Closing the Year with Boxing’s Best

by Kieran Mulvaney

What to do when HBO’s live boxing broadcasts have wrapped for the year? Revisit the very best bouts from an action-packed 2012, of course. The last 12 months have provided some jaw-dropping action, and for five days, beginning December 25, HBO will be showcasing seven of the year’s best examples of boxing brilliance. All times are ET/PT.


Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto
Tuesday, December 25 at 11 PM


In May, Puerto Rican superstar Cotto put his junior middleweight belt on the line against pound-for-pound king Mayweather. In one of the finest performances of his likely Hall-of-Fame career, Cotto pushed Money May to the edge, forcing Mayweather to dig deeper than he has had to in at least 10 years.

 

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez
Wednesday, December 26 at 11 PM

 

Martinez was regarded as the true middleweight champion. But Chavez had the belt he coveted, and Martinez agitated for over a year for an opportunity to take it from him. When the chance came, the Argentine appeared well on his way to doing what he had sought to do, until a dramatic finale that was one of the most explosive rounds of the year.

 

Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto
Thursday, December 27 at 11 PM

 

Three years ago, Guerrero was campaigning as a junior lightweight, having begun his professional career as a featherweight. One month ago, he appeared on HBO World Championship Boxing in just his second bout as a welterweight, taking on a hard-hitting former 147-pound-title-holder whose own professional debut had been at 162 pounds – almost 37 pounds heavier than Guerrero’s. But Guerrero was the aggressor, dragging Berto into an old-fashioned down-and-dirty street fight that was one of the roughest, toughest and best of 2012.

 

Antonio DeMarco vs. Adrien Broner
Friday, December 28 at 11 PM

 

Flashy Adrien “The Problem” Broner inspires a gamut of emotions – and it’s safe to say that few if any of them are ‘indifference.’ Love him or hate him, it is hard not to respect him; increasingly tipped as the sport’s next big star, Broner went a long way to establishing his bona fides with a devastating and dominant performance against Mexican DeMarco.

 

Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson
Friday, December 28 at 11:45 PM

 

Light-heavyweight titlist Dawson took the unusual step of dropping down in weight to take on super middleweight kingpin Ward. He may still be regretting it, after Ward – in many pundits’ eyes, second only to Mayweather on the pound-for-pound list – opened his full bag of tricks and cemented his place among boxing’s elite.

 

Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
Saturday, December 29 at 11 PM

 

The moment this junior welterweight clash was signed, boxing fans everywhere had the date circled on their calendars. Both Rios and Alvarado entered the contest unbeaten and with reputations for possessing that rare combination of immovable object and irresistible force. There seemed no way this could fail to be a serious Fight of the Year candidate, and so it proved. Each man dished out and received hellacious punishment, and the contest swayed back and forth, with first one man and the other seizing advantage and momentum, until an ending that seemed to come almost out of the blue.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4
Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11:40 PM

 

Pacquiao and Marquez had pursued each other like Ahab and the whale, across eight years and 36 rounds, before meeting for a fourth time on December 8. Each man insisted beforehand that this would be their final battle, but after six rounds that exceeded even the dizzying heights of their previous encounters, and a conclusive, concussive ending that was among the most shocking and emphatic in years, who would bet against a fifth?

 

Donaire Stops Nishioka, But Rios Is the Night’s Brightest Star

by Kieran Mulvaney

Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

The task for Nonito Donaire was twofold.

Most obviously and simply, he had to defeat Toshiaki Nishioka -- on the face of it, no easy task, given that the classy Japanese boxer was undefeated in eight years and had recently dispatched possible future Hall-of-Famer Rafael Marquez.

But he carried the extra burden of a man of whom much is expected: after a series of relatively underwhelming title defenses, the junior featherweight who is regarded as one of the best fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world had to do more than win. He had to win impressively.

In the early going, it appeared that one of those tasks could be checked off the list without too much concern. For the first few rounds, Nishioka didn’t so much show Donaire respect as outright reverence. His right hand glued to the side of his head to protect against Donaire’s vaunted left hook, he seemed reticent to deploy his southpaw left hand for fear of what incoming artillery he might receive in response. 

