Fight Scribe Bullets: The Nonito Donaire edition

nonito-donaire-omar-narvaez(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on October 27, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

Styles make fights. Every fight fan worth his or her salt has surely heard this old boxing cliche lots of times, and for good reason—the outcome of a bout usually depends on the fighting styles dished out by the fighters atop the squared ring.

In past years, different (and similar) fighting styles have given us the following: the dramatic carnage of the Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward trilogy; the fascinatingly violent ebb and flow of Rafael Marquez and Israel Vasquez’s four fights; the one-sided but legendary bout between Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns; the amazing comeback by the late Diego Corrales against Jose Luis Castillo in their first fight; and the shocking upset that was the Rumble in the Jungle, where an older Muhammad Ali’s speed, technical skills, and superb ring IQ proved too much to handle for a younger and supposedly stronger George Foreman.

Of course, these differences and similarities in fighting styles don’t always result in exciting and unforgettable fights, those fights that get nominated for Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine. More often than not, they result in forgettable snooze-fests like Manny Pacquiao-Joshua “the Turtle” Clottey, the second Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera fight (where Barrera changed his style to that of a marathoner), Devon Alexander-Timothy Bradley, Floyd Mayweather-Carlos Baldomir, the last twelve Bernard Hopkins fights, and the recent Nonito Donaire-Omar Narvaez fight.

Speaking of the latter, on to the bullets:

  • A lot of people I know are still furious about the outcome of the Donaire-Narvaez fight. Why? Because those guys wagered beer money that Narvaez wouldn’t last the distance against Donaire, and, well, we all know what happened: Narvaez refused to fight and was more concerned about lasting the distance against Nonito. Can’t blame the guy, though. Donaire has knocked out eight of his last ten opponents, and Narvaez can at least brag that he finished the fight on his feet. Problem is, he didn’t even win a round on the judges’ scorecards; all the judges scored the fight 120–108 for Donaire. “Neither of us wanted to make a mistake because in this kind of fight, it can be fatal. You cannot neglect an opponent like Nonito at any time,” Narvaez said after the fight. While I agree with Narvaez when he said that making a mistake in boxing is fatal, I disagree with his statement that neither of he nor Donaire wanted to make a mistake. Donaire did his job by actually fighting, which means Nonito actually took risks. Narvaez, on the other hand, plastered his gloves to his mug all night and hopped on his bicycle instead of going toe-to-toe with Donaire. While I was a bit disappointed with the fight (I began channel surfing at the start of the sixth round), a win is a win for Donaire, and he can at least look forward to more exciting and lucrative fights in the future.
  • A quick glance at the CompuBox numbers of the fight will show just how outgunned Narvaez was: Donaire threw a total of 666 punches, landing 99. Eighty-five of those punches that landed for Donaire were power shots.In contrast, Narvaez only threw a total of 299 punches, landing 41, 33 of which were power punches. When I said at the beginning of this post that styles make fights, I meant the natural fighting style of a boxer—without the fear factor thrown in. Consider this: the average super flyweight throws around fifty-seven punches a round, and when Narvaez was still campaigning at 115, four of the five CompuBox-tracked fights that Narvaez figured in showed that the Argentinian boxer exceeded the super flyweight average of punches per round: he threw 68.7 punches in a win against Everth Briceno, 83.7 against Victor Zaleta, 70.3 against William Urina, and a staggering 126.2 against Santiago Acosta. Narvaez fought those four aforementioned fights in the past year, so that was a thirty-five-year-old boxer throwing a hellacious amount of punches per round, way above the so-called average of a fighter in his weight class.
  • Obviously, Narvaez became gun-shy against Donaire because he felt that the Filipino was more than capable of knocking him out. That’s why he overcompensated on his defense, his offense (and any chance of winning) be damned. Narvaez added: “I think I have the doors open to fight again in America, but next time it’ll be in the super flyweight category.” Really? With that kind of showing in his debut fight in the United States? I don’t think so. Narvaez should remember that Joshua Clottey put on a similar performance against Manny Pacquiao, and although Clottey finished the fight on his feet, he was immediately dropped by HBO for his lackluster performance. Said a visibly disgusted Freddie Roach after the fight, “He [Clottey] was satisfied with going the distance with Manny Pacquiao, and he did. But HBO will never use him again.” Narvaez seemed to be satisfied with going the distance against Donaire, but it remains to be seen whether he will be fighting on US soil again.
  • So what’s next for Nonito Donaire? Apparently, Top Rank’s Bob Arum has his sights on a couple of options for Donaire: WBO super bantamweight champion Jorge Arce and WBC super bantamweight titlist Toshiaki Nishioka. El Travieso is fresh off a successful defense of his title after stopping South African Simphiwe Nongqayi in four rounds last month. Arce picked up his belt in emphatic fashion after beating Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. in the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight last May. On the other hand, Nishioka successfully defended his title against future hall of famer Rafael Marquez early this month.Again, styles make fights: after his disappointing fight against Narvaez, I’m looking forward to Donaire fighting Arce first. Arce is never in a boring fight, and with his all-action style against Donaire, expect fireworks. I’m not saying that a Donaire-Nishioka fight will be boring, but because Nishioka is more of a stylistic boxer compared to Arce, who is more of a brawler, a Donaire and Nishioka fight will be more of a chess match. And heck, we want our boxing.Against Arce, Nonito Donaire will be his old explosive self again. I hope Bob Arum can make it happen soon. After Narvaez, he owes us that fight. Badly.

