Giants

Donaire marching toward Fighter of the Year

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Donaire marching toward Fighter of the Year

Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

At times, San Leandro’s Nonito Donaire feels like he can’t please anyone at all.

“You can never make everybody happy,” Donaire said before his latest junior featherweight title defense against Jorge Arce this Saturday at Houston’s Toyota Center (HBO, 9:30 p.m. PT).  “But as long as everybody’s happy in my camp, the people that I care about, the people that care about me, [and] my fans, I’m just going to fight whoever is given to me.”

At last year’s annual Boxing Writers Association of America meeting in Las Vegas, I stated my case for Andre Ward’s worthiness for Fighter of the Year, and I thought it was a good one, because he ended up winning.  Donaire, who has made the final cut of five nominees this time around, shouldn’t be too hard on himself, especially given what he’s accomplished over the past 12 months.  

In an age where it’s customary for elite boxers to only appear one to three times a year, Donaire (NorCal No. 2; 30-1, 19 KOs) will be gunning for his fourth win of 2012 against Arce, a former 122-pound beltholder from Los Mochis, Mexico.

“[Arce] knows he can’t beat me by boxing and keeping his distance for 12 rounds,” Donaire said.  “It’s going to be a war.”

Moreover, Donaire’s quality of opponents during that stretch is nothing to scoff at, with Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, and Toshiaki Nishioka (former or reigning titleholders with a combined ledger of 86-8-6) all incurring decisive defeats at the hands of the 30-year-old East Bay product.  In doing so, Donaire answered several doubts about his skills along the way.  



There were questions about Donaire’s power carrying over from 118 to 122 pounds; in February, Vazquez ate the canvas thanks to a signature left hook from “The Filipino Flash.”  Qualms surfaced in July about Donaire’s ability to deal with a taller fighter in the crafty 5’10’’ Mathebula, so he broke the South African’s jaw.  

Perhaps the most impressive performance of all came in October against Nishioka, the top-rated junior featherweight in the world.  The Japanese southpaw, wary of Donaire’s power, refused to engage and glued his right hand to his face in an effort to deter his foe from throwing the left hook.  

But like any great champion, Donaire made the necessary adjustments, and patiently waited on his opponent to make a mistake.  Sure enough, Nishioka finally decided to lunge toward him in the ninth round, and whiffed.  Moments later, Nishioka found himself knocked out—with a Donaire straight right hand no less.

“People can say, ‘Oh, Nonito’s going to have a hard time with this guy,’ and then when I do something that they didn’t expect, they’re like, ‘Oh, that guy was too short,’ or when I fought someone taller, ‘Oh, that guy was too weak,’” Donaire said.  

Now his detractors wonder why he hasn’t faced the other two beltholders left in the division, Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux.

“When I beat Mares, they’re going to be saying, ‘Oh, he’s an up-and-coming guy.  He’s slower for the Flash,’ or with Rigondeaux, ‘Oh, he’s too short.’  You’re never going to satisfy those critics, no matter what, but I’m there to fight anybody.  I want to be undisputed at 122 [pounds],” Donaire added.

So Donaire’s been active and he’s beaten some very good competition.  Is that all?  Actually, no. One could argue that his actions outside the ring are what have set him apart from the field this year.

In July, Donaire became the first fighter in the history of combat sports to submit to year-round random drug testing administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).  In the midst of high-profile fighters like Lamont Peterson and Erik Morales testing positive for banned substances in recent times, it was refreshing to see someone take the lead in cleaning up a sport in desperate need of more than a spitshine.

“I do it for my own reasons, for my fans, and for my beliefs,” Donaire said.  “But aside from that, I’m just there to do the things that I do best, to go in there and work hard and prove to everybody that whatever God has given me is all that’s in there.”

Last week, Juan Manuel Marquez unveiled an uncharacteristically chiseled physique, and the 39-year-old found the fountain of youth by scoring a shocking Knockout of the Year against Manny Pacquiao.  But despite his monumental victory and elevating consideration for Fighter of the Year, many inquiries have surfaced about the process by which Marquez has attained his newfound strength.  

