Victories by Cristian Mijares and Manny Pacquiao lit the fuse to a number of potentially explosive fights for the summer.
First, Mijares dominating performance last Saturday against Jorge Arce proved he’s the class of the junior bantamweight division with his nifty southpaw moves and pinpoint punching.
Now he’s really going to have to prove himself.
A small but dangerous list of opponents begins with former world champion Martin “El Gallito” Castillo, Jose Navarro, Z Gorres, WBO titleholder Fernando Montiel and you don’t have to leave the country to fight any of those 115-pounders. They all live or train in California except for Montiel. And if Mijares really wants to take a chance there’s flyweight king Vic Darchinyan who’s begging to be heard.
Darchinyan’s promoter Gary Shaw was pretty unhappy about the results last Saturday.
“Top Rank turned down $1.5 million for Arce to fight Darchinyan,” said Shaw by telephone after adding a few more diatribes about miscalculation. “Why take that fight? This kid Mijares can fight. They should have known that.”
Mijares proved he’s no ordinary fighter. The fighting Mexican showed he could hold on to the belt. His exemplary boxing skills and stamina offset the human punching machine Arce displays in every fight. But not last Saturday.
“He was the better man,” said Arce, a classy and gutsy former world champion.
The Durango boxer surprised fans but those who had seen Mijares in action realized he could give any opponent fits with his left-handed style that blends speed, precision and defense. Capitalize defense.
It’s not easy to win a world title against a Japanese boxer in Japan, especially by decision. That’s exactly what Mijares did by first beating Katsushige Kawashima last year by split-decision in Yokohama. Then this past January he beat Kawashima again, but this time he stopped the tough Japanese fighter in the 10th round in Tokyo to grab the WBC belt.
The stylish left-hander presents a conundrum that could be hard to beat. But the junior bantamweight division features a wide variety of styles that could present a number of predicaments.
Lets look at a break down of possible opponents for Mijares:
Castillo, who formerly held the WBA version of the junior bantamweight title, lost in Japan because of a horrendous cut he suffered against Nobou Nashiro during their clash. The referee ruled the cut was caused by a punch and the fight was stopped in the 10th round of a very even fight according to the scorecards. But instead of going to the judges, it was ruled a technical knockout.
Because Castillo no longer holds the title, he must wait for the outcome of Nashiro’s title defense against Alexander Munoz on May 3.
“Martin (Castillo) was supposed to fight Arce, but because we didn’t have the title we didn’t have enough to offer,” said Frank Espinoza, Castillo’s manager. “Mijares had the title so that’s why he was given the fight. It could have been Castillo that beat Arce that bad. But Mijares got him first.”
A match between Castillo and Mijares would be a battle fought like a high-speed chess match. Both are extremely quick and know how to slip in and out of exchanges. It projects to be a match similar to Sugar Ray Leonard’s meeting with Wilfredo Benitez where both boxers had incredible speed and defensive ability. The first fighter to make a mistake could conceivably win.
Another California-based boxer in the mix is former 2000 U.S. Olympian Jose Navarro who’s lost only two fights but both were in Japan.
“We would love to fight Mijares,” said Frank Rivera, trainer and co-manager of Navarro. “For a while people were talking about Jose fighting Arce but Mijares had the belt so that fight made sense.”
Rivera said a match with the left-handed Mijares against southpaw Navarro would require a little time to get his fighter adjusted. But for any other fighters out there they could be ready immediately.
“We could fight Fernando Montiel immediately,” Rivera says.
One fighter both Navarro and Castillo would like soon is IBF flyweight titleholder Vic Darchinyan who has challenged everyone from 112 pounds to 160 pounds.
“Darchinyan and Jose (Navarro) would be a great fight for us,” said Rivera.
Espinoza said Castillo would also love a match against the Aussie knockout artist.
“Martin Castillo has the style to beat Darchinyan,” Espinoza said.
Any of those combinations would provide high-powered boxing if held in Southern California area where they are well known to the fans.
“That fight on Saturday put Cristian Mijares on the map,” said Rivera. “Now everybody knows who Mijares is.”
After Pacquiao ended Jorge Solis hopes with a stealthy left uppercut in the eighth on Saturday, the doors of opportunity are suddenly wide open for a number of intriguing and dangerous fights for the Filipino bomber.
“I’d like a fight with Juan Manuel Marquez maybe in September,” said Pacquiao after struggling a bit to finally stop the awkward and rangy Solis.
But that fight could possibly be derailed due to a legal battle between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions who both claim rights to Pacquiao’s contract. Marquez has a promotional agreement with Golden Boy Promotions.
Other options remain and they’re no less exciting.
One fighter who presents a dangerous option is Mexico’s Humberto Soto (41-5-2, 25 KOs), an opponent that few featherweights or junior lightweights are willing to face. Ask Rocky Juarez about Soto:
“He’s a monster,” said Juarez, who lost a close decision to Soto almost two years ago in a blistering fight. “When I fought Soto nobody knew how good he was. Now he’s probably one of the best fighters in the world.”
Ironically Soto, who began fighting professionally at 16, will be opposing Pacquiao’s younger brother Bobby Pacquiao on June 9, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Expect a foul infested all out war when those two collide. And also expect Soto to bomb out baby brother with his strength and tenacity.
In Japan, WBA junior lightweight Edwin Valero awaits a match with Pacquiao too.
Valero has never heard what the judges have scored his fights because he’s knocked out every opponent he’s faced inside the ropes. The Venezuelan southpaw has virtual rocks in his gloves, he hits that hard. He’ll be defending his title on May 3 against Japan’s Nobuhito Honmo who has never been stopped. His chin will receive the ultimate test. Should Valero beat Honmo then a fight with Pacquiao could be made.
Joan Guzman, who holds the WBO junior lightweight title, could possibly be the fighter with the most defensive and offensive skills Pacquiao’s ever faced. With apologies to Marco Antonio Barrera and Marquez, the Dominican Republic’s Guzman has incredible speed and solid power. Many feel he’s just waiting for the opportunity to show the world his greatness.
“Joan Guzman has more skills than any other fighter I’ve seen,” said Julio Diaz, who sparred with Guzman before winning the IBF lightweight title. “He has super quickness and hits pretty hard.”
Now the doors are completely open for two smaller weight divisions with a new name Mijares ready to prove his greatness and a familiar name Pacquiao ready to show longevity. This summer the heat is on.
Fights on television
Wed. ESPN2, 7 p.m., Chris Byrd (39-3-1) vs. Paul Marinaccio (22-2-2).
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Abner Mares (11-0) vs. Angel Priolo (30-5).
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Kendall Holt (21-1) vs. Mike Arnaoutis (17-1-2).
Fri. Telemundo, 11:30 p.m., Juan Rodriguez (53-20-2) vs. Lenin Arroyo (17-5-1).