess it’s a good thing Donaire missed out on the era of 15-round fights.
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