Marquez’s strength coach, Angel Heredia Hernandez, admitted in 2000 to supplying track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with performance-enhancing drugs. Since that event, Hernandez has claimed to have gone clean and stated that he has been working with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for the last six years.

Marquez is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the most precise pugilists in the sweet science; his work ethic is a big reason why I shouldn’t have any reservations about whether or not he’s juicing.  In addition, both Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach—who said he would kiss Marquez’s behind if he were “natural”—and strength coach Alex Ariza refused to diminish Marquez’s triumph by lobbying any further PED allegations after the loss.  In fact, Nevada State Athletic Commissioner Keith Kizer said both fighters passed their prefight and postfight drug tests.

But it must also be said that peeing in a cup mere hours before and after a fight leaves a lot of leeway before that brief window for anything to occur.  And in a modern landscape where cheating is rampant in a multitude of sports, the absence of random testing over an extended period before competition makes it downright impossible to determine who is clean as a baby’s bottom—and that goes for anyone, not just Marquez.  As my friend Norm Frauenheim of 15rounds.com eloquently penned, “In the court of public opinion, however, the negative result won’t allay the suspicions.”

And while Donaire initially took some heat for deciding to work with nutritionist Victor Conte, who did prison time for his own PED-related transgressions as founder of the infamous BALCO, the pair have soundly silenced their critics by not only verbally pushing for the most stringent testing available, but by actually putting it in practice.  

A frustrated Donaire took to the Twittersphere Thursday night: “Latest Drug testing results are in blood and urine. Results are NEGATIVE. I'm pretty disappointed that no other professional boxer has submitted themselves to 365 24/7 testing with Vada (the only organization that has effectively caught people who are cheating). What do you guys think stops them?”

Is there a connection between last week and this week’s fight?  Well, Hernandez is also Arce’s strength coach, although the fighter said earlier this week that the two men did not work as closely for this camp.  

The 33-year-old Arce (61-6-2, 46 KOs), a tremendous brawler in the lower weights who was built quite a following over the years for his devil-may-care style, has made no secret that he plans to go toe-to-toe and feels sturdy enough to withstand Donaire’s power.  

“My left is very strong.  My right is very strong.  I can knock him out with either hand,” Arce told BoxingScene.com.

Fully cognizant of what lies ahead, Donaire has prepared accordingly.

“I’ve been sparring bigger guys—guys at 130, 135,” said Donaire, who has mainly been trading leather with Sacramento’s Guy Robb and Redwood City’s Jesus Partida.  “They’re pushing me, and I’m able to push them back.  I’m able to handle their strength, their power, their weight.  I’m expecting a tough fight.  Regardless of how the fight’s going to be.  It can be an easy fight, or it be can a tough fight, but I’m ready for whatever [Arce] gives me.”

As Donaire demonstrated in the Nishioka fight and his two highlight-reel knockouts of Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, pressing forward plays right into his hands, and Ring Magazine’s panel of experts has subsequently picked “The Filipino Flash” to win by a resounding 13-0 margin.  A staggering 11 of them (myself included) don’t see it going the 12-round distance.

On the other hand, Marquez was a 3-to-1 underdog before blasting Pacquiao; can Arce repeat the trend?  

“The last time I was in Texas, I beat Vazquez pretty clearly and one of the three judges still gave him the decision,” Donaire said.  “That’s why I want to knock Arce out.  I want to give the fans what they want and I want to keep it out of the judges’ hands.”

Spoken like a man who knows what he has to do to secure Fighter of the Year honors.


REGION 11 AMATEURS SHINE AT STATE SILVER GLOVES

A new crop of champions were crowned at the 2012 California State Silver Gloves, which took place at the South El Monte Community Center in Southern California earlier this month.  The winners advanced to the Regional Silver Gloves in Pasadena on January 3-6, 2013.  Here’s a list of Senior Division champions from Region 11, the area encompassing Northern and Central California.

