HBO World Championship Boxing TV Cheat Sheet - Oct. 12, 2012
By Martin Mulcahey, MaxBoxing (Oct 12, 2012) Special to Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
Nonito Donaire
It takes two exceptional boxers to turn a fight between a pair of little men into a big event; I believe HBO has such a feature tomorrow night. The Nonito Donaire - Toshiaki Nishioka bout is a better main event in terms of talent and stylistic matchup than most pay-per-view headliners. As a duo, they have not lost a fight since 2004, are on a 44-bout winning streak, triumphed in 20 title fights and are considered the two best junior featherweights in the world. Fans will need to be as sharp as the boxers to absorb the intricacies since the combatants have earned their nicknames of “Filipino Flash” and “Speed King.” But wait…tomorrow night’s broadcast has more to offer. HBO’s Max Kellerman says the Brandon Rios - Mike Alvarado battle preceding the main event will be an epic brawl that will steal the show. I do not discount that possibility but for connoisseurs of the “Sweet Science” I can’t see anything toping Donaire – Nishioka in the foreseeable future.
At the Home Depot Center, Carson, CA
(HBO) Nonito Donaire (29-1) vs. Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3)
(For The Ring magazine vacant World Junior Featherweight Championship)
(IBF and WBO junior featherweight belts)
(HBO) Brandon Rios (30-0-1) vs. Mike Alvarado (33-0)
(The Ring magazine unranked junior welterweight vs. #5)
Mike Alvarado – Denver native is one of the few legitimate prospects to come out of the Midwest in recent years, registering a 70% kayo ratio and stopping 10 of his last 12 opponents. Despite that statistic, Alvarado tries to box smartly in the opening rounds, using superior balance and infighting techniques he complements with skills learned competing at national high school wrestling tournaments. Started boxing at age 20, fashioning a 36-5 amateur record, splitting two fights with Andre Dirrell but never won a major national competition. Despite the initial impression I had of Alvarado, he falls outside the category of a boxer who does everything well without excelling in a particular area. He is an excellent stalker, closing distances and filling spaces with a punch or forward momentum. Was impressive dismantling former champion Cesar Bazan in 2008, displaying a formidable jab before dropping Bazan with a right hook. Alvarado’s kayo of Emmanuel Clottey was worthy of “Knockout of the Year” consideration with Clottey dropping as if falling through a trapdoor. Alvarado puts in solid bodywork to set up attrition stoppages if the brilliant one does not arrive like his recent demolition of Ray Narh. He has slowly won me over as I did not see him as world-class or even a top 10 boxer at first. Perhaps because Alvarado’s hand speed and power are not in an elite class and he generally scores tactical stoppages instead of highlight reel hooks. Held his own in sparring sessions against a smaller Yuriorkis Gamboa, so his timing - if not speed - is excellent. Alvarado is a Fernando Vargas-type, making up for a lack of physical skills with intelligent movement and accuracy. Can hurt opponents with either hand and does not show stamina problems, going 10 hard rounds with relative ease. Alvarado had a bicep injury in 2010 which hampered him and limited Alvarado to two bouts that year. By all accounts, Alvarado has turned his personal life around, which caused him to miss out on high-profile bouts (against Paulie Malignaggi), serving two prison sentences for alcohol and driving-related incidents. Unlike higher-profile prospects, Alvarado really had to work for this title opportunity, lending him a sense of animus and mental steeling for this title opportunity. At age 32, with eight years of hard pro work behind him, the stage is set for Alvarado to succeed or fail tomorrow night.