The best way to get a closer look at (and a firsthand account of) the sport of jiu-jitsu? Get yourself choked by a brown belt

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2013.)

by Mark Lorenzana

My friend Jasmine earned her degree in Accountancy, cum laude, at the University of San Carlos in 2006 and her degree in Law at the University of the Philippines–Diliman in 2010. As a certified public accountant and an attorney, she currently works as a Junior Associate specializing in litigation, tax and corporate advisory, and corporate housekeeping at a high-profile law firm in Makati. But when she’s not being a CPA lawyer, you can find Jasmine in a gi, on the mats, trying to choke people out. Jasmine, who has a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, took up the sport a few years ago when she decided that she needed to lose some weight. Now, aside from successfully shedding off the extra pounds, she’s also quite adept at—to put it mildly—making her opponents tap out on a regular basis.

“I used to run, but I noticed that I wasn’t losing as much weight as I wanted to,” Jasmine tells me one warm Sunday night at the Cebu branch of the jiu-jitsu gym she trains at, in between training sessions. “My first day doing jiu-jitsu, I was lying in a pool of my own sweat. That’s how intense the training was.”

I see what she means. I look around and about ten pairs of trainees, their gis all soaked in sweat, are getting busy on the mats, changing their positions and holds as Norman, the head instructor, belts out instructions.

“Kimura!” Norman yells in a booming voice. “Choke! Arm bar!”

Norman, who has earned his brown belt early last year, is all business. And as he keeps on belting out instructions to his students, he sounds like a man on a mission. “Pick up the pace, execute right away!” Norman shouts. “Let’s go, a little bit faster. Move faster!”

The arm bar may very well be the most frequently used joint-lock submission in mixed martial arts (MMA) today. This particular submission is commonly performed by placing your legs across your opponent’s chest, with one of his or her arms positioned between your thighs and with the elbow joint against your hips. From this position, you will grab your opponent’s arm and position his or her forearm against your chest. When you lean back and arch your hips, you create intense pressure in the elbow joint, which forces your opponent to tap out. If the tap doesn’t come soon enough, the results can be nasty: torn ligaments and torn tendons in the elbow joint. In fact, it is not rare in some cases for the arm bar to result in a broken bone if there is sufficient leverage, power, and angle.

On the other hand, the kimura—which is named after its inventor, Masahiko Kimura, widely considered as the greatest judoka of all time—is a submission that essentially involves cranking your opponent’s arm away from him or her, which puts intense pressure on the shoulder and elbow joint, resulting in the tap. Of course this is the most simplified description of the submission as it can be—like most submissions in jiu-jitsu—executed from almost any position and angle.

In the case of chokes, Jasmine explains that there are actually two different types: a blood choke and an air choke.

Blood chokes work by compressing the carotid arteries, therefore cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain. A properly executed blood choke can render a person unconscious in as little as three minutes. Air chokes, in contrast, cut off air flow down the trachea. As such, an air choke generally relies on strength rather than technique to be effective. Air chokes are typically inefficient or ineffective for use in martial arts. And besides, air chokes are extremely dangerous and can cause major damage to an opponent—they can actually fracture a person’s larynx.

There are quite a few blood chokes employed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA, but the most common is the rear-naked choke. Out of curiosity, I ask Jasmine how to do a properly executed rear-naked choke.

“Why don’t you show him so he knows what it feels like?” Norman, who has overheard our conversation, says.

* * *

“When you choke someone,” Norman tells me while I’m seated on the mat, with him behind me, “you’re basically cutting off blood supply to the brain. That’s why you pass out.”

