Commentary

Morel handed title in dubious decision

Originally Published: February 15, 2010
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Las Vegas
Junior bantamweight
Nonito Donaire KO3 Manuel Vargas
Records: Donaire, 23-1, 15 KOs; Vargas, 26-5-1, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: With his country's hero Manny Pacquiao at ringside, Donaire -- known as the "Filipino Flash" -- took care of business in devastating fashion. But because he was facing a much smaller man, it didn't come as much of a surprise. Donaire, 27, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, expected to defend his interim 115-pound belt against Mexico's Gerson Guerrero. However, Guerrero fell out of the fight Wednesday when he failed a prefight eye exam. Vargas, also of Mexico, was brought in on short notice to face Donaire in the main event of Top Rank's "Latin Fury 13/Pinoy Power 3" pay-per-view card at the Las Vegas Hilton, which became a nontitle bout when the WBA elected not to sanction the fight with an unranked new opponent.

Although Vargas is a good fighter -- he is a former interim strawweight titlist and was the victim of a terrible split-decision loss in a challenge to strawweight titlist Donnie Nietes in September -- he was just way, way, way too small for Donaire. Donaire towered over Vargas and looked several divisions bigger than him when they entered the ring. Vargas was game, though. He did his best but simply could not handle Donaire's size and strength. Vargas looked worn out in the second round, his mouth hanging open. It was just a matter of time until Donaire put him out of his misery, which came in the third round. That's when Donaire drilled him with a huge left uppercut midway through the round. Vargas went down on a delayed reaction and could not beat the count from referee Joe Cortez. It was an explosive and exciting performance from Donaire, but you have to keep in mind the level of opponent he faced. The win, however, ought to open the door for Donaire to be in a much bigger fight.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and Donaire have talked about three fights, all of which would be good. There is a possible rematch with unified junior bantamweight champ Vic Darchinyan, whom Donaire knocked out in a 2007 flyweight title fight. That's a fight many fans and media have wanted to see since the first encounter. It's also a fight the Darchinyan camp is interested in as long as Darchinyan wins a March 6 defense. Another potential fight is with titleholder Jorge Arce, whom Top Rank also promotes and would have no problems making. That's a fight Donaire has talked about since Arce claimed a vacant belt last month. The third fight would be for Donaire to move up to bantamweight and challenge titleholder Fernando Montiel, another Top Rank fighter, who defended his belt on the undercard. Donaire has struggled to make weight in recent fights and would like to move up to 118 pounds. The Montiel-Donaire fight was the one Arum was focused on after the bouts Saturday night. He is planning a pay-per-view card for May 8 in Mexico, and said he'd like to match Montiel and Donaire in the main event. Donaire and manager Cameron Dunkin might not want to go to Mexico for a fight of that caliber, however, knowing the politics that sometimes can come into play when fighting in an opponent's country. The right fight for boxing -- and surely the biggest money fight -- would be a rematch with Darchinyan.

Bantamweight
Fernando Montiel KO1 Ciso Morales

Retains a bantamweight title
Records: Montiel, 40-2-2, 30 KOs; Morales, 14-1, 8 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mexico's Montiel, 30, made awfully quick work of the overmatched Morales, 22, of the Philippines, who was facing the first notable opponent of his career. It didn't last long, as Montiel took out Morales in just 2 minutes, 6 seconds in his first bantamweight title defense. Not much happened in the fight other than Montiel nailing Morales with a solid left hand to the gut. Morales took a step back and dropped in obvious pain, and was counted out by referee Robert Byrd. It was a good performance for Montiel, something the three-division titleholder needed after his last fight. In a September nontitle bout in Mexico, Montiel was awarded a third-round technical draw against Alejandro Valdez but looked terrible. Valdez knocked Montiel down and the fight eventually was stopped because of a serious cut over Montiel's left eye, which was ruled as being caused by an accidental head-butt. Video replays showed that the cut was caused by a Valdez punch and that Montiel should have been a TKO loser. The victory against Morales sets up Montiel for a possible May 8 fight on a Top Rank "Latin Fury" pay-per-view card against interim junior bantamweight titlist Nonito Donaire, who looked outstanding in a knockout victory in the main event. An interesting note: Morales is trained by Nonito Donaire Sr., the estranged father of the main-event winner.

Bantamweight
Eric Morel W12 Gerry Penalosa
Wins a vacant interim bantamweight title
Scores: 116-112, 115-113 Morel, 115-113 Penalosa
Records: Morel, 42-2, 21 KOs; Penalosa, 54-8, 34 KOs

Rafael's remark: Penalosa, the wily old pro and former junior bantamweight and bantamweight titlist from the Philippines, vacated his bantamweight belt last year for a shot at then-junior featherweight Juan Manuel Lopez. Lopez, however, was just too big, too strong and too young. He ravaged Penalosa for 10 rounds until trainer Freddie Roach mercifully stopped the fight. It was the first time Penalosa, 37, had been stopped in his professional career. Returning 10 months later, Penalosa suffered his second consecutive defeat, but this was a much different story. He didn't deserve to lose. He was the victim of a surprisingly poor decision in a boring fight. Judge Dick Houck had the scorecard for Penalosa and appeared dead-on. Paul Smith's 115-113 scorecard for Morel was surprising, but Duane Ford's 116-112 card for Morel was the shocker.