Brandon Rios - Another well-respected Oxnard product, who, before a victory over Lamont Peterson, had not fully made the transition from amateur star to full-fledged title prospect. The corner work of former world titlist Robert Garcia, who has his great reputation, looks to have sunk in and created an intelligent destroyer. Rios began boxing at age eight, reportedly compiling a 230-35 record and winning two national titles en route to a spot on the Olympic team as an alternate. As a pro, Rios had a couple of close decisions go his way, mostly because his combinations are eye-catching and produce a solid pop. I saw Rios’ fight against Carlos Guevara in person and expected more of his promised hand speed. I did not get the feel of a surefire future champion from Rios but his opponent’s grabbing style does not bring out the best in sluggers. Consecutive blowouts over fellow prospects Jorge Teron and Anthony Peterson marked Rios ready for a title challenge and removed the concerns I had seeing him live. Rios puts punches together well, a result of sparring with champions like Marco Antonio Barrera, and goes to the body consistently and with seemingly enjoyable malice. Championship seasoning has brought increased accuracy to his hooks and solid punchers have not been able to dent his chin. If anything, retaliating with hard punches wakes up Rios for his now-patented late-round charges. Basically, is a strong kid and I like that aggressive passion Rios exudes when he finds a rhythm. In the coming-out fight against Teron, Rios pressed and blitzed a surprised foe, working combinations from body to head with equal zest. Against Peterson, Rios’ intelligent aggression left no room for countering and his punches landed with such accuracy that there was no escape for his paralyzed foe. A negative aspect to Rios, which fans saw on HBO’s “24/7” series, is Rios’s sometimes abrasive personality that included mimicking Freddie Roach’s Parkinson’s Disease. At age 26, there is no excuse for such childishness, which has spilled over to his boxing, missing the 135-pound weight limit in consecutive title fights. Says of his fighting style, “I’m very aggressive; I like to come forward a lot. I’ve always been like that - I like to put a lot of pressure on my opponent.” Given the strong opponent, tomorrow night will tell if Rios is as skilled as many believe or if his biggest wins are only size and weight-aided victories.
Verdict – I believe Mike Alvarado was put into a holding pattern against average opposition waiting for this title shot, which has stagnated Alvarado and perhaps seen him regress. The Breidis Prescott performance, where a late rally saved Alvarado, is an example of this. If that version of Alvarado appears, Rios will score an emphatic victory. It is difficult to predict how much better or worse Rios will be at junior welterweight but the fact that he could concentrate on his foe vice making weight is important. Rios has the better cornerman and preoperational environment, which plays into the outcome of an evenly-matched bout like this. For me, it comes down to Rios being slightly faster, more versatile on offense and closing out fights stronger. Both men should enjoy stretches of dominance since both lose focus mentally but Rios’ rounds will be more eye-catching with sharper punching created by his accuracy from distance. Alvarado is more of a mauler that gets his points on the inside, landing occasional long rights as he pushes Rios off or as Rios backs out of engagements in straight lines. The judges will appreciate Rios’ work more and I envision an eight-to-four rounds victory by Rios aided by his sweeping the championship rounds.
Toshiaki Nishioka - The 36-year-old champion has won 16 consecutive bouts, 10 via stoppage, a slick speedster whose unpredictable movement sublimely supplements stinging power. Undefeated for eight years, what makes Nishioka special are nimble feet, which disguise somewhat slowing punching patterns that send him darting in every direction at the blink of an eye. Nishioka did not gain the nickname of “Speed King” for nothing and his attacking blueprint is never repeated from the same angle in a given round. This strains opposing boxers attempting to calculate the trajectory of punches, doubly exasperated since the punches come at them from a southpaw stance. Some American fans might remember Nishioka overcoming a first-round knockdown to brutally kayo (with one straight left hand) Jhonny Gonzalez in Mexico. Nishioka is special because of his mental strength and is not afraid to travel having boxed in North America four times and Europe once. The champ overcame two losses and two draws in early career title challenges, as well as an Achilles’ heel injury before finally winning a world title in his fifth attempt. Has one-punch stopping power in his left hand but generally stuns foes with a punch before overwhelming them with follow-up flurries. A nimble boxer, Nishioka works a blinding jab followed by solid punches that cut the air with cunning accuracy. Punches are made more dangerous when Nishioka repositions himself an instant before releasing a combination, cutting the distance his blows travel and creating unorthodox angles. Rarely is Nishioka not moving, either throwing punches or jitterbugging laterally to aid his defense and create a new path to exploit. Though constantly moving, he is an economical puncher, refusing to throw punches for the sake of activity. Consider Nishioka a sharpshooter, a sniper whose victims often never see the punch that gets ‘em. Has a great sense of space, staying at the edges of his opponent’s reach, waiting for the right moment to attack, which American fans finally got to witness up close when Nishioka easily outpointed power-punching former champion Rafael Marquez. Is tricky to track down on offense without running into a straight punch when he stops and pivots on a dime. Has held the title for over two-and-a-half years now with seven successful defenses and is a late bloomer whose confidence is sky high at the moment. Nishioka should go down as one of the more unique boxers of this era, able to switch from leading to counterpunching at will.
