If Donaire gets past the South African, who do you want him to fight next? Rigo? (Chris Farina-Top Rank photo)
Jeffrey Mathebula should be thanking Josesito Lopez right about now. Check that…maybe he should be cursing him. Every now and again, you need one of those stunner upset fights, like the one we saw on Saturday night, when solid but still a massive underdog in the minds of most Josesito Lopez stopped Victor Ortiz, and screwed up the plans for a PPV anointment party for Canelo Alvarez, who was due to meet Ortiz, if he exited the victor against Lopez.
But he didn't…because sometimes it goes that way.
Sometimes, besides the best laid plans of the dealmakers and kingmakers who plot out their chess moves with consummate precision and maximum plotting go awry. And we love it, because we love it when the massive underdog, the guy who wasn't supposed to win, the one who represents all of us–the Have Nots–flips the script, that boring-ass script and the tired stack of sequels, and reminds us that sometimes, the little guy prevails.
So, like I said, maybe Jeffrey Mathebula should thank Josesito Lopez, for giving him a little nudge, a little pick me up, a reminder that even though he is the IBF 122 pound champion, and holds a 26-3-2 record, no one outside of South Africa, or the cadre of true hardcore fight fans and fans of the featherweights, knows who he is, that he is capable of downing Nonito Donaire. Donaire is the massive favorite, the one with the showier record, 28-1, the one for whom big plans are being plotted, a good six months, or year in advance. Donaire is the Victor Ortiz in this instance.
Or, conversely, maybe Mathebula should silently curse Josesito. Because just in case the Filipino born Donaire was looking with one eye over the shoulder of Mathebula, towards a showdown with Jorge Arce, or maybe Guillermo Rigondeaux, instead of the gig on July 7, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA (and on HBO, paired with a Kelly Pavlik-Will Rosinsky showdown), maybe he took note of the Lopez upset. Maybe, if he was tempted to run only five miles instead of six in this camp, he instead ran seven, because he realized that it was quite possible Mathebula is looking to play the Josesito role on July 7.
Donaire, the WBO junior featherweight champ, certainly sounded on message, like he has his head screwed on straight, during a Tuesday conference call to hype the bout. “The motivation is in my heart to work toward my goals and my dreams,” said the California-based boxer, who won a decision over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in February in his last outing, his first at 122. “To be a unified champion then challenge anyone out there and make it undisputed is a dream and hopefully I can make it happen. Like Bob (Arum) said, there are incredible fighters in this weight class and we are going to take them.And I am going to keep all the belts. Mathebula is the IBF guy and he is an incredible fighter and we can’t look past him. Mathebula is a very tough fighter. He is a tall guy, the tallest fighter I will have faced and I know Cameron (Dunkin, manager) is nervous about it. But he’s always nervous. He’s always looking out for his fighters, that’s how he is. But I told Cameron I wanted this fight. I knew this guy would motivate me and he made me train as hard as I did. I don’t know what to expect because he is so tall.”
Readers, there is precious little footage of Mathebula out there. Donaire said he expects him to use his height, his range, and Arum expects his Zulu blood to show up, for him to bring the fight to Donaire, and not look to pull a Narvaez or Vazquez, and survive. What say you? Could Mathebula pull a Josesito?
SPEEDBAG This call featured some fairly fascinating chess-playing and showing of the cards by promoter Bob Arum. To point: “First of you have to understand that HBO, the premier network, and to its credit, has embraced this decision. You couple that with the technological advances that HBO is making – measuring the impact of punches, which will start at the beginning of next year. Mares is a very good fighter but he has to be willing to fight on the premier network, which is HBO, and not on the secondary network, which is Showtime. It’s not a question of Top Rank or Golden Boy but it’s the fact that HBO has embraced Nonito and this entire division and that’s where the future is.” And then: “Mares is there but has got to cut the apron strings and be willing to fight in this whole series of important fights on the premier network, which is HBO, which understands how important this whole division is.”
Hmm. It is really setting up that HBO is the Top Rank network and Showtime is the Golden Boy network. Is that good, or bad, for the fans? Will be interesting to see how this plays out. I am hoping it will be for the best, for the fans, as always.