GIRLS (14-15):
106 lbs.: Caroline Riojas (Central; Velarde’s TC, Fresno)
112 lbs.: Odalys Camacho (Central; Ten Count BC, Bakersfield)
119 lbs.: Iris Contreras (Northern; D.F. Boxing, Richmond)

BOYS (14-15):
80 lbs.: Peter Tavares (Northern; Unattached, Gilroy)
95 lbs.: Fernando Venegas (Northern; Golden State Bloodhounds, Sacramento)
119 lbs.: Ruben Villa IV (Central, Back Yard BC, Salinas)
178 lbs.: Suray Mahmutovic (Northern; 415 BC, S.F.)


THE SPITBUCKET

49ers running back Frank Gore gave his vocal support to Donaire this week, posting a YouTube video with local videojournalist Ken Guanga…Watsonville’s Carina Moreno became NorCal’s sixth reigning world champ with an upset of Susi Kentikian in Germany by split decision for the WBA flyweight title…Super middleweight king Andre Ward’s promoter Dan Goossen informed me that the Oakland star doesn’t need surgery on his right shoulder and will return in February or March… Promising prospect Omar Henry, who relocated to the Bay Area last year, is in good spirits after a recent trip to the hospital revealed he has cancer.  The way “O.” fights, cancer doesn’t stand a chance…Promoter Don Chargin is trying to bring boxing to Redwood City.  South Bay is a fertile ground for fight fans.  I’d love to see it… For those of you hoping to see Guillermo Rigondeaux call out Donaire on Saturday, he’ll have to do it from a ringside seat.  His opponent, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, tested positive for HIV and the fight is off…If either of the TV bouts on TeleFutura ends in early stoppage, I hope Jonathan Chicas-Moris Rodriguez gets on the tube.  That’ll be a good one…Former Region 11 amateur star and 2012 U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez of Avenal needed all of 125 seconds to win his pro debut on the Pacquiao-Marquez undercard…Fresno’s Gary Salazar might be the next to follow in Ramirez’s footsteps.  He raised some eyebrows by advancing to the quarterfinals at the AIBA Youth World Championships…Don’t miss the CBS main event Saturday afternoon.  If you like fighters with a hellacious body attack and can finish with the best of them, watch Leo Santa Cruz.  The kid’s a whirlwind…My picks: Donaire in five, Amir Khan over 12, Alfredo Angulo in two, and Paul Mendez in 10…The final list of nominees for the 2012 CSNBayArea.com NorCal Boxing Awards will be released next week.  If you would like to nominate someone, my contact information is below.

CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board.  E-mail him at rmaquinana@gmail.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.

'Piss poor' seventh inning haunts Giants at Dodger Stadium

'Piss poor' seventh inning haunts Giants at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES — The Giants put together a long rally in the top of the seventh inning Friday, scoring three runs to take a 4-2 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Matt Moore walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches. 

“You don’t deserve anything really that good after something like that,” Moore said. “That’s piss poor.”

Nothing good came after the walk, as Moore expected. That man, Austin Barnes, would come around to score. Three more Dodgers would, too. It added up to a 6-4 win for the Dodgers. For the best team in the National League, this was a familiar feeling. For the most disappointing team in baseball, the same was true. 

The Giants have played so well against the Dodgers this season, but in one inning at Chavez Ravine, they fell apart. They looked exactly like the team that has bottomed out over the last calendar year, and none of the pitchers who threw in the inning were spared. 

Moore had a good night in general, and his second half is showing signs of promise. But he was left angry with the result, and much of that anger was directed at himself. An hour after it happened, Moore was still stewing over the four pitches to Barnes and the double he gave up to Joc Pederson.

“You’ve got to make him earn his way on there,” Moore said of Barnes. “I’ve got to be better than that in the seventh.”

