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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latest Top Rank PPV Built With The Future In Mind

By Jake Donovan (photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank)

You can call it Pinoy Power 3. You can call it Latin Fury 13. The folks at Top Rank couldn’t make up their mind, instead deciding to roll with both titles.

Whatever label you prefer, there’s one thing that this weekend’s card can be referred to as: an event with the immediate future in mind.

All too often these days, fights are put together for the sake of keeping a fighter busy. There’s the promise that something big awaits “in the wings,” but more often than not we’re stick witnessing the gloved version of kick the can.

The lineup presented for this weekend’s show at the Las Vegas Hilton (Saturday, Top Rank PPV, 9PM ET/6PM PT) doesn’t immediately jump out as one that justifies the $40 price tag accompanying it. What can be said about the card, however, is that the winners of each of the televised bouts stand to reap immediate benefits.

You can’t say that about most of the bigger pay-per-view events, which are almost always loaded with showcase mismatches from top to bottom, bouts serving as little more than auditions for yet another televised showcase down the road.

A long-term plan is precisely what the doctor ordered for Nonito Donaire, who headlines Saturday’s card in a super flyweight bout against Mexican journeyman Gerson Guerrero.

The ultra-talented Filipino has been stuck in neutral ever since announcing his arrival with his emphatic fifth-round knockout of Vic Darchinyan on Showtime more than two years ago.

With the win came the accolades and long overdue respect his skills have always warranted. What didn’t follow, however, was the opportunity to cash in on that momentum.

Injuries and contract disputes led to an 11-month forced period of inactivity before joining Top Rank in late 2008. Part of Donaire’s beef in breaking free from Gary Shaw Productions was the belief that he wasn’t being properly moved post-Darchinyan. Further rubbing salt in the wound was the fact that Darchinyan would go on to enjoy a Fighter-of-the-Year worthy campaign, while Donaire spent most of 2008 on the sidelines.

Last year wasn’t much better, though he emerged as a viable draw for Top Rank’s independent PPV’s, enough to where they dedicated an entire series to him (Pinoy Power). Wins over Raul Martinez and Rafael Concepcion served as placeholders, but still failed to establish a long-term plan, as each fight won would merely lead to… another fight.

That dynamic is finally about to change.

On its own, there’s nothing particularly glamorous about this weekend’s matchup with Guerrero (34-8, 26KO). It’s a chance for Donaire to win, and look good doing so, since such opportunity was stolen from him in his last fight – a points win over Concepcion, who showed up more than four pounds heavy for the fight and willingly paid the accompanying fine in lieu of doing the honorable thing and actually try to shed the extra weight.

The strategy worked only in frustrating Donaire, who danced as hard as he could but was at a three-division weight disadvantage by the time the opening bell had rung. Win today, look good the next time, only the next time would be put on hold after injuries forced him to sit out the rest of 2009.

For once, downtime proved to be a good thing. As Donaire returns to the ring this weekend, awaiting him is a somewhat reborn Jorge Arce. There have been talks of the two meeting this summer, a bout that becomes more significant thanks to Arce’s career-resurrecting win over Angky Angkota for a vacant alphabet belt.

Such a matchup is far more meaningful to both fighters than it would’ve been when first discussed more than a year ago. Arce had a chance to prove he still has something left to offer the sport, while Donaire was moved the way he was for the sake of allowing the marketing side to catch up to his physical peak.

The road leading to this point required – and still requires – a lot of patience on the part of Donaire, but the payoff is finally within sight. For the first time in more than two years, the promise of bigger and better things to come is one that a promise that threatens to be kept.


Even better than the knowledge of Donaire looking at a potential breakout year in 2010 is the fact that there’s plenty to look forward to in the immediate future of those appearing on the televised undercard.

There’s no title at stake or any alphabet organization involved in the 10-round featherweight match between Bernabe Concepcion and Mario Santiago, but that hasn’t stopped Bob Arum from selling the pay-per-view curtain raiser as an elimination bout.

Awaiting the winner of what appears on paper to be a pick-‘em, is the right to next face undefeated featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez.

Strangely enough, already connecting the featherweight trio is one fighter – Steven Luevano, whom has faced all three in the span of his last four bouts.

Lopez became a two-division titlist after wiping up Luevano last month in New York. His performance was far more dominant than that of Concepcion or Santiago, both of whom fought on even terms in bouts that represent their lone title shots to date.

Santiago (21-1-1, 14KO) managed to escape with a rightly-scored split-decision draw in their bout two summers ago, while Concepcion (27-3-1, 15KO) threw away a golden opportunity when he was DQ’d for throwing and landing a punch after the bell to end the seventh round.

In today’s era where everyone gets to fight for a title, that such a fight isn’t already a sanctioned eliminator is a bit puzzling. Both have earned the right to stand one fight away from fighting for a major title. They now get that chance, with no greater featherweight prize waiting in the wings than the division’s next potential superstar.

If alphabet protocol is to be adhered to (which is often a long shot), then the winners of the two separate televised bantamweight bouts needn’t look any further for their next opportunity than on the very show on which they will perform.

Had things went as planned in last summer’s perceived tune-up against Alejandro Valdez, current bantamweight beltholder Fernando Montiel would’ve went on to face Eric Morel in the televised undercard portion of what went on to become the most watched pay-per-view telecast of 2009, Manny Pacquiao’s 11-plus round destruction of Miguel Cotto.

But things didn’t go as planned, instead going miserably awry for Montiel (39-2-2, 29KO), who was fortunate to escape Mexico with a technical draw. The Mexican boxer-puncher was well on his way to a knockout victory as early as the opening round before suffering a cut later in the frame, and a world of damage soon thereafter, though a series of controversial events afforded him to avoid what should’ve been an injury stoppage loss.

The damage suffered in the fight – a cut over his left eye, that same eye swelling shut, and a busted nose – forced Montiel to the sidelines for the rest of the year, prompting an interim title matchup between Morel (41-2, 21KO) and Gerry Penalosa (54-7-2, 36KO), a fight that was supposed to happen last year but… didn’t.

Morel and Penalosa finally get a chance to settle their differences in the ring this weekend after the war of words that developed over the past few months.

Considering the interim title status attached to their fight, what should await the winner is the very fighter who’s arm is raised in the evening’s other bantamweight title fight, between Montiel and Ciso Morales (14-0, 8KO).

Montiel’s name has also found its way to the list of fighters Donaire is actively seeking in 2010 and beyond. A more realistic scenario – should he win on Saturday evening – has him facing the winner of the aforementioned bout between aged ex-titlists.

Author: Jake Donovan (photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Source: boxingscene.com

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