Although Morel, 34, a former flyweight titlist from Puerto Rico, outboxed the slower Penalosa in the early rounds, Penalosa came on very strong in the second half of the fight -- even though he was fighting with bad cuts, one over his left eye and one on his forehead. Both were caused by accidental head-butts in the sixth round, and referee Russell Mora twice stopped the action so the ringside doctor could examine the wounds. But Penalosa soldiered on. He not only finished the fight, but he pressed the action and landed the harder shots over the final several rounds. Still, two of the judges didn't give him the credit he deserved, and Morel walked away with an interim 118-pound belt. Now, you might ask: Why was the interim title made available when Fernando Montiel, the WBO's titleholder, defended the title on the card? The reason is that this is boxing, silly. Please don't try to use reason. The WBO picked up a sanction fee, and Morel got a belt the cheap way and became the mandatory for Montiel. However, there is no guarantee Morel will get the next shot at Montiel because Top Rank might instead match Montiel with Nonito Donaire, who won the main event and could move up in weight to challenge Montiel in May. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Not.

Featherweight
Bernabe Concepcion W10 Mario Santiago
Scores: 98-91, 97-92, 96-93
Records: Concepcion, 30-2-1, 17 KOs; Santiago, 21-2-1, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: This was not an official alphabet-organization title eliminator, but it was a de facto elimination bout because Top Rank promoter Bob Arum announced before the fight that the winner would get a summer shot at featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez, whom Arum also promotes. So the Philippines' Concepcion, 22, and Santiago, 31, a southpaw from Puerto Rico, knew there was a lot on the line. Both previously had fought for a featherweight title against Steven Luevano, who was dethroned by Lopez on Jan. 23, and were hungry for another opportunity. Santiago battled Luevano to a draw in a terrific fight in June 2008. Concepcion was coming off a seventh-round disqualification loss to Luevano in August, when he nailed Luevano with a knockout punch well after the bell ended the round.

Concepcion-Santiago shaped up on paper as the most intriguing bout on Top Rank's "Latin Fury 13/Pinoy Power 3" pay-per-view card, and it turned out that way. It came down to a battle of the harder-punching Concepcion's right hand against the slicker Santiago's left hand. Concepcion's better weapon won out. The more aggressive Concepcion knocked down Santiago with the right hand in the sixth round and was smacking him around. Santiago had very little heat on his punches until the 10th round, when he knew he had to do something significant if he had any chance to win. He turned up the heat in the final round as they traded toe to toe. He cracked Concepcion with several good shots, was yelling at him and appeared to have him badly hurt as the final bell approached. However, the fight ended when he simply ran out of time. Had Santiago fought earlier in the bout with the kind of commitment he showed in the 10th round, the outcome might have been different. Instead, Concepcion walked away with the win and the shot at Lopez this summer.

Middleweight
Matvey Korobov TKO1 Lamar Harris
Records: Korobov, 10-0, 8 KOs; Harris, 6-6-3, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Top Rank matchmaker Brad "Abdul" Goodman thought Harris might provide a little competition for Korobov, 27, a 2008 Russian Olympian. Instead, it was an easy night at the office as Korobov blitzed St. Louis' Harris. Korobov, who now lives in Florida, hurt Harris with the first combination he threw and finished him in just 65 seconds.

Junior welterweight
Jose Benavidez Jr. TKO1 John Vega
Records: Benavidez, 2-0, 2 KO; Vega, 0-2

Rafael's remark: Benavidez, of Phoenix, is just 17, but he was given a waiver by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to turn pro before his 18th birthday. He has the amateur résumé to back up the decision, going 120-5 and winning a National Golden Gloves title in the unpaid ranks. So Benavidez, who is trained by Freddie Roach -- another sign the kid must be pretty darn good -- turned pro Jan. 16 and scored a first-round knockout against Steven Cox. Returning a month later, Benavidez scored another first-round knockout, putting away Vega. Benavidez dropped Vega with a right hand, and later, during a follow-up attack, Vega turned his back and quit the fight after 67 seconds. Expect Benavidez to continue on a hectic schedule of fighting about once a month for the next several months.

Saturday at London
Light heavyweight
Nathan Cleverly TKO5 Antonio Brancalion
Records: Cleverly, 19-0, 9 KOs; Brancalion, 32-8-2, 8 KOs

Rafael's remark: Wales' Cleverly, 22, has been one of the best prospects in the United Kingdom, and has steadily worked his way up the ladder the traditional way by winning the British and Commonwealth titles before going after the European title. Now that also is accomplished, as he stopped Italy's Brancalion, who was knocked out in the European title bout for the second consecutive time. Last summer, Brancalion, 34, was knocked out in the first round while challenging then-European titlist Jurgen Brahmer. After Brahmer relinquished his title, Brancalion, surprisingly, was back in the hunt for the vacant belt in his next fight. Cleverly disposed of him with ease, scoring his sixth consecutive knockout. Cleverly knocked him down at the end of the fourth round before referee Jean-Louis Legland rescued Brancalion as he was taking hard right-hand shots in the fifth round.

