By Tyson Bruce
On paper, the final results of last night’s triple-header on HBO went exactly as everyone predicated they would. Heavy favorites Mikey Garcia and Nonito Donaire both scored knockout victories and Demetrius Andrade over Vanes Martirosyan won a split decision in what most people thought would be a pick-em’ type match beforehand. The final results, however, do not tell the real story of what was a more complex night of boxing.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
The night got started with Demetrius Andrade (19-0) and perennial prospect Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1). Despite the bout featuring two young and talented boxers, the insider expectations for entertainment value were very low. They turned out to be founded, mostly because Martirosyan refused to let his hands go and fought a frustratingly passive bout.
The fight started out with a bang as Andrade, who had been controlling the round with his hand speed, got caught with a short counter left hand that sent him on his rear. The knock down, however, failed to spark Martirosyan’s passion and he went back to being out boxed the very next round.
The remaining ten rounds of the bout took a very predictable pattern, with each passing round being indistinguishable from the next. Andrade kept pumping the jab and flashing his fast hands, while Martirosyan laid back looking for the counter shot that would never come. It was an utterly passionless performance by Martirosyan.
During the television broadcast Roy Jones compared Martirosyan’s pro career with that of 1976 Olympian Howard Davis, who also went through a vast period of arrested development before finally securing a title shot. When he did get the big opportunity the passion that fueled a prolific amateur career was gone and he could never relay his Olympic success into professional glory. Martirosyan is like the diet-cola version of Davis—a talented boxer who doesn’t appear to have the tunnel vision or passionate focus to make it over the contender to champion hurdle.
Although Andrade didn’t exactly look like Ali either, a lot of that can be attributed to an uncooperative opponent. His athleticism, hand speed, and boxing skills will serve him well against the upper echelon of the division.
After all, Martirosyan was no slouch and “Boo Boo” won virtually every round. At least we thought he did, until Texas judge Javier Alvarez, unbelievably, put forth the 115-112 score for Martirosyan and Don Griffith scored the bout 114-113 for Andrade. In the latest Texas judging debacle Andrade, who most people had winning 117-111, had to sweep the last four rounds just to secure victory. Alvarez should have his purse taken and his judging license suspended—period.
The rematch between Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan ended the same way as their first fight, with Vic meeting his demise courtesy of a Donaire left hook. This time it was a little bit more complex. Donaire was coming off a boxing lesson suffered at the hands of Guillermo Rigondeaux and the public was waiting to see if his passion and skills were still intact.
In their first meeting some five years early, Donaire basically dominated every round on route to scoring the knockout and upset of the year. It was a star making performance. The purpose of their unlikely rematch was to set Donaire up with a guy who was tailor made for him to score a highlight real knockout and the rebranding process could begin.
The smoke screen didn’t really work, as the flaws that Donaire showed in the Rigondeaux loss seemed even more obvious and he has never looked so vulnerable.
The first four rounds of the bout started out in a deliberate but tense pace, with Darchinyan, surprisingly, looking to counter-punch Donaire instead of his typical full-boar approach. The strategy was paying dividends, as Donaire struggled to find his rhythm, showed poor balance, and appeared to be head hunting for the perfect one punch.
The debunking of “boxer-puncher” myth that has surrounded Donaire gained even more traction because except for when Vic jumped straight in Donaire looked utterly lost. There was no jab, very little bodywork, and few mutli-punch combinations. As each round passed Darchinyan got more and more into the fight.
Donaire made no changes to his style and it was almost like the Rigondeaux fight never happed. However, as the bout moved along one got the sense that it might not be just because of laziness and that Donaire might not be the fighter he used to be. After all, it’s not as if Darchinyan has evolved and become a superior fighter and if anything his recent losses and lack of knockout power is evidence that his abilities are on the decline.
So maybe Donaire just can’t pull the trigger quite as quick as he used to? Similar to Roy Jones Jr., Donaire is more puncher-athlete as opposed to a boxer-puncher, and until Jones’s athleticism began to fade it was really hard to acknowledge the technical flaws in his style. In the lower weights guys like this usually have a short burning flame, just think of the brevity of Naseem Hamed’s career.
Fortunately for Donaire, his punching power bailed him out of a fight that was slipping out of his hands. He finally got the timing down on one of his patented left-hooks, a punch that when he lands guys do not usually get up from. Darchinyan, probably out of pride, managed to get to his feet but the fight was over. It was a sudden and explosive ending that reminded people of just how dangerous Donaire can be when he lands cleanly. It is his equalizer and he remains the only man to have ever stopped Darchinyan in a long career against excellent competition.
After the bout he called out Rigondeaux for a rematch, but if that happens he must have a better strategy because from where I was sitting he looked like the same Donaire, which we know wasn’t and isn’t enough.
The Mikey Garcia-Rocky Martinez bout essentially followed the script with Garcia scoring a resounding knockout, despite suffering a surprise knockdown in the second round.
After being stripped of his featherweight title for failing to make weight in his last bout, Garcia moved up in weight to challenge division stalwart and titleholder Rocky Martinez.
After out boxing Martinez in the first round, Garcia got caught by a perfect right hand counter and down he went. It was shocking to see because Garcia has so seldom been in any kind of danger. Garcia wasn’t fazed in the slightest, as he dusted himself off and went back to slowly and methodically breaking Martinez down. Despite some clever and crafty work by Martinez, he was slowly being pulled into Garcia’s rhythm and each proceeding round became worse for him then the last.
After brutalizing Martinez with head shots in rounds six and seven, he stunned him again in the eighth and when Martinez was bent over Garcia demolished him with a withering left hook to the body. That was all she wrought. Garcia, even while being dropped, again made a resounding statement that with his well-rounded skills and two-handed punching power he is a force to be reckoned with. It could be a long time before he tastes anything but victory.