AFTERMATH: Nonito Donaire-Jeffrey Mathebula, Kell Brook-Carson Jones, Wladimir Klitschko-Tony Thompson


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Nonito Donaire etched another win over tough opposition at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California Saturday night. But like his first foray into super bantamweight, against Wilfredo Vazquez, he had his struggles along the way.

Donaire won a decision over South African Jeffrey Mathebula by scores of 119-108, 117-110, 118-109 in a bout in which the tallies don’t convey the entire story. Mathebula, now 26-4-2 with 14 KOs, had a significant size advantage, and often used it to great effect by unraveling a pesky jab. His jab, thrown from his back foot, wasn’t hard or damaging, but it kept his shorter opponent largely outside of arm’s reach. While Mathebula tended to bend down to Donaire’s level whenever he threw anything of significance, he did a nice job of staying at a distance and keeping his guard intact through most of the fight.

Still, when facing a man with perhaps the most explosive counter left hook in boxing, you tend to pay for the mistakes you do make. The “Marvelous Mongoose” attempted to time Donaire’s cobra-like reflexes with a right hand in the fourth round, which only prompted Donaire, 29-1, with 18 KOs, to launch his left as if it was sprung from the jaws of a bear trap. The South African got put on the seat of his trunks, but he showed his resolve by getting up on shaky legs, making it to this corner, and bouncing back admirably throughout the next round. But the knockdown represented the difference between the two fighters: Donaire had starch on his punches, and Mathebula didn’t.

A vicious right hand in the 11th cracked Mathebula’s tooth, effectively ending the 33-year-old’s resistance and solidifying the victory for Donaire. Between the occasional eye-catching blow, however, “The Filipino Flash” struggled to make an impression with a friendly audience.

For as much flash as he may have, Donaire’s head-hunting-particularly against an opponent with a torso as long as Mathebula’s-can be maddening. He’ll throw potshots towards the midsection with his right hand, interspersed with a rare left hook, but never with round-to-round consistency, never in combination, and almost never followed with the head shot he so desperately desires. That leads to a long stretch of rounds of monotonous action with Donaire slinging single shots to the cranium, most of which fell short of their target or careened off of gloves.

Now that Donaire is facing bigger opponents, his shortcomings have become more evident. What’s clear is that he still has a lethal left hook to go along with his blinding speed. Whether that’s enough to take out the likes of Toshiaki Nishioka, Abner Mares, and Guillermo Rigondeaux remains to be seen. A bout with any one of those men would be intriguing, because what was presumed to be clear superiority is being pushed into question.

On the undercard, Kelly Pavlik, 40-2, with 34 KOs, continued his comeback tour with a comfortable decision over Queens, New York, native Will Rosinsky. Rosinsky, 16-2, with 9 KOs, was game, but lacked the firepower to compete with the heavier hands of Pavlik.

In a bout more memorable for the mind-numbingly persistent shouting of Rosinsky’s fiancée at ringside, Pavlik steadied himself after a rocky first round to consistently land the more memorable blows, including a short right hand that put Rosinsky on the deck in the second. Still, Rosinsky was competitive in most rounds-circling Pavlik enough to avoid sustained punishment-and gave a good account of himself. Nevertheless, Pavlik has lost a bit of his sting with his move up to super middleweight, and while it would be remiss to count him out completely against one of the top dogs in the division, he’ll be facing an uphill battle whenever he decides to take that step.

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By far the best televised fight of the day took place in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom when talented Brit Kell Brook faced the sternest test of his career in determined Carson Jones. Jones, 34-9-2, with 24 KOs, is far better than his record indicates, suffering most of his losses at 22 years old or younger, and having notched eight straight knockouts since his last defeat. Now as a 25-year-old veteran, he’s a terror to deal with, equipped with a violent body attack, a responsible defense, and a stout set of whiskers. Brook, 24-0 with 18 KOs, survived to win a majority decision by scores of 114-114, 116-113, and 115-113, but walked away with a broken nose and a tough lesson in how to handle opposition that won’t waver in response to his megawatt athleticism.

