Peer Predictions: Fighters Past and Present Pick Pacquiao-Rios

by Kieran Mulvaney

Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios - Photo Credit: Will Hart

All kinds of prognosticators are weighing in on this week's fight between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios. Many say that Pacquiao, the favorite, possesses a skill set that will simply outclass Rios. Others counter that Rios was built to absorb punishment, and that Pacquiao may still be haunted by the crushing punch that knocked him out against Juan Manuel Marquez last December.

But what do the real experts think? Here's how a selection of past and present fighters see the bout shaping up.

Terence Crawford (lightweight contender):

I've got to go with Pacquiao. Because Rios, he's going to take a lot of punishment coming in.

 

 

 

 

Ruslan Provodnikov (junior welterweight title holder):

To be honest with you, strategically, politically, it would be good for me if Brandon Rios won the fight. But I'm going to be rooting for Manny Pacquiao. I spent two months with him in training camp. We're very close. He's a great, great person, and I think that he will come back after his last fight, and he has still has a good amount of time left.

 

 

Mike Alvarado (junior welterweight contender, Rios opponent):

That's a really good fight. Rios is going to push Pacquiao. He's going to make him adjust. I want Rios to win that fight, so when our trilogy happens it's like, "Hey, he just beat Pacquiao." But I don't know. I don't think he's going to beat Pacquiao. I laid out the blueprint for how to beat Rios. Pacquiao's going to be like, "I can box, I can move, I hit hard." But then again, we're waiting to see how Pacquiao recovers after losing to Marquez. That was a punishing blow; it might have a big effect on his career. We'll see.

 

Nonito Donaire (featherweight contender and former three-weight title holder):

If Pacquiao can return to a Pacquiao with focus, he'll overwhelm Rios with power and speed. But if he goes in with a shadow of a doubt in his mind after what happened to him in his previous fight, then Rios can overwhelm him with intensity and pressure. But I think that Pacquiao has the best chance of winning this fight, if he even gets just 50 percent of his focus back.

 

George Foreman (former two-time heavyweight champion):

I think it's going to be a 12-round decision and I give Pacquiao the hometown decision.  How about a home-region decision.

 

 

 

 

Sugar Ray Leonard (former five-weight world champion):

I think Pacquiao will win although I give Rios a shot, a big shot.  It's not going to be an easy fight.  I'm picking Manny because he is Manny Pacquiao.

 

 

 

 

Timothy Bradley (welterweight title holder): 

I've got Manny Pacquiao by a mid to late round KO.  Eight rounds.

 

 

 

 

 

Marco Antonio Barrera (former three-weight title holder):

I think it is a complicated fight for both of them.  You have Brandon Rios who comes straightforward and will apply the pressure on Manny.  Then you have Manny who moves around the ring very well and picks and chooses his spots and comes at different angles and is a very strong fighter with a lot of speed.  It's just going to be a tough fight for both of them.

Garcia and Donaire Emphatically Answer Their Critics

by Tim Smith

Rocky Martinez, Mikey Garcia - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Roman "Rocky" Martinez had the dubious distinction of being the only current world champion from Puerto Rico when he stepped into the ring against Mikey Garcia at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas on Saturday night. It is no longer a distinction, nor is it dubious. Garcia saw to that with paralyzing force, scoring a knockout of Martinez at 56 seconds of the eighth round to win the the vacant 130-pound title.

After getting dropped by a counter right hand from Martinez in the second round, Garcia slowly broke down Martinez and then brought matters to a sudden conclusion with a vicious left hook to the liver in the eighth round. Martinez crumpled to all fours. Martinez (27-2-2, 16 KOs) was frozen and could only wince as referee Laurence Cole counted him out in Spanish.

"I thought it was going to be a very good shot when I landed it," said Garcia, who improved his record to 33-0 with 28 KOs.  “I knew it was a good punch. I didn’t know if he was going to try to get up. I thought he would. But I could see his expression that it would be very difficult for him to get up.’’

Read the Full Rocky Martinez vs. Mikey Garcia Fight Recap on HBO.com.

Official Weigh-in Results from Corpus Christi

Saturday’s HBO Boxing After Dark telecast tripleheader airs at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

The HBO telecast kicks off live from the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi when junior middleweights Vanes Martirosyan and Demetrius Andrade meet for a 12-round title bout.

In a rematch of their July 2007 fight, Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan square off for 10 rounds in the featherweight division.

The evening’s main event features junior lightweight title-holder, Rocky Martinez, as he defends his crown against challenger Mikey Garcia in a contest scheduled for 12 rounds.

 

Official Weights from Corpus Christi:

Rocky Martinez: 129.75 lbs.

Mikey Garcia: 128.75 lbs.

 

Nonito Donaire: 125.25 lbs.

Vic Darchinyan: 125.75 lbs.

