Nonito Donaire looked rock-solid in the main event of the Latin Fury-Pinoy Power PPV card from the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas on Saturday night. But he was a super flyweight in with a man who battled as a minimumweight/straw-weight boxer, so no one should lose themselves in exultation at the third round stoppage victory for the “Filipino Flash.” For those of you unfamiliar with that weight class, that meant Manuel Vargas weighed in at 105 pounds for that September bout against Donnie NIetes. For this scrap, he was 114 pounds, but Vargas may as well have been 100 pounds, dripping wet with flop sweat as he readied himself to surrender to the heavy handed Donaire (115 pounds; 22-1; from General Santos City, Philippines).
The challenger Vargas (age 28; 26-4-1 entering; from Mexico; ex straw-weight champ) took the bout on just three days notice, after Gerson Guerrero failed an eye exam. He was in the gym training for a March 12 bout, against 108 pound champion Rodel Mayol, so he was keen to make more money, and fight on a bigger stage. This was a non-title affair. The official time of the finish was 1:33 of the third. Donaire landed 35 punches of 106 thrown, while Vargas landed just four of 45.
In case anyone out there was fantasizing about a PPV price markdown, what with the switcheroo of foes, let it be said that Guerrero may well not have made it past three himself. His record isn't built on the firmest of foundations…
In the first, the 27-year-old Donaire, whose sole loss came in his second pro outing, showed a height and reach edge, in a big way. There looked to be a two division gap between the men. The latecomer backed up, mostly to his left. When he came forward, he paid; a left hook clanked his head with a minute to go. Donaire is such a calm customer, and he looked to be totally non flustered by anything Vargas showed him. In the second, a right hand buzzed the underdog. Then another. It didn't look like we'd see the sixth, let alone a distance scrap. Vargas' mouth hung open, but he wasn't shy. He'd hurl the occasional overhand right that Donaire evaded with relative ease. In the third, Donaire dropped Vargas with a left-right-left-right-left combo, and he lay on his back, cooked. Ref Joe Cortez counted to ten.
Gerry Penalosa (age 37; from the Phillipines; , a 20 year pro; 54-7-2 entering; two time world champ; 118 pounds) took on Eric Morel (34; born in Puerto Rico; 1996 Olympian; ex fly champ; 117 pounds; 41-2 entering) in a fight for the vacant WBO world bantamweight crown. Morel used his legs to great effect, and came away with a split decision win (115-113 for Morel, 115-113 for Penalosa, 116-112 for Morel), a decision at odds with the announcers working the show. TSS agreed with the 116-112 Duane Ford card for Morel, liking his dialed in pugilism, while as always coming away with mad respect for Penalosa's cajones.
Morel looked the peppier of the two thirtysomethings in the first. He circled left, away from Gerry's left. The Filipino got the right hook to the body untracked in the second. Morel tried to take some steam out with a groinshot. Morel came out with a pile of power shots to start the third, sending a message. But really his legs spoke loudest; his mobility if used properly could give him an edge. Gerry's left eye swelled up by this juncture. In the fourth, Morel moved well but where was the O? It came at the end of the round actually, maybe enough to get the judges' nod. Morel didn't slow down in the fifth, but we wondered if he could stay energized and moving for the duration. In the sixth, the action stopped for a head clash. Gerry's right eye was cut. Then his left eye sprung a leak, again from an accidental head bump. The doc looked at Gerry, and he pronounced him fit to continue.
In round seven, Morel kept on keeping on, getting in, getting off, and getting away. That is, until a minute left, when Gerry landed a combo. The blood from the left eye bothered Gerry's vision in the eighth, but he kept chugging forward. He won the round, as Morel's dancing dropped off. In round nine, Morel was back on message, but Penalosa's body work was sharp. In the 10th, Morel's ring generalship looked to be the difference, if you are the sort who prizes that, even if there wasn't excessive offense to augment it. In the 11th, Morel didn't fade. He kept clear of Gerry's power launches, but was he throwing enough to win the rounds? He was on my card. In the last round, Morel kept on his Segway, maybe too much for what was almost certainly a megatight fight. We'd go to the cards. Steve Farhood had Gerry up big, Al Bernstein a bit less, and Nick Charles also saw Gerry the victor. TSS did not. The stats said: Morel went, while Gerry was.
Champ Fernando Montiel (age 30; from Mexico; three division champ; 118 pounds; 39-2-2 entering) hooked up with Ciso Morales (118 pounds; 14-0 entering; from the Philippines), in a defense of his WBO 118 pound belt. Montiel likes to sweep with the left hook and voila. Morales ate one, to the gut, and went down with a minute left. He hit the deck, laying on his belly, and couldn't beat Robert Byrds' count. On replay, viewers saw that it wasn't a groin shot, but a belt-line crack thrown as Morales jabbed, which felled the kid. He didn't protest a crotchshot, for the record. The time: 2:06 of the first.
Filipino Bernabe Concepcion (age 22; 126 pounds; 29-2-1 coming in) won a UD10 from Puerto Rican Mario Santiago (age 31; 126 pounds; 21-1-1 entering) in the TV opener, and put himself ahead in the JuanMa sweepstakes. The lefty Santiago circled, and used his jab to good effect in the first. Bernie did get off a sharp right with Santiago's back to the ropes two minutes in. Manny Pacquiao sat in the audience, rooting on the fellow Filipino. Bernie got heated in the second, and his right hand touched up the Puerto Rican multiple times. Bernie fired after the bell in the third, showing distaste for a low blow earlier on. Santiago backed up, but it was hard to decipher his strategy in doing so. He didn't counter smartly, make Bernie pay if he got out of position. Why wasn't he using a heigh and reach advantage, his corner wondered. Bernie scored a knockdown off a right at 1:40 of the sixth. Could he finish? Santiago got his head, and his legs looked solid enough to stick around awhile. Santiago indeed got something done with body shots in the ninth. He knew he needed a late surge. That came in the tenth–he forged ahead, and got aggressive, and whaled away. A right uppercut was sharp, and he snapped with both hands. Where was this furor the rest of the way? He gestured at and screamed at Bernie, and won the last round by a wide margin. We'd go to the cards. 98-91, 96-93, 97-92, they said, all for the Filipino. He went 145-387 and Santiago was 149-789, supposedly, but this was a clear case of the stats giving a mistaken impression. So, how will Concepcion fare in a WBO featherweight title crack against JuanMa? He'll be the underdog, let's put it that way. JuanMa will like his lack of volume, his squared up style, his lack of pinpoint accuracy.
SPEEBAG Pacquiao took the mike and talked up his foundation, the Manny Pacquiao Foundation, which is accepting donations to help defray medical costs for the Filipino fighter Z Gorres, who suffered a brain injury in his last bout, against Luis Melendez on Nov. 13 in Las Vegas. TSS readers can send money to: The Manny Pacquiao Foundation C/O Top Rank Boxing, 3980 Howard Hughes Blvd Suite 580, Las Vegas, Nevada 89109.
—Afterwards, Donaire said he'd next like to fight Darchinyan next.