Brook is accustomed to handcuffing his opponent with a stiff counter jab. But even while Brook won the first five rounds by slipping jabs in between Jones’ guard and looping left hooks and right hands around the gloves, it was clear that Jones wasn’t one to be easily deterred. Round by round, Jones’ body work became more prominent, and left hooks to the chin began to follow.

A closely contested sixth was followed by the dam breaking in the seventh, when Jones landed a stinging right hand before thrashing Brook’s midsection throughout the round. In the 8th, another well-timed right hand by the Oklahoma City native broke Brook’s nose, leaving Brook bloodied and susceptible to several more power shots before the bell sounded. It was more of the same in the ninth, as it began to look like the 26-year-old UK attraction-no longer offering much resistance-was struggling to tread deep waters.

But Brook fought back hard the next two rounds, arguably edging out both by landing several big counters, before taking another beating in the final round. While Jones exposed some of his limitations – like Donaire, Brook’s uncomfortable with going to the body, and his jab is covered in mothballs when the going gets a bit tough – the British sensation gutted out adverse conditions and responded as the fight started slipping away. It was the increasingly rare example of fine matchmaking, where a legitimate, but untested contender discovers what he needs to improve upon, while finding out what exactly is inside of him.

Meanwhile, Carson Jones solidified his spot as a must-see fighter. Through their uneasy collaboration, networks and promoters often ignore the obvious. Let’s hope Jones’ stubborn style doesn’t fall within the cracks.

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There was a time when Tony Thompson, 36-3, with 24 KOs, was a solid heavyweight, who, compared to most Klitschko challengers, gave Klitschko sound resistance on the way to getting knocked out late in the bout. Since then, Thompson has slipped while Klitschko has maintained his level of dominance.

So what happens in a needless rematch four years later? Klitschko beats the 40-year-old Thompson more easily, knocking him out within six rounds in Stade de Suisse, Berne, Switzerland. Shocking result, yes, but boxing can be unpredictable like that.

To be fair, Klitschko, 58-3, with 51 knockouts, doesn’t have many -perhaps none-prospective opponents at heavyweight that can provide a Carson Jones-like test. Meanwhile, we collectively yawn at his preeminence. But next time, he can do better than Tony Thompson.

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Tags: Carson Jones Jeffrey Mathebula Kell Brook KELLY PAVLIK Nonito Donaire Tony Thompson Will Rosinsky WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO

  • jet79

    Hi Michael, very nice recap of the weekend’s action.
    It seems a bit odd to say a fighter as explosive as Donaire has become boring, and yet he’s headed that way. The argument that his opponents have some say in Donaire’s lackluster performances has some merit, as does the defense that Donaire cannot be as spectacular as unrealistic expectations demand. But you’re right in pointing out his unwillingness to adjust to stop fighters he’s vastly superior to. That left hook would pay equal dividends to the liver, if he ever cared to commit below the shoulders. I think he’s in need of a new trainer. I don’t see any improvements in his performances, and given his talent, I think  that’s indicative of a problem. Maybe some fresh eyes would help?
    I don’t expect the Mares fight to happen, but Nishioka would be entertaining, and I’d love to see Donaire fight Rigondeaux (even if only the only drama comes from the tension). Donaire needs a meaningful opponent soon. Montiel got up a long time ago, and the goodwill from that performance is almost exhausted.
    Everything about the Brook – Jones fight was great: the action, the purposeful matchmaking, the questions and answers posed in the ring. I love Jones (who I had never seen previously). He wades in, commits to his punches, and has an iron volition. Brook is a tough dude, and I like that he fought through his own bloody and busted face without getting overwhelmed by the sight and feel of his own vulnerability. Both guys are welcome TV fighters in the Tobin household from here on out.
    Fuck heavyweight boxing. If anything, Klitschko – Thompson reminded us what Brook – Jones did: competition is vital to entertainment in boxing. No amount of lipstick will make that pig of a division look good.
     