Read More on HBO.com.

CompuBox Analysis: Donaire vs. Nishioka

by CompuBox

Few fighters have walked the gauntlet Nonito Donaire has over the past two years. In that time he crushed current flyweight titlist Hernan Marquez in eight rounds, then blasted former bantamweight titlist Wladimir Sidorenko in four, crushed two-belt titleholder Fernando Montiel in two and scored decisive decisions over Omar Narvaez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (a split decision that should have been unanimous) and Jeffrey Mathebula (a unanimous decision that should have been split).

For "The Filipino Flash" there is no rest for the weary, for just three months after the demanding battle with Mathebula he is tackling who many consider the best 122-pounder in the world, longtime WBC titlist Toshiaki Nishioka, who at 36 is riding an eight-year, 16-fight winning streak. Additionally, Nishioka is coming off an eye-opening decision victory over Rafael Marquez, an impressive performance that also took place 11 long months ago.

See more Compubox analysis of Nonito Donaire vs. Toshiaki Nishioka on HBO.com.

 

CompuBox Analysis: Rios vs. Alvarado

by CompuBox


When Brandon Rios is "right," he is among the most exciting fighters in the world. His pulsating aggression is proof that his "Bam Bam" nickname was well chosen and if anyone wants proof just look at his three-round slugfest against Urbano Antillon, rated as one of 2011's best fights.

But it has been a while since Rios has been "right." Rios lost his WBA lightweight belt on the scales before his battle with John Murray and weight problems prior to the Richard Abril fight cost him a chance to regain the strap his issues caused him to vacate in the first place.

Now that Rios has abandoned the 135-pound division weight shouldn't be an issue. No, the issue before him now is Mike Alvarado, an undefeated campaigner who shares Rios' warrior mindset. Eight years into his career, Alvarado is fighting the biggest fight of his life against his most notable opponent.

See more Compubox analysis of Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado on HBO.com.

Why Rios-Alvarado Could Steal the Show on Saturday Night

by Kieran Mulvaney

The headline act for this Saturday’s HBO Boxing After Dark from Carson, CA is the junior featherweight title tilt between Nonito Donaire and Toshiaki Nishioka. It’s a high-quality matchup between two world-class pugilists, and by itself is worth staying in on a Saturday night.

But the co-main event is the kind of battle that has hardcore fans salivating, has them telling their friends, “Dude, whatever you do, do not miss this,” has them looking at the calendars on their walls and the watches on their wrists and counting down the hours and days.

Even the fighters involved recognize that, before a single hand has been wrapped, let alone a solitary punch thrown, many fans are dubbing it the potential ‘Fight of the Year’:

“It’s pretty cool that people are saying that,” said Brandon Rios, the lightweight titlist who is moving up to 140 pounds for this contest. “That it could hit the ‘Gatti list’ -- that would be awesome.”

His opponent, junior welterweight contender Mike Alvarado, is more circumspect. “I don’t really hear or pay attention to what the other people say,” he says. But he too recognizes the likelihood that it’s “going to be an explosive, entertaining fight.”

What is responsible for the heightened anticipation? It isn’t that both combatants are undefeated, with similar records (Alvarado is 33-0 with 23 KOs; Rios is 30-0-1 with 22 stoppages), although the fact that they have yet to taste defeat, even though both have fought quality opposition, is a testament to what the two men bring to the ring.

To truly understand the enthusiasm, watch the way Rios beat up Anthony Peterson so comprehensively that the then-unbeaten fighter resorted to fouling him repeatedly to secure disqualification as an escape from further punishment. Or the way, behind on points after five rounds, he rallied to drop the highly-fancied Miguel Acosta three times and stop him in the tenth; or the way he flattened Urbano Antillon in three rounds in his first defense of the title he ripped from Acosta.