He adds, “A rear-naked choke works like this. What I’m doing right now, what I’m doing is that I’m wrapping my arm around your neck like so, and then I put my other arm over the other arm like this and behind your head to try to cut off the blood supply. What you feel right now is that I’m not actually choking you yet. If you do feel a bit of sensation where it feels like you are losing a bit of light in your vision, that’s basically you panicking. At this point. Don’t worry about it, don’t tap just yet. Just relax. Now I’m just tightening it just a bit slowly. Feel that?”

“Yes,” I say.

“I don’t even need to tighten it suddenly,” Norman says. “I just have to count from one to ten and each count it’s going to be tighter. So why don’t we do this? Why don’t we count to five, don’t tap, and let’s just see if we can reach five before you fall asleep. Okay? Okay.”

“One.”

Before I could protest, I start to feel Norman’s arms tighten around my neck, a predator squeezing the life out of its helpless prey. Instinctively, I move my hand next to the forearm that’s cutting off blood circulation to my brain, ready to tap.

“Two.”

I could feel the blood draining from my face, my vision blurring, everything starting to turn black. The telltale signs someone feels before passing out.

“Three.”

I tap Norman’s forearm furiously, my hand slapping as hard as I can before I completely lose consciousness, which—in my estimation—won’t be too long from now.

“Four.”

Surprisingly, by this time, the urge to keep on tapping is replaced by a feeling of utter surrender, of complete helplessness. I feel my arms go limp. Then my entire body. By now the room is almost completely enveloped in darkness. At once falling asleep doesn’t seem like a bad idea after all. And at this point, believe it or not, it’s as if you welcome it. Sleep beckons. You give in to the inevitable.

Norman lets go.

“Five.”

Suddenly the floodgates to my oxygen-starved brain are opened, blood is pumped back, and the darkening gym is slowly bathed in light. I slowly regain strength in my limbs, in my entire body. I try to sit up.

“A little bit of zooming out, it’s just how that feels,” Norman says. “Now that’s a rear-naked choke. That’s how a choke feels.”

No kidding.

“Not quite but almost,” I manage to croak out, referring to the fact that I hadn’t totally passed out. And because I’m still conscious, I feel pretty good about myself. But not much—my throat feels like it’s been crushed in a vise.

“Yes, I know,” Norman says, smiling. “I let go before we reached five.”

Jasmine says she passed out once before, from a choke. “I was competing with this Korean guy, he was very physical, and he had me in a choke,” she tells me. “And he was talking so he didn’t notice I was already tapping out. Maybe I was tapping lightly so he didn’t notice. So I passed out. When you wake up, it’s like you wake up in the morning after a long sleep.”

She smiles, and adds, “It feels so refreshing.”

No kidding.

* * *

I’ve known Jasmine since our college days at USC, and needless to say, this is the slimmest I’ve seen her, ever. She also looks incredibly strong (she regularly does fireman’s carries on guys weighing 130 to 150 pounds at the gym). Jasmine loves to compete and has won bronze, silver, and gold medals in various local and international Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments, which include the Rollapalooza Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament, the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Championship Trials, and the Pan-Asian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competition, among others.

Jasmine trains four days a week after work, Monday to Thursday, and also teaches an all-girls jiu-jitsu class on Saturday mornings. She tells me that if given the chance, she also plans to do cross-training in striking and eventually progress to full MMA.

Jasmine may be on to something. In November of last year, Ronda Rousey signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and successfully defended her UFC women’s bantamweight title against Liz Carmouche in an action-packed bout that saw Rousey survive an early standing face crank attempt by the game Carmouche, only to submit the challenger in the final seconds of the first round via arm bar.

And just a couple of months ago, at the Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, two women also figured in a thrilling fight as Cat Zingano beat former Strikeforce champion Meisha Tate via brutal TKO in the third round in what was perhaps the most exciting bout on the twelve-fight card. It wasn’t surprising that Zingano and Tate bagged Fight of the Night honors for their efforts and pocketed fifty thousand dollars in cash.

It seems that the UFC has discovered an untapped resource for pulling in more fans—women’s MMA, which could potentially create new stars for the organization. And as the first couple of fights in the UFC involving women have shown, the ladies are more than capable of putting on a great show for the fans.

When I visited Jasmine during her training session, she had rolled and sparred on the mats with guys bigger and heavier than her. She had given those guys a hard time. At the risk of sounding clichéd, Jasmine’s current skill level on the mats is very impressive. Factoring in the numerous medals she’s won in tournaments throughout the years, everything Jasmine has accomplished as a jiu-jitsu practitioner is a testament to her hard work, dedication, and drive. Undoubtedly the same hard work, dedication, and drive that have taken professional fighters like Rousey, Carmouche, Zingano, and Tate to where they are now.