Lightweight
Kevin Mitchell KO2 Ignacio Mendoza
Records: Mitchell, 31-0, 23 KOs; Mendoza, 27-6-2, 18 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mitchell, 25, is one of England's rising talents, and he powered his way closer to a world-title shot by disposing of Spain-based Colombian Mendoza with a sensational knockout. Mitchell, who easily outpointed the dangerous-punching Breidis Prescott in his last fight in December, this time used his punching power to win. Mitchell was poised and outboxing Mendoza until he left himself just a bit too exposed. That's when Mitchell unleashed an overhand right on the chin, a punch Mendoza seemed to lean into. The result was a shot that dropped Mendoza in an exaggerated fashion to the canvas. He was unable to beat the count and required immediate medical attention, although he left the ring under his own power. It was an impressive display from Mitchell, who is close to a mandatory shot, perhaps against Michael Katsidis, whose interim title might become a full belt when Juan Manuel Marquez officially vacates in order to fight at junior welterweight. Mitchell and promoter Frank Warren said they would like to make a match with Katsidis in the summer.

Super middleweight
James DeGale TKO2 Matthew Barr
Records: DeGale, 6-0, 4 KOs; Barr, 14-6, 6 KOs

Rafael's remark: DeGale won an Olympic gold medal for Great Britain at the 2008 Beijing Games and is off to a good start in the pro ranks. The 24-year-old DeGale rolled past Barr, 32, a fellow Brit. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Barr, who lost his second consecutive bout, has been stopped inside four rounds in every one of his defeats. DeGale, using mainly his strong right hand, dropped Barr three times in the second round of the scheduled six-round fight, prompting referee Grant Wallis to call off the bout at 1 minute, 38 seconds of the round.

Welterweight
Frankie Gavin W6 Peter McDonagh
Records: Gavin, 6-0, 5 KOs; McDonagh, 14-16, 2 KOs

Rafael's remark: Gavin, a 2008 British Olympian and 2007 world amateur champion, is one of the top prospects in boxing. For the first time as a professional, Gavin, 24, went the distance with Ireland's McDonagh, 32. McDonagh was Gavin's most experienced opponent to date, but Gavin dominated and won every round on the scorecard of referee Jeff Hinds.

Friday at Temecula, Calif.
Lightweight
Ji-Hoon Kim TKO5 Tyrone Harris
Records: Kim, 20-5, 17 KOs; Harris, 24-6, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: Kim, 23, of South Korea, is one relentless dude. He didn't start very fast, and Harris looked good in the early going, hurting Kim with a body shot in the first round. But Kim found his rhythm, picked up the pace after a few rounds and chased Harris down for a nice victory in the high-contact main event on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." Kim appeared to hurt Harris in the fourth and fifth rounds as he continued his attack. He finally knocked down Harris with a combination in the fifth round, but Harris beat the count. Kim was immediately all over him, and with Harris taking shots along the ropes, referee Wayne Hedgepeth stopped the fight at 1 minute, 52 seconds. Harris, a southpaw, didn't seem too hurt and complained about the stoppage. However, Harris didn't help himself much because he barely threw any punches after the knockdown. The 28-year-old from Lansing, Mich., was coming off an upset eighth-round knockout of prospect Marvin Quintero in July, but he now has lost two of his past three, also falling to lightweight contender Urbano Antillon via fifth-round knockout.

Junior welterweight
Ruslan Provodnikov TKO8 Javier Jauregui
Records: Provodnikov, 14-0, 9 KOs; Jauregui, 53-17-2, 36 KOs

Rafael's remark: When Russia's Provodnikov appeared on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" in March 2009, he opened a lot of eyes with his spirited six-round decision victory against Esteban Almaraz. In his return to the United States (after two fights in Russia), Provodnikov, 26, impressed again as he took it to Jauregui, beating on him and breaking him down over eight lopsided rounds. Although Mexico's Jauregui, a former lightweight titleholder, is 36 and certainly past his prime, he represented a step up in class for Provodnikov, who passed the test in style. He was faster and stronger than Jauregui, which was apparent early on as he found a home for his punches with relative ease. Jauregui tried to box and use his veteran smarts to stave off Provodnikov, but it didn't work. Instead, Jauregui sopped up a lot of punishment until referee Jack Reiss intervened in the eighth round, with Jauregui taking excessive and unanswered punishment against the ropes. This was a solid win for Provodnikov, whom we'd like to see more of. He sure makes entertaining fights. Jauregui lost his third consecutive fight and for the fifth time in his past seven bouts, but it was the first time he was stopped in those five defeats.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.