Photos by Sumio Yamada
NONITO DONAIRE vs OMAR NARVAEZ
It’s good big man against good small man on HBO on Saturday when Nonito Donaire, the fast and powerful Filipino Flash, defends his bantamweight title against Omar Narvaez, the veteran from Argentina who moves up in weight from the 115-pound division.
Donaire is, predictably, a massive betting favourite. He is the younger man, taller, bigger, far more explosive — and probably just as quick as Narvaez.
Although Narvaez was slightly the heavier man at today’s weigh-in, Donaire will pack on pounds after replenishing his system and will probably have a considerable weight advantage by the time the two boxers get into the ring.
At first glance, this looks like a blowout. Donaire was devastating in his knockout wins over Vic Darchinyan, Wladimir Sidorenko and Fernando Montiel. None had previously been stopped, but all found themselves on the canvas and out of the fight against Donaire in bouts that didn’t make it past the fifth round.
Narvaez is tough, smart and skilled, he has excellent punch-anticipation, and he is a southpaw. There is an impressive calmness about Narvaez in the ring. He is very good at making an opponent miss and countering. Capable fighters have been made to look ordinary as the Argentinean maestro has handed out boxing lessons. It is possible that, for defensive cleverness, Narvaez is on a par with his countryman, the “untouchable” 140-pound champion Nicolino Locche.
The huge problem Narvaez faces is making Donaire miss in every round for 12 long rounds. Donaire is not just a potent puncher, but he is also deadly accurate. Narvaez might be elusive for two, three, four rounds, but can he keep dodging bullets all night?
There is a lot to like about Donaire. Those close to him tell me that Donaire has an uncanny ability to see everything happening almost in slow motion when he is in the ring, which would explain why he doesn’t get hit very often and why he is able to hit his opponents just when they think they are safe from bombardment.
Donaire’s detonations against Sidorenko were almost scary. He seemed to be landing punches almost casually and at half-power, and there was the tough little Ukrainian fighter spilling onto the canvas as if clubbed.
Narvaez, quite simply, has never experienced anything like the artillery that will be rained upon him on Saturday night.
Despite the enormity of the task that faces him, Narvaez seems outwardly unconcerned. This is a fighter highly confident in his ability and in his chin. I have never seen Narvaez hurt in a fight, not even when the sharp southpaw Cesar Seda was blazing away at him in the early rounds. Narvaez is 36 but he seems to be the old-school type who stays in shape between bouts, and he has been busy — by today’s standards — with three fights already this year, whereas Donaire has been inactive for eight months while contractual matters were settled.
If it takes Donaire a little longer than usual to get settled into the fight, and if Narvaez can get off to a good start — hitting, moving, bending and twisting his torso to get away from punches — then we could have a contest tonight and not the 20-1 on mismatch the betting odds suggest.
It seems almost a mission impossible for Narvaez to get through the full 12 rounds, let alone win the fight, and I have to believe that at some point Donaire is going to land one of those lightning-bolt left hooks or left uppercuts that Narvaez, for all his experience and craftiness, just doesn’t see coming.
I will have a betting suggestion for subscribers overnight. I also plan to look at the big card in Panama. Already in place for subscribers: Previews and betting tips for the Scott Quigg-Jason Booth and Marco Huck-Rogelio Rossi fights that take place on Saturday.