 

Vanes Martirosyan: 153.75 lbs.

Demetrius Andrade: 153.75 lbs.


View the full weigh-in slideshow on HBO.com.

Shoulder Healed, Focus Restored, Donaire Rediscovers a Love for Boxing

by Kieran Mulvaney


When the smoke had cleared, the final bell had rung, and the scores had been read out at the conclusion of his April fight with Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nonito Donaire knew he had done something that he hadn't done in a long time – not since 2001, in fact, and the second fight of his professional career.

He had lost.

On the scorecards, at least, it had not been an entirely one-sided drubbing, but the margins of defeat were narrowed by the fact that Donaire scored a knockdown in the tenth round, by which time the pattern of the fight had long been set and the result appeared a foregone conclusion. Donaire simply was unable to catch up to the lightning-fast Rigondeaux, who moved in and out at will, leaving the soon-to-be-ex-champion, so often a dynamic presence in the ring, looking somewhat lost.

"He beat me. He beat me," Donaire admits. He insists, however, that all was not right with him in the build-up to the contest. There was a shoulder injury for one thing -- a pair of tears in his right rotator cuff that, he says, had caused him such discomfort that he could no longer sleep on his favored right side. More than that, however, was what he says was a problem with focus.

The proximate cause of that, he asserts, was his wife Rachel's pregnancy.

"Honestly, if you look back at all my interviews, I would always say, 'I'm going to beat the guy, I'm going to beat the guy,'" he says. "But before Rigondeaux, I was answering, 'It doesn't matter I win or not. I want to focus on my kid.' And that was the mistake that I made."

But the malaise ran deeper than that. Undefeated in 12 years, and coming off four victories in 2012 that had netted him the Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year award, he began to question whether he still had the drive to continue succeeding:

"When you win over and over and over, you begin to question, 'Is there any more desire?' And then your focus is, 'You know what? I think I'm done after this. My kid is here, and I think I'm going to take care of that.' After the [Jorge] Arce fight [in December 2012], I kept asking Robert [Garcia, his trainer], 'Hey Robert, what age were you when you retired?' And he'd tell me it was like 28, 29. I'd think, 'Oh that's young.' And I kept asking him that, and it's just in the back of your head. After a while you fight for the money. All your life, you fought for the title, you fought the best. Then you start to question how much you're making. 'How much is it? OK, I'll fight.' And that's not me."

The loss to Rigondeaux might have been expected to confirm such feelings of separation from the sport; instead it wound up causing him to question and ultimately reject them.

"When I lost the fight, that's when it dawned on me that I love boxing," he says. "It answered my question about whether or not I was done, and I realized I'm not. I'm glad the fight went the way it did, because it answered my question. I want to be doing this as long as I can."

The first step on that continuing road – and the first test of his surgically repaired shoulder -- comes on Saturday with a rematch against Vic Darchinyan, whom he knocked out in 2007 to begin his ascent toward stardom. But as he proclaims his rediscovered love for boxing, talk turns to the prospect of another rematch and the chance to erase the stain from earlier this year.

"I wouldn't take anything back from that night; it gave me the answer that I needed," he insists of the fight with Rigondeaux. "But we'll see the next time, at my best and at his best, which one is better."

Read the Quick Hits Interview with Nonito Donaire on HBO.com.

CompuBox Analysis: Donaire vs. Darchinyan II

by CompuBox

A few years ago, a rematch between Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan was among the very best fights boxing could make. But disputes between promoters and Darchinyan set-backs to Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares stood in the way. On Saturday, the long-awaited second act will finally take place but now the overriding question is, to paraphrase Larry Merchant, is it better late than never or is it better never than late?

Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:


Read the Complete  Donaire vs. Darchinyan II CompuBox Analysis on HBO.com.

Garcia, Donaire Look to Make Waves in New Divisions

by Nat Gottlieb

Mikey Garcia is consistently one of the best-prepared fighters in boxing. But for the first time in the slick, 25-year-old boxer's career he will find himself in territory for which no amount of preparation can guarantee a result.

Garcia is moving up. Not in stature. But in weight class. A featherweight since he was 15, the Oxnard boxer will be testing the waters in the junior lightweight division. His handlers certainly didn't pick an easy introduction to 130 pounds. Instead of a trial tune-up, he will jump right into the fire against an accomplished, reigning champion in Rocky Martinez. This fight will be a good indicator if the rising young Californian is going to be able to be able to carry his elite skills and dominating ways north of the featherweight division

Read the Complete Rocky Martinez vs. Mikey Garcia Fight Overview on HBO.com.

Peer Reviews: Fellow Boxers Make Their Picks for Bradley-Marquez

by Kieran Mulvaney

We're just a few days away from finding out whether Juan Manuel Marquez can relieve Timothy Bradley of his undefeated record, or whether Bradley has what it takes to prevent Marquez from becoming the first Mexican to win a world title in five weight divisions.