Moore’s night ended when Yasiel Puig entered the on-deck circle. Puig hasn’t hit lefties this year, but Bruce Bochy didn’t like the look of some pitches Moore had thrown in the inning, and he was pulled after 96 pitches. George Kontos entered and got Puig, a righty-destroyer, to hit an RBI grounder to short. Then he hung a 3-2 slider to Chris Taylor that was knocked into left for a game-tying double. 

“He’s been very good at times,” Bochy said of Kontos. “But the breaking ball that he’s left up, that’s the one that’s hurting him.”

Josh Osich was called upon and put a curveball on a tee. Corey Seager blasted it and that was that. The Giants sent Steven Okert down to the minors last weekend, leaving Osich as their lefty in the ‘pen. Bochy reiterated that he needs more from the young pair. Neither has taken hold of a long-term job since Will Smith went down to Tommy John surgery. 

“It’s their time,” Bochy said. “We need one of them to step up.”

Perhaps another reliever has. Kyle Crick struck out two in an impressive eighth, lowering his ERA to 1.88. It was an inning with less at stake, and that’s been the norm for Crick. He has pitched 12 times in the big leagues and 11 of the games have been losses. The lone win was a 9-2 blowout. 

The Giants have said they want to get Crick into higher-pressure spots. The inning before his on Friday night might have accelerated that plan. 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's fifth straight loss

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's fifth straight loss

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — While the Minnesota Twins are looking to claw their way into Wild Card contention, the A’s immediate goal is to get manager Bob Melvin his 1,000th career victory.

That is proving quite task, as Oakland lost its fifth consecutive game Friday since their skipper posted win No. 999. Rookie Daniel Gossett didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in a 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 17,727 fans at the Coliseum. The A’s also squandered a bases-loaded opportunity with no outs in the second, a bad omen as the home team lost for the ninth time in the past 11 games.

Twins lefty Jaime Garcia, making his first start since being acquired earlier in the week from Atlanta, worked 6 2/3 innings to get the victory. There is speculation about whether Minnesota, which came in having lost seven of its past 10, might turn around and flip Garcia to a contender. That remains to be seen.

The A’s have decisions to make themselves as Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline approaches, the main one being whether to deal No. 1 starter Sonny Gray, who is scheduled to pitch Sunday’s series finale against former Athletic Bartolo Colon.

GOSSETT’S STRUGGLES: Gossett is trying to prove he should stick in the rotation as Jharel Cotton and Kendall Graveman near a return to the rotation. But the right-hander lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits and four earned runs with three walks and two wild pitches. Gossett’s ERA rose to 5.74 after his ninth start since being recalled from the minors.

JEKYLL AND HYDE ‘D’: What to make of this A’s defense? On Friday, third baseman Matt Chapman turned in one of the finest plays of Oakland’s season, making a diving backhand stop of Miguel Sano’s sharp grounder and beginning a dazzling 5-4-3 double play. Second baseman Adam Rosales made a strong throw to home to complete an 8-4-2 putout. Matt Joyce made a great running catch in right field. But the A’s also committed two errors. That included a fourth-inning sequence where Marcus Semien sailed a throw to first base for what could have been ruled an error. Ryon Healy’s throw home was in time to get Brian Dozier, breaking from third, but catcher Ryan Lavarnway couldn’t hold on to the ball to make the tag.

A LONG TIME COMING: The A’s cut into a 5-0 deficit in the fourth when Lavarnway doubled home two runs. It marked Lavarnway’s first major league hit since Oct. 4, 2015, when he was with Atlanta. He was called up from the minors Thursday when Josh Phegley joined the 10-day disabled list with a strained oblique.

GETTING CLOSER: Graveman is scheduled to start Saturday for Triple-A Nashville, and Melvin hinted that his Opening Night starter could come off the disabled list after that outing.

NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT …: When the A’s lost four straight in Toronto, it marked the second time they’ve been swept in a four-game series this season. That hadn’t happened since 1997, when Oakland got swept in three different four-game series.