And looking at Jasmine as she practices her different submissions and holds during a break in my interview with her, and as the sport of MMA pulls in more interested viewers and practitioners, I can’t help but imagine a jiu-jitsu or MMA gym here in the Philippines dominated by hardworking and talented women in the near future.

No kidding.

“Arm bar! Choke! Kimura!” Norman screams.

* * *

“What’s an arm bar?” Norman asks me. “An arm bar,” he says, “a lot of people think that it’s dislocating the shoulder. It’s not. It might look very fancy, but you’re actually dislocating the elbow. So this is how it’s going to look like.”

Norman sits beside me while I lie down on the mat, him stretching my arm out and slowly twisting my elbow outward, a few inches away from the breaking point. He says, “I’m putting pressure. This is very simple, this is very basic, this is a very crude idea of an arm bar. I’m putting pressure on the elbow, I’m putting pressure against where it’s normally not supposed to be stretched. That’s how it is.”

Norman lets go of my arm, and he sits on my chest. “Now when I get to the mount, I grab your right arm in my right hand, I push your face away with my left hand, I go to your side, move your face to the side so I can put my foot over, just like this.”

By now Norman’s upper legs are both wrapped around my left arm as he grabs on to my forearm, making sure my thumb is pointed up and away from him. One of his calves rests on my neck, the other rests on my chest. He sticks my wrist against his chest and slowly lies down on the mat, stretching my elbow outward.

“Now this is nothing yet,” Norman says. “There’s already tension, but it’s not gonna break anything. When I bump my hips upward like so—”

I feel a sharp pain. My elbow feels like it’s about to pop.

He taps my elbow lightly with his free hand and says, “This is where it’s going to break. I’m using all my body’s leverage to break this part of your body.”

And I can feel it. It’s is a very efficient way to twist the elbow upward and dislocate or break it while, at the same time, immobilizing your opponent on the ground. With his calves pinning my neck and chest, pushing my back against the mat, all Norman needs to do is arch his back and move his hips a bit further upward, just a few more inches, so he can snap my elbow like a twig. By now I could feel an intense pressure against my elbow. I brace myself.

Norman lets go.

“And that,” he says, “is how you do a properly executed arm bar.”

No kidding.

Meeting “Marvelous” Marvin Sonsona

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

MOST OF THE FIGHT FANS SPILLING OUT of the Hoops Dome and into the humid Lapu-Lapu City night are wearing huge smiles on their faces. Some are trading high-fives; others are already eagerly making a beeline toward the stalls across the street to eat dinner or to buy some extra-strong beer, no doubt, for a celebration of sorts.

And why not? Marvin Sonsona, who fought in the main event just a few moments earlier, had abruptly put an end to the bout after sending his opponent, Carlos Fulgencio of the Dominican Republic, crashing down to the canvas with a vicious uppercut to the jaw in round five.

Sonsona actually started the fight strong in the first round by going to the body early, connecting with crisp straight lefts to Fulgencio’s midsection. In the second and third rounds, Sonsona continued to box smartly—and with a certain swagger—as he deftly avoided his opponents’ blows and repeatedly landed sharp jabs and powerful straights of his own to Fulgencio’s head and body.

The powerful uppercut, which Sonsona unleashed almost effortlessly, lands squarely on Fulgencio’s jaw just one minute and forty-one seconds into the fifth round.  Suddenly, Fulgencio—who enjoys a height and reach advantage, and who, just a round earlier, had begun finding his range and started landing his own shots on Sonsona—finds himself struggling to get to his feet. The referee, Tony Pesons, promptly administers the ten-count on the downed fighter.

Fulgencio, down but not out, gamely gets to his feet and appears to have beaten the count. But Pesons waves him off.

Fight over. The crowd erupts in cheers and applause.

Sonsona, who looks a bit soft in the midsection, is sporting a pair of silver trunks, knee-high socks, and white high-cut boxing shoes. His hair had been dyed a deep bronze. He raises his gloved fists in victory, and there are cheers from the appreciative crowd. The ring announcer barks out the victor’s name in a booming voice, the referee ceremoniously raises Sonsona’s arm, and Fulgencio slinks off into the muggy night—but not before going over to Sonsona to congratulate him—to lick his wounds and fight another day.

The victor climbs down from the ring and faces a small crowd of journalists, who are mostly from Manila. They immediately pepper Sonsona with questions, which the kid gamely and confidently answers.

“Congratulations, Marvin. Kamusta ang kondisyon mo?

Ayos lang, pero nasa 70 percent pa.”

Mas kumportable ka ba sa timbang na ’to?

Oo, mas mabilis ako ngayon. Mas malakas. Mas maganda ang kondisyon ko ngayon kesa nung kalabanin ko si Jacobo.