Until the final bell rings, of course, there's no way to know for sure what the outcome will be. We're left with educated guesswork, crystal balls and rune stones, but while there is rarely a shortage of willing fan and media prognosticators, what do the boxers' peers think? We asked several of Bradley and Marquez's fellow HBO Boxing stars – including Ruslan Provodnikov, whose most recent bout was a hellacious duel with Bradley – how they saw things unfolding. Outside of lightweight Terence Crawford, who admitted a rooting interest for his friend Bradley, none of those we asked flat-out predicted a winner. All of them agreed that it had the potential to be a close, hard-to-call contest, and that victory was far from certain for either man.

 

Mike Alvarado, junior welterweight contender:

"That's going to be an interesting fight. I think Bradley might take that fight. It's going to be a good fight."

 

 

 

 

Nonito Donaire, featherweight contender and former three-weight world title holder:

"Bradley isn't a hard puncher, but he is a very tough and overall well-rounded fighter, so he has a good chance. But Marquez has fought the best out there. I think that Marquez has the slight edge. He has the power. He has the body shots. He has the overall thing that will give Bradley trouble. But don't get me wrong: Bradley can make it rough, and we know that Marquez can cut easily."

 

 

Terence Crawford, lightweight contender:

"I've got to go with Bradley. I've got to go with my boy."

 

 

 

 

Ruslan Provodnikov, junior welterweight contender:

"I always respected Marquez a lot, always wanted to fight him. I respect him as a boxer and as a person. But after the fight I had with Timothy Bradley, my respect for him also grew a lot, and I feel that we became closer. So in this fight I'll be rooting for Timothy Bradley, and I really hope I have a rematch with him sometime soon. A lot of people are talking about the fact he lost a lot in the fight against me, but I think he has a lot left to give and he'll surprise a lot of people."

 

Elite Boxers Mingle as HBO Takes Over Hollywood

by Kieran Mulvaney

Photo by Trevor McNeal - HBO Boxing

As he climbed the stairs, Gennady Golovkin spied Adonis Stevenson and made a beeline directly for him, prompting onlookers to hold their collective breath. Then the middleweight champion smiled, the light heavyweight title holder extended his hand, and the two men hugged and posed for photos.  

Also posing for photos were Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado, two junior welterweights who on October 19 will be swapping furious punches, but on this evening were breaking bread over dinner with several of their fellow pugilists.

The following day, Stevenson walked onto a Hollywood sound stage just as Mikey Garcia was preparing to leave. “You’re going to have fun,” the undefeated former featherweight champ said through a smile. “I hope you like getting wet.”

As he said that, the halls echoed with the sounds of Provodnikov bellowing "Champion!" while posing beneath a simulated rain shower. Terence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa took turns jumping rope for the camera, while on the next stage, Juan Manuel Marquez worked a heavybag as shutters clicked.

Such was the scene at a studio space in Hollywood this week during a promotional shoot to showcase the latest class of HBO boxing talent ahead of a packed fall and winter schedule of fights. And when the boxers weren’t being put through their paces by the photo and video teams, they were sitting down for interviews. HBO Latino was on site. So was ESPN. And so was HBO.com, taking the opportunity to enjoy some quiet time with the cream of the network’s boxing talent.

Stevenson shared with us just how much his late trainer, Emanuel Steward, meant to him. Nonito Donaire revealed that he is learning to play the piano and spending more time pursuing his childhood love of painting. Provodnikov explained how boxing saved his life, and discussed his love of Russian poetry. Gamboa revealed a spiritual side to his personality that he admitted might be a surprise to fans and detractors alike. Both Crawford and Golovkin told us they love to fish. Garcia explained that, despite growing up in a boxing family, his involvement in and embrace of the sport happened relatively late in life. Alvarado smiled as he described his desire to “excite the world.”

The theme of the promotion – which will air later this year – is an invitation to scratch the superficial surface and explore what lies beneath. The fighters themselves—all consummate mensches— helped make that happen during the shoot, as they opened up and shared their thoughts on boxing and life. The result will be a series of blogs and features that we will run over the coming weeks and months, as the boxing schedule kicks into high gear. In the meantime, enjoy this gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, to give you a sense of the atmosphere as HBO’s boxing stars invaded Hollywood.

Photos by Trevor McNeal / HBO Boxing

Checkmate: Rigondeaux

by Eric Raskin

When two highly skilled, not-necessarily-crowd-pleasing fighters are getting set to square off, expectations are managed by comparing the often thrilling sport of boxing to the rarely thrilling game of chess. It’s an odd choice for a euphemism. But it certainly applied to Guillermo Rigondeaux’s junior featherweight championship showdown with Nonito Donaire. We knew it would be more chess match than street fight.