     
     
     
     

  • Michael Nelson

     @Dundee Duque Hey Dundee,
     
    I agree that a scrap with Arce would be exciting while it lasts, but I think Arce’s tailormade for Donaire’s left hook and would get iced fairly early in the fight, while I’d give Nish, Mares, or Rigondaux a decent chance at pulling an upset.  You’re right though, we’d probably staring at 12 rounds of feints if him and Rigo every squared off. 
     
    My preference would be Nishioka, but it looks like it’s going to be Arce.  And to Arce’s credit, he’s bounced back well these last few years.
     
    Mathebula threw just enough professional right hands in between the slapping left hooks and soft jabs to make you wonder why he doesn’t put more weight into his punches.  Then again, one of those rights led to a counter that put him on his ass. 

  • Michael Nelson

     @jet79 Hey JT,
     
    Thanks much.  Donaire’s lack of body work was really highlighted in the Narvaez fight.  Little Narvaez held a tight guard but exposed his rib cage through much of the fight… and Donaire kept chopping away at his gloves.  Afterwards, he claimed he did everything he could against a spoiling opponent.  Believing THAT was his best possible effort is an issue, and as you said, maybe a new set of eyes could help resolve it. 
     
    I’m with you on a Nishioka fight.  Not sure how I feel about Donaire-Arce.  There’d be plenty of action, but how much of the action would just be Arce getting splattered?
     
    Check out Carson Jones-Said Ouali when you get a chance.  Quality stuff, and was the reason I was looking forward to the Brook fight.  I’m glad Jones showed he could hold his own at that level and both men came out looking pretty good.  There may be some questions about how dominant Brook can be in the future or whatever, but at the very least, he showed he won’t fold when shit gets ugly.
     
    Agreed on the heavyweights.  Pig is a compliment.
     

  • Michael Nelson

     @Jean Wade Hey Jean,
     
    Agreed, Mathebula’s game revolved around stay-away jabs.  He proved elusive to an extent, but the power gap was too large and he didn’t take enough risks.  A fair amount of people had it close than I, or the judges, had it though. 

  • thenonpareil

    Hi MN,  It’s interesting you mention how Mathebula threw a weak jab from his back foot.  Against Ndlovu, he stepped hard behind it most of the time and it was a pretty effective weapon.  The only reason I thought he might–might–be competitive against Donaire was because of the hard jab he showed.  I guess he was so thrown off by Donaire’s Crouching Tiger style that he never really tried to commit to his punches.  There were times when Donaire feinted him into near-collapse!  Donaire, hopefully, will learn how to put a whole fight together from bell to bell.  I don’t think he’ll need to do that against Arce…that’s a smear fight.Brook-Jones was fun and it’s nice to see Jones graduate from circuit fighter to top-flight journeyman.  He could have been ground down by the fight game long ago, but stuck to it and has improved over time.  You can’t say that about many fighters.  I remember trying to put a bet on him before his fight against Brunson–damn crashing computers! I don’t rag on Klitschko anymore because the Europeans love him and being an attraction is a big part of what prizefighting is supposed to be.  To me, a guy like that–millions watching on TV, thousands in the seats–gets some leeway.  But heavyweights really and truly suck….

  • Michael Nelson

     @thenonpareil Hey CA,
     
    Regarding Mathebula, that makes sense.  I was sitting here thinking “that’s not really how he’s gonna throw jabs, right?  RIGHT?” through the first few rounds.  It was, but I guess he figured that was the best path towards staying upright and eeking out a decision. 
     
    Comp problems have screwed me out of winning bets, and saved me from losing ones.  Namely, the hefty sum I tried to put down on Quintana against Cotto.  Ouch! 
     
    I’ll never be a fan of Wladimir, but I recognize he’s good and is hugely popular.  That you can make an argument that a 40 year old retread was one of the best available opponents shows how dreadful the division is.