Or cast your mind back to the undercard of last year’s third Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez clash, when for seven rounds Alvarado was being outboxed by Amir-Khan-conqueror Breidis Prescott, until suddenly a light appeared to go on and Alvarado began attacking Prescott with requisite urgency. First Prescott looked uncomfortable. Then he looked weary. Then he looked badly hurt. Then, in the tenth, he was down on the canvas, and although he got up, a few more hellacious punches sent him halfway out of the ropes until referee Jay Nady stepped in to save him. The subsequent description of Alvarado heard in the media room postfight was of the two-word variety: the first word was ‘bad’ and the second word rhymed with ‘grass.’


There is nothing fancy about Rios: He is a straight-ahead, face-first pressurizing slugger. If Alvarado has a few more tools in his toolbox, he’s unlikely to reach for them. There will be no matador in this ring, just two bulls charging at each other with heads down.

So grab the beer and the soda, the chips and the pizza. Don’t wait until Bob Papa has finished his set-up before you sit down. This bout is going to start fast, and it’s likely to stay that way, for as long as it lasts.

Dudes, do not miss this.

Nishioka Lies in Wait for Donaire

by Kieran Mulvaney

The attention, as always, is on Nonito Donaire. Donaire is the star, 122 pounds of skill and charisma. Donaire is the one who knocked out Vic Darchinyan, and who hit Fernando Montiel so hard he left an indentation in the side of his head. Donaire is the one widely regarded as one of the top half-dozen talents in boxing.

But Donaire is also a fighter who has at times looked more pedestrian than all-powerful in his past few outings. That hasn’t entirely been his fault: It takes two to tango, and a couple of his recent dance partners appeared as if they would have been more than happy to sit out the opportunity to quickstep with Donaire. Omar Narvaez barely bothered to show up at all, his ambition apparently limited to being able to return to Argentina and boast that he lasted twelve rounds. Jeffrey Mathebula used his lengthy reach to keep the Filipino at bay as best he could, but beyond that brought little to the table to disrupt Donaire’s progress. Sandwiched in between, Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. did make a fight of it, and despite being knocked down for his troubles, he pushed Donaire to a split decision.

Yet, despite the excuses about reticent opponents, and despite the obvious point that he is continuing to defeat those opponents -- and normally by quite large margins -- there is something about Donaire of late that has seemed a little … well, not quite right. It is almost as if he has read too many of his own press clippings, or fallen in love with the hype that accompanied his annihilation of Montiel. Or perhaps he’s just trying to keep things interesting for himself -- this is, after all, the man who inexplicably turned southpaw in a 2010 contest with Hernan Marquez that he was winning by a country mile. Whatever the case, Donaire has of late seemed all too willing to abandon the fundamentals in favor of dipping low, dropping his hands, leaping in from a crouch -- whatever it takes to confuse his foe, entertain the fans, and prevent himself from falling asleep.

That may work against the likes of Omar Narvaez. It could be a recipe for disaster against Toshiaki Nishioka.

If you haven’t heard of Nishioka, it’s likely because he has spent much of his career boxing in his native Japan. But he is, as the British say, no mug. His last defeat was in 2004. His last victory was against future Hall-of-Famer Rafael Marquez. He is a southpaw with excellent boxing skills. And while he doesn’t have a reputation as a power puncher, he has stopped nine of his last 12 foes.

He is, in other words, absolutely not the kind of opponent to take lightly. Candidly, he is a genuine candidate to pull off the upset victory. This is a dangerous fight for Donaire.

If there is a knock against Nishioka, it is his age -- he is 35 -- and his inactivity: He has not fought since outpointing Marquez a year ago. But he has deliberately held himself out of the ring, wanting to use the Marquez win as a springboard to at least one more big fight. It doesn’t get much bigger than Donaire.

Nishioka, then, is focused and ready. Donaire will need to be, too, if he is to overcome the genuine challenge he faces on Saturday night.

Donaire and Rios Bring a Bloody Night of High-Stakes Action

by Eric Raskin

Nonito Donaire - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

One is a perfect gentleman, the other a foul-mouthed troublemaker. One is a slick speed demon, the other a rough-and-tumble brawler. You can be forgiven for thinking that Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios don’t have a whole lot in common.

