At Fight Week’s End, Rubio’s Body Language Easy to Understand

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Over the course of fight week, fans, writers and opposing camps alike frequently resort to all manner of amateur psychiatry, interpretation of body language and divination of verbal utterances to try and establish a boxer’s mindset. A lot of time it’s a hopeless quest; whatever a fighter might say or however he might walk in the two or three days before a bout, what he is most likely thinking is that he is so indescribably hungry that he is sure he can feel his body eating itself.

Still, that doesn’t stop us from trying.

While there was no mistaking the confidence of featherweight Nicholas Walters as he took his turn working out for the media at a gym in Santa Monica this week (nor, indeed, was there any mistaking his ripped physique, or the eyes that opened wide among assembled observers when they saw it), the mood of opponent Nonito Donaire was more open to question. Win or lose, Donaire has generally been a reliably engaging interviewee, his expansive and friendly personality almost invariably on display. So what to make of his demeanor at that same workout, hidden behind enormous sunglasses and beneath an oversized baseball cap, and showing none of the energy in response to questioning that Walters had demonstrated?

Was it that, as so many have speculated, his heart is no longer in the game, that his focus is now directed more toward family mattersthan the hunger needed to swap punches with younger, stronger men? Or was it resentment at, or boredom with, being asked different variations of that very question?

Or maybe he was just hungry.

By the time of the press conference the following day, Donaire’s spirits seemed brighter – if not quite as bright as his suit – even if his words didn’t convey the confidence in victory that we normally expect of prizefighters in these circumstances. The frequent fight week sightings of a weary-looking Donaire heading back to his room after a visit to the gym led to some further inference that he was perhaps having some weight issues, but at the weigh-in on Friday, he looked trim and ready as he tipped the scales at 125.6lbs., the same as Walters.

There was, however, no disguising the mood of Marco Antonio Rubio, the designated opponent for Gennady Golovkin in Saturday’s main event, as he and his team approached the scale. It is rarely a good sign when a fighter’s handlers break out the towel to spare his blushes when, after just failing to make weight, he strips naked before a second attempt. It’s a distinctly worse sign when those handlers hold the towel in place before their man has even walked up to the stage, an acknowledgment in advance that he is going to miss weight by the proverbial mile.

And so he did, measuring in at 161.8 lbs., fully 1.8 lbs. above the middleweight limit. Rubio’s countenance was of a man who had drained himself trying to make the weight he did make, who was aghast at his failure to lose any more, and who would frankly at that moment rather have been anywhere else in the world.

It seems likely that that will be his thought on Saturday night, too, when he looks across the ring and sees Golovkin in the other corner. Golovkin, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, looked the epitome of effortless professionalism: hair neatly groomed, team outfits colorful and bright, body honed to perfection as he weighed in at 159. He posed for the cameras with relish, flexing his muscles and smiling; alongside him, Rubio looked a beaten man already, making the occasional half-hearted effort to pose triumphantly, but mostly wincing as if every move he made somehow hurt him.

Walters-Donaire just might be a Fight of the Year caliber contest, with no unanimity among prognosticators as to its likely outcome. Golovkin-Rubio is almost certain to be as much procession as prizefight, the latest stage in an ongoing coronation of the man from Kazakhstan as boxing’s Next Big Star. If there had been any doubt about the winner beforehand (and there really hadn’t), it evaporated on the scales in the southern California heat, as a beaming Golovkin basked in the adulation of his supporters, and Rubio gave impression of coming to terms that his Saturday evening appointment, while certain to be painful, would probably at least be mercifully brief.

Weights:

Nonito Donaire 125.6 lbs.

Nicholas Walters 125.6 lbs.

Gennady Golovkin 159 lbs.

Marco Antonio Rubio 161.8 lbs. (Rubio had 2 hours to re-weigh and make the 160 lb. limit, but did not do so; instead he lost $100,000 from his purse.)