And as it turns out, Donaire doesn’t play chess nearly as well as Rigondeaux.

The Cuban defector and amateur legend fought the style of fight that gave him the best opportunity to win, Donaire failed to turn it into the sort of fight he needed it to be, and though he said “check” once, he never quite put his pieces in position to say “checkmate.” Amidst intermittent boos from the mostly pro-Donaire crowd at Radio City Music Hall, Rigondeaux boxed, moved, and frustrated Donaire and took an upset unanimous decision to establish himself as the top 122-pounder in the world.

Read the Complete Donaire vs. Rigondeaux Fight Recap on HBO.com.

Donaire, Rigondeaux Head Lighter Weight Classes

by Kieran Mulvaney

It is often said that as goes the heavyweight division, so goes boxing, and that there is nothing wrong with the sport and its place in the public imagination that couldn’t be solved by the emergence of an exciting Tysonesque heavyweight champion.

Perhaps. But it’s no great secret that some of boxing’s most compelling contests are regularly at lighter weight classes. Who can forget the Marco Antonio Barrera-Kennedy McKinney war that opened Boxing After Dark? Or Barrera’s battles with Eric Morales? Or the unpredictable excitement that accompanied just about every Naseem Hamed performance? The brilliance of younger and lighter versions of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez? The silky skills of Ivan Calderon, or the dominance of Ricardo Lopez?

This Saturday, HBO’s World Championship Boxing showcases what promises to be the latest in that long line of legendary lower-weight nights when Nonito Donaire clashes with Guillermo Rigondeaux in a matchup between two men who must surely be considered, especially now that Abner Mares has moved to featherweight, the very best fighters under 125 pounds in the world.

Rigondeaux’s exalted position owes little to his professional record – which, comprising just 11 fights (all victories), is incomplete. Instead, it is a testament to the almost legendary status accorded his amateur career, highlighted by two Olympic gold medals. It is a reflection also of the talent he has shown during his brief spell in the paid ranks, epitomized by a counterpunching style that can, should his opponent be stung, morph immediately into an all-out attack.

Donaire, on the other hand, has earned his stripes the old-fashioned way, grinding out wins against difficult opponents when necessary, producing spectacular stoppage wins when possible (check out his demolition of Fernando Montiel for evidence of the latter) and over the course of a 12-year pro career earning world titles at 112, 115, 118 and now 122 pounds. If his moves in the ring don’t seem quite as effortless as his foe’s, they pack more consistent punch, and Donaire has shown an impressive ability to adapt his style to that of the man in front of him, be it a willing brawler like Jorge Arce or a non-combative spoiler like Omar Narvaez.

Donaire, of course, first burst onto boxing’s radar with a 2007 knockout of Vic Darchinyan, who for several years was the terror of the lower weight divisions. Although Darchinyan’s peak has now passed, there are plenty of others ready to assume the mantle he once wore, and over which Donaire and Rigondeaux will do battle on Saturday. Here’s a selection of five to watch out for:

Mikey Garcia

Featherweight Garcia is the biggest of the bunch, and in the eyes of some may have the highest ceiling. Already, at the age of just 25, he is 31-0 with 26 KOs; any doubts about his class at the highest level were eradicated when he dominated Orlando Salido in January.

Roman Gonzalez

Nicaraguan Gonzalez, known as ‘El Chocolatito’, may be the best boxer unknown to most boxing fans. Presently in possession of a world title belt at 108 pounds, and previously a titleholder at 105 pounds, his record after 34 pro fights is perfect. Like Garcia, he is only 25, suggesting there are many opportunities yet for him to showcase his skills on bigger and brighter stages.

Juan Francisco Estrada

It says much for the esteem in which Gonzalez is held that Estrada was granted a title shot against Brian Viloria because he looked relatively impressive while El Chocolatito was beating him. After becoming only the sixth man to take Gonzalez the distance, Estrada moved up to 112 pounds for the shot against Viloria and came away victorious, scoring a split decision win in last week’s HBO2-televised card from Macau, China. A Gonzalez rematch, with Estrada’s new crown at stake, may be on the cards.

Brian Viloria

Write off the ‘Hawaiian Punch’ at your peril. Although his previous three losses were disappointing, the loss to Estrada was a close call in an exciting contest against a guy who may well be better than previously advertised. Viloria has rebounded from each of his earlier setbacks to recapture world title glory; at age 32, climbing that mountain one more time will be difficult, but be certain he’ll make a compelling effort.

Jesse Magdaleno

Big brother Diego may have fallen just short in his first title shot, on that same Macau card last week, but super bantamweight Jesse has long been considered the true class of the family. A real blue-chip prospect with knockout power, the younger Magdaleno scored a third-round stoppage in his last outing, on the undercard of Timothy Bradley’s win over Ruslan Provodnikov, and may be only a year or two away from a title tilt of his own.