But they are united by ambition and upward trajectory. Neither Donaire nor Rios is interested in maintaining his status quo. They’re both expanding -- quite literally by rising up the weight scale, and figuratively by taking the steps necessary to the increase their fan bases and the thickness of their wallets.

And Donaire and Rios will next be demonstrating those various ambitions in the same ring (at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA) on the same night (October 13) with the same trainer (Robert Garcia) working double duty. What makes this one of the year’s hottest fight cards is that even though Donaire and Rios are the clear promotional “A-sides” in their respective halves of the doubleheader, they are not clear favorites to win. These are not “showcase” fights for two ascendant stars. Donaire faces Toshiaki Nishioka, the most established belt-holder in the junior featherweight division, and Rios takes on Mike Alvarado, who is undefeated in 33 pro fights and coming off back-to-back Fight of the Year candidates.

How do you increase your fan base and the thickness of your wallet? By taking fights like these.

Read More at HBO.com

Looking Ahead to HBO’s Fall Schedule

by Kieran Mulvaney

We know. It’s been a quiet month. But with the Olympics behind us and summer soon segueing into fall, HBO’s Boxing schedule is filling up fast. The network has four cards confirmed for September and one already in place for October, with the promise of plenty more to come.

Here’s a brief guide to what’s on tap: 

 

Gennady Golovkin

September 1

Gennady Golovkin vs Grzegorz Proska, HBO Boxing After Dark

If you haven’t seen Golovkin fight before, you’re in for a treat. The German-based, Kazakh-born middleweight is a wrecking ball of a fighter, with 20 knockouts from his 23 professional wins. He won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and as an amateur defeated the likes of Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute and Andy Lee. He defends his middleweight title against once-beaten European champion Gzegorz Proska in what promises to be an exciting match-up.

 

 

Chad Dawson - Photo Credit: Will Hart

September 8
Andre Ward vs Chad Dawson, HBO World Championship Boxing

Dawson is coming off arguably the best performance of his career, a convincing points win over future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. Can the light heavyweight champion be as effective against highly-rated super middleweight champion Andre Ward? Also on the card, lightweight title action featuring Antonio DeMarco, fresh from his spectacular win over Jorge Linares, defending against John Molina Jr; and, from Germany, Vitali Klitschko defends his heavyweight belt against unbeaten Manuel Charr.

 

Sergio Martinez - Photo Credit: Will Hart

September 15
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs Sergio Martinez, HBO PPV

Argentina’s Martinez, widely recognized as the best middleweight in the world, collides with hugely popular WBC titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez in a battle that fans have been eagerly anticipating for well over a year. Martinez has stopped his last four opponents, while the undefeated Chavez has become one of the most exciting fighters in the game. A year and a half ago, most would have considered this a mismatch in favor of Martinez, but with the younger, bigger Chavez improving under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, this has become a pick’ em fight.

 

Edwin Rodriguez

September 29
Edwin Rodriguez vs Jason Escalera, HBO Boxing After Dark

It’s a battle of unbeatens as boxer-puncher Rodriguez looks to move into the world-title picture at super middleweight, and Escalera, who has 12 KOs among his 13 wins, aims to stop him. The fight is the main event of a three-bout card from Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

 

 

 

Nonito Donaire - Photo Credit: Will Hart

October 13
Nonito Donaire vs Toshiaki Nishioka, HBO Boxing After Dark

It’s difficult to know which fight to be more excited about: charismatic budding superstar Donaire taking on the daunting challenge of Japan’s Nishioka, who recently defeated Rafael Marquez, in a super bantamweight title fight; or the co-main event, which pits Brandon Rios against Mike Alvarado in a junior welterweight contest that, given both men’s all-action styles, is already being looked at a possible fight of the year candidate.

 

Which of these are you most looking forward to? Let us know on the HBO Boxing Facebook page or on Twitter at @HBOBoxing. Let the countdown to September begin …