Nonito Donaire - Despite Donaire’s knockout of Vic Darchinyan - one of the last decade’s best - I remained unsure about his legitimacy until his destruction of Fernando Montiel. Given title defense victories over well-qualified contenders and fellow champions, my skepticism flew in the face of reality. I have made a 180-degree reversal in accepting Donaire as an elite fighter. At 29, Donaire is in his prime and has a wealth of amateur experience (he came to America at age 10) to fall back upon in a crisis. Trained by Robert Garcia, after a messy breakup with his father/trainer, Nonito Sr., Donaire has toyed and worked on tricks against solid foes like Hernan Marquez. Following that win, scored a frightfully easy kayo of former champion Volodymyr Sydorenko. Donaire’s offensive variety intimidates and causes hesitation in opponents, as was the case with underrated Omar Narvaez and Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. Donaire’s all-around boxing skills are multiplied by abundant hand speed, using a 5’5½” frame and long arms to reach every part of an opponent’s body. Moniker of “Filipino Flash” is justified, hiding thunderbolts of power behind a blindingly stiff jab. A Filipino (who competed for a spot on the American Olympic team, losing to Brian Viloria), Donaire is only second to legendary Manny Pacquiao in terms of fan appeal. Before becoming a champion, matured his style by sparring champions like Joel Casamayor and Pacquiao. At times, Donaire gives up too much of the ring to opponents but that might be done purposely to encourage foes to punch more. Donaire moves backward and sideways well, luring opponents into mistakes as they advance. This worked to perfection against Darchinyan, dropping the cocky Armenian with a left hook worthy of The Ring’s “Knockout of the Year” award. Kayos are what inspire Donaire, “I always want to look for a knockout. That is the best way to victory you can achieve in a fight. I don’t want to be cocky or sound cocky but that is the best motivation for a fight and what I keep in my head.” Wants to ramp up his activity, only fighting twice last year and three times in 2010, and given his exciting style, Donaire could still become this generation’s Michael Carbajal. Received some criticism for employing scandal-ridden steroid doctor Victor Conte as his dietician. Donaire is currently ranked at number five pound-for-pound by The Ring magazine; tomorrow night will go a long way to either justifying or proving critics wrong about his high ranking.
Verdict – The intangibles line up for Donaire yet I still get a lingering feeling Nishioka will pull off another impressive win on foreign soil. I have been a longtime booster of Nishioka but think this fight came a year too late for him and at just the right time for Donaire. Nishioka will stay out of Donaire’s danger zone and this fight could turn into a tactical affair because of both men’s defensive adjustments and rapid reaction times. Thus the more youthful and reflexive Donaire should be awarded a deserved decision on the basis of accuracy and ring generalship. What makes both Donaire and Nishioka pound-for-pound talents is that they have no predictabilities or tip-offs. A slightly (and that is all it takes when elite boxers face each other) slowing Nishioka will have difficulties landing clean shots while avoiding clever counters and Donaire’s speed advantage. Donaire will need to be weary of Nishioka’s sharp angled attacks from the southpaw stance and Donaire had trouble tracking southpaw Omar Narvaez down offensively last year . I expect some truly great spontaneous combinations from both boxers. Nishioka is a fast starter, so that is the chance he has to establish himself as the dominant force if Donaire does not match his aggression. Whoever wins, I believe American fight fans will be pleasantly surprised by Nishioka, an entertaining fighter who came to these shores just a tad too late to upset a fighter like Donaire in his prime.
Prediction record for 2012: 84% (102-20)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)

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