Kelan ang susunod na laban?”

Sa May 13, sa undercard ni Johnriel Casimero.”

Sinong kalaban?”

Di ko pa alam pero malamang Argentinian.”

“So ensayo ka na agad?

Pahinga lang ako ng ilang araw tapos training na ulit.”

Congrats, Marvin.”

Salamat.”

I CROSS THE STREET AND WALK TOWARD the hawkers’ stalls. In a sweeping glance, I survey the wares spread before me: fried street food, pusô or Cebuano hanging rice, chips, cold drinks, hard candy, chewing gum, cigarettes. I decide on a stick of Marlboro gold; unlike Marvin Sonsona, I am, after all, not a boxer and can indulge in a few potentially deadly vices once in a while.

I’m drenched in sweat, happily puffing on my cigarette, when I notice a lanky guy in bronze-dyed hair seated at a nearby table, wolfing down some siomai, fried meatballs, and pusô and washing his dinner down with a bottle of Cobra energy drink. The silver trunks have been replaced with denim shorts, the high-cut shoes with rubber flip-flops.  I approach him, he takes notice, and he offers me a seat and some of his food. I politely decline the food but graciously take a seat next to him. I order my own food and stub out my cigarette. I extend my hand and introduce myself, and Marvin Sonsona extends his own hand, this time ungloved, and we shake. He smiles. The young boxer, all of twenty-one, asks which newspaper I write for. I tell him none. I was covering the fight for AKTV’s sports website, I say.

We converse in Cebuano. I congratulate Marvin on his big win, and he thanks me. The hawker serves me my food, and I immediately dig in, never realizing until that very moment that I was starving. In between mouthfuls of meatballs and pusô, I ask Marvin if he had any difficulty dealing with Fulgencio before the knockout happened.

O, lisud kay mas taas man gud siya.” (“Yes, because he is taller than me.”)

I ask him where he will train for his next fight.

Sa Lahug, sa IPI gym.”

I ask him how often he will train.

“Monday to Saturday.”

I ask him if I could pay him a visit while he trains; after all, I add, the place where I work, Cebu IT Park, is just a short walk away from the gym. He says yes, and I ask him for his cell phone number so I could call or text him to let him know when I’d be visiting.

O sige ha, text nalang. Or tawagi ko,” Marvin says. He stands up, pays for his food, and bids me good-bye. I thank him for his time.

As Marvin is about to cross the street, a group of guys nearby, who are having a drinking session, call out to him; he goes over to them. They offer him a tagay of extra-strong beer. Naturally, he politely declines—after all, Marvin Sonsona is a boxer, and unlike the rest of us, he isn’t really allowed to indulge in few potentially deadly habits even once in a while—but stays for a few minutes to chat with his fans before going back to the stadium to watch the rest of the fights.

AFTER A POST-MEAL CIGARETTE, I MAKE MY WAY back into the stadium. Half of the crowd had already left. I walk over to press row, and I can see that I am the only sportswriter around. I take a seat and decide to watch the remaining untelevised fights.

The two fighters trading leather inside the ring appear even younger than Sonsona; they look like they are barely into their teens. The losing fighter goes down after absorbing a flurry of punches, and a guy from the audience—I recognize him, a former boxer—shouts good-naturedly at the losing boxer’s corner man, imploring him to thrown in the towel to save his ward from further punishment and embarrassment. The crowd—or what’s left of it, anyway—roars in laughter.

Two rows directly behind me is a group of people, all of them wearing the same matching black shirts printed with a portrait of a boxer and his name, “Dan Nazareno.” Nazareno had fought in the supporting main event and was actually winning the fight early on before he got staggered by a flurry of punches in the sixth round. Nazareno started to fade in the seventh round, and his opponent, Adones Cabalquinto, smelled blood and stepped up his attack. The tide quickly turned, and Nazareno was getting bloodied, apart from being staggered; his mother, who was with the group of supporters, left abruptly, and I couldn’t blame her—who would want to see her son being pummeled? As Cabalquinto kept landing hard shots, Nazareno’s wife stood up, left her seat, and walked over to the ring. She stood behind her husband’s corner and began shouting words of encouragement as soon as he was seated on his stool after the round had ended. Nazareno still lost via close unanimous decision.

Nazareno, his wife, and his mother are not with their black-shirted supporters. They are probably in their hotel room by now, still nursing defeat. What’s left of the group, mostly young women, are in a somber mood and are talking among themselves; they are not paying attention to the action in the ring.

Suddenly, one of the girls shrieks as Marvin Sonsona walks by. “Marvin!” she calls out excitedly and waves him over tentatively. Sonsona smiles and walks over to the group. They gush over him, and one girl asks a member of the group, a guy, to take pictures. Marvin gamely poses with them. After the impromptu photo op, he settles in one of the plastic chairs and has a pleasant chat with the girls. They giggle. The kid is as confident inside the ring as he is outside it—he is comfortable around people and knows how to deal with them, especially the fans. Sonsona sees me, flashes me a huge grin, and gives me a nod of acknowledgment. I nod in return.

The crowd erupts. I turn to the ring and see the losing fighter slumped on the canvas. His corner man finally heeds the heckler in the crowd, the former boxer, and throws in the towel. I stand up, scoop up my cell phone, notebook, pen, water bottle, and a copy of the night’s program from the table, and turn to leave. Marvin, who is still busy talking to the group, calls out to me and asks if I will be there for his next fight. He says he will be fighting at the Waterfront Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from where I work at my day job.

I tell him I’ll try my best and add that I’m looking forward to seeing him train in person one of these days. I wish “Marvelous” Marvin Sonsona all the luck on his next fight, he thanks me, and I walk out into the humid Lapu-Lapu City night to file my news story, leaving the talented—and extremely confident—former WBO super flyweight champion in the company of his adoring fans.

The Pacquiao-Marquez IV Aftermath: Redefining Legacies

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.

In his meteoric rise, from up-and-coming fighter who started his career in the now-defunct Blow by Blow boxing program to becoming one of the pound-for-pound greats while annihilating supposedly bigger and stronger opponents en route to becoming the first and only eight-division world champion so far, the Pacman hasn’t owed anyone anything.

Not to us, his proud and awe-inspired countrymen, who have never failed to tune in to any of his fights. Certainly not to the self-serving politicians—who plucked him away from the dangerous squared ring and introduced him to the even-more dangerous political arena—who only have their own and their family’s self-interests in mind. Not to the shameless leeches and hangers-on in his grossly overblown entourage who cling to him for dear life in fear of losing their one and only meal ticket. No, not even to his “god”—whoever he or she or it is right now, in whatever reincarnation or shape or form, rosaries or signs of the cross or other pre- or post-fight rituals notwithstanding—whom he had never failed to give praise to or thanks to in the course of his brilliant and illustrious career whether in a win, in a loss, or in a draw.

No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe his success inside the ring and outside of it to anyone—or anything—in particular.

One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his long-time trainer, Freddie Roach, who has helped shape Pacquiao from a gangly, left-hand-happy, whirling dervish of a dynamo that struck fear into the hearts of lower-weight fighters into a more calculated, two-fisted offensive machine with improved defense, a fighting machine that effectively chopped down bigger opponents campaigning in the higher weight divisions.

One can also argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his once-unparalleled work ethic, which has had Roach beaming with pride not so long ago and which has had the five-time BWAA Trainer of the Year pull his prized pupil back at times during training lest his ward—champing at the bit—invest all his energy in the gym, punishing the punch mitts and the heavy bags and the speed bags and his sparring partners instead of unleashing all his bottled-up energy inside the squared ring in front of his opponent.

One can, perhaps, also argue that the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his pure love of the fight game. A love that has, until recent years, prompted Pacquiao to focus squarely on the task at hand and leave all the other non-boxing distractions out the door of the Wild Card gym and just buckle down to work. And by work we might actually mean real boxing-related training: genuine training that doesn’t include basketball with the gang and badminton and volleyball with the missus and dancing the Gangnam Style at the daughter’s birthday party. By work we might actually mean setting up camp early in Los Angeles and not shuttling to and fro from Baguio to Manila to the Wild Card or from Sarangani to General Santos to the Wild Card or wherever. By work we might actually mean taking care of the body by resting right and sleeping early during a training camp and not staying up all night in cockfights and drinking sessions and, more importantly, Bible studies because, really, isn’t it the body and not the “soul” that a boxer is putting to the test inside the squared ring against an opponent who has an equal love of the game and who has also put in the same amount of hard work, or even more so, for several months in a vow to take your damn head off?

One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to all three: a great trainer who has always had his ward’s welfare in mind, an excellent work ethic, and an unadulterated passion for boxing.  The trainer, of course, who will tell him when the time is right to hang up his gloves for good, which might not be very long from now. The work ethic that has since branched out from the gym and ring and enthusiastically parlayed into politics, TV, the movies, advertisements, and other pursuits. And the passion for boxing that burned and smoldered within him like a raging fire in his early years but has somewhat died down as of late, threatening to flicker into a dying flame.

Still, some would argue that, no, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.

One thing should be painfully apparent, however, after all the smoke has cleared: Manny Pacquiao owes it to himself at least to finally figure out who or what he really wants to be from now on—a full-time boxer or a full-time politician.  It’s about time, really. Because, as we all saw the other day when Juan Manuel Marquez—older, slower, less-physically gifted but a full-time boxer since 1993 until this very day—knocked Pacquiao out with a vicious and perfectly-timed counter right straight packed with dynamite, it never pays to be a part-time player in an extremely dangerous sport such as boxing (also known as the hurt business) where one fatal mistake could lead to potential life-threatening consequences.

Especially against an opponent, an Aztec warrior, who owed it to himself and to his countrymen to finally get that elusive win by dint of hard work and by doing what he really loved to do and, more importantly, by being just what he was until the time comes when he can’t be that person anymore—a fighter who respected the game enough to focus 100 percent on the task at hand.

No, the devastating knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez will not erase Manny Pacquiao’s legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his era. Not at all, far from it. But it will, no doubt, redefine the legacy of one “Dinamita” Juan Manuel Marquez, one of the best counterpunchers the boxing world has ever seen and one of the most intelligent fighters the Pacman has ever faced.

I Know I Already Said I Won’t Blog About This Again, But What the Hell . . .

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and WBC welterweight titlist Floyd Mayweather Jr. are, undoubtedly, the two biggest attractions in the sport of boxing today. Both fighters possess speed, power, ring smarts, and tough chins—attributes that have catapulted them to superstardom. Both boxers also possess varying fighting styles that, needless to say, promises an intriguing and mouthwatering matchup: Pacquiao’s relentless, unorthodox, and blitzkrieg offensive attack against Mayweather’s outstanding defensive skills and counterpunching prowess. This matchup is a boxing fan’s dream come true: one of the game’s best boxer-punchers in Pacquiao fighting one of the game’s best counterpunching stylists in Mayweather.

The problem, though, is that they aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

It’s official: Pacquiao has signed to fight undefeated Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley on June 9. The report comes on the heels of the recent announcement by Mayweather that he will be facing Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto for the latter’s WBA super welterweight strap on Cinco de Mayo.

The news announcing both Pacquiao and Mayweather officially signing to fight different opponents signals the end of the much-heralded fight of the century for the time being and is, certainly, bad news. But on the flipside, this also signals the start of a moving-on phase that can only be good for boxing and for countless boxing fans who have been reduced to helpless pawns amid all the taunting and posturing by both camps the past several months.

That said, both boxers’ choice of opponents deserves a cursory glance, if only to make sense of the madness of it all.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley

– After Pacquiao struggled against Juan Manuel Marquez in their third fight, a close fight that Pacquiao won by majority decision and a fight that not a few boxing pundits believed should have been awarded to Marquez, the consensus—both spoken and unspoken—around Boxlandia was that Mayweather was next for Pacquiao. But when feeble attempts at negotiations to make the dream fight fizzled out, several prospective opponents for Pacquiao cropped up overnight: Marquez, Cotto, Bradley, and even Lamont Peterson.

– Marquez was out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao soon after he voiced out several demands before a fourth fight could happen, demands that Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum deemed too unreasonable, even crazy: a venue other than Las Vegas, neutral judges, and a bigger purse. (But Marquez was probably out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao as early as the end of the third fight when everyone realized that the Mexican was the perfect foil for Pacquiao.) Marquez will, most probably, fight another rumored Pacquiao opponent, Lamont Peterson in mid July.

– Cotto was the initial pick by Pacquiao, but the Puerto Rican made it clear that he wouldn’t fight below 150 pounds. Cotto has been campaigning at 154 for his past three fights already, and Pacquiao wanted the fight at a catchweight of 145. It seems that the weight played a huge factor in Cotto’s decision to choose Mayweather, especially since the latter agreed to move up in weight to challenge Cotto.

– Timothy Bradley is young, undefeated, a good boxer with decent-enough skills, someone who has defeated quality opponents. But Bradley is not exactly a power puncher and is going up in weight to fight Pacquiao, a fighter who has been campaigning as a full-fledged welterweight for a total of five fights now. Pacquiao has dominated naturally bigger guys like Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto, Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Shane Mosley and has only shown difficulties against defensive counterpunchers like Marquez. Bradley is not a defensive counterpuncher, is smaller, and will take the fight to Pacquiao. Problem is, Pacquiao tends to make mincemeat out of offensive-minded fighters who take the fight to him, especially someone smaller and who has no power punch.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto

A curious thing about this fight is that Mayweather has been avoiding Cotto for the longest time. This was when Cotto was still in his prime, when he was still undefeated, before he was beaten to a bloody pulp by Antonio Margarito and Pacquiao. Just recently, Mayweather dismissed Cotto as a potential opponent, saying he wouldn’t fight any of “Pacquiao’s leftovers.” Until now, that is.

– Cotto may be the naturally bigger man, but he is not the same fighter many years ago that Mayweather had been ducking. Mayweather, being the shrewd, cagey boxer/businessman that he is, won’t risk his undefeated record. He took the fight because he knows that he can—and will—beat this version of Cotto.

So here’s the sad part: there is still no guarantee that Pacquiao and Mayweather will immediately fight each other after they beat each of their respective opponents. Who knows? Maybe they will eventually come to their senses many, many years from now, when they are both too old and too infirm and too shot. But will boxing fans still care?

The Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez 3 Aftermath: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

It’s been almost a week since the third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, and the buzz has yet to die down. I’ve already written my take on the fight, and I already posted on Facebook that I thought Pacquiao lost that fight. I scored the fight 115-113 for Marquez.

Some people tried to convince me that Pacquiao actually won that fight, that perhaps I was just too fixated on a knockout win for Manny and that’s why I failed to score the fight objectively. A friend even told me to watch the fight again and mute the TV so I wouldn’t be swayed by the commentators.

Two things: One, when I watched the fight I wasn’t originally listening to the commentators because I was sitting at a table that was too far from the TV for me to hear the audio. Two, I watched the fight a second time without the distractions and tried to be as objective as possible. I still ended up scoring the fight for Marquez.

For me it’s fine to score the fight for Pacquiao if you really thought he won. Last time I checked, this is still a free country. What gets my goat, however, are those Pacquiao nuthuggers who have been looking for excuses to explain why Pacquiao didn’t perform up to par in this fight.

Here’s a list of those excuses:

  1. Pacquiao had foot cramps. We have to give Manny the benefit of the doubt here because he had suffered from cramps in previous fights. But in those fights he still won convincingly, so perhaps this time the cramps were more severe than what he suffered before?

“It was difficult for Manny,” Roach said. “His in-and-out motion was affected and he was coming in flatfooted. The pain started in his arches and then spread up to his calf. It is something that we really have to figure out and we will get advice on it. This has happened in his last two fights and we want to get it fixed. We are not making excuses.”

I’m just wondering if Pacquiao also had foot cramps when he fought Marquez for the first time in 2004 and four years later in their first rematch in 2008. He also had trouble with Marquez in those two fights.

  1. Marquez cheated Pacquiao by stepping on Manny’s foot in the course of the fight. Check out YouTube, and you’ll see quite a few videos devoted to this topic. For me this is just too fucking moronic. What could be more idiotic than this? People who genuinely watch boxing know that when a southpaw and and orthodox fighter meet, it is normal for them to step on each other’s foot inadvertently. And when you think about it, would Marquez even bother to try and step on Pacquiao’s foot on purpose instead of just focusing on the damn fight and throwing his counterpunches? If he focused too much on trying to stomp on Manny’s foot, he’d be eating a Pacquiao knuckle sandwich in no time and find himself on his ass.

And it’s as if all that foot stomping would really make a huge difference in the fight. Also, isn’t it quite funny that we haven’t really heard of Pacquiao’s camp complaining about this? Anyway what’s ironic is that there are also quite a few videos in YouTube that show Pacquiao repeatedly stomping (inadvertently, of course) on Marquez’s foot the entire fight. I think this will finally put an end to this stupid issue. Then again, maybe not. Them Pactards are one tenacious and feisty bunch.

  1. Marquez was given an illegal substance to drink in between rounds. A few hours after the fight, some people have already posted pictures on Facebook showing Marquez chugging on a yellowish drink. Some thought it was an illegal mixed drink that the Marquez cornermen smuggled into the corner, while others thought it was urine. (Marquez’s own urine, of course. Heh.) Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, promptly cleared the matter up. “Water and electrolyte drinks are allowed in the corner. Any electrolyte drink must be brought to the arena in factory-sealed, plastic bottles. Mr. Marquez used water and Pedialyte on Saturday night,” he explained. So there.
  2. Marquez used performance-enhancing drugs. Quinito Henson, columnist for the Philippine Star, recently wrote about “a disgruntled former member of Juan Manuel Marquez’ team” who “is ready to come out in public and expose the WBC lightweight champion of taking steroids to bulk up for his fight against Manny Pacquiao.” Quinito added that the “source said the ex-member was fired by Marquez, probably for cause, and is out for revenge. He supposedly sneaked into Marquez’ home and took an illegal drug from his refrigerator. The illegal drug is some kind of steroid or performance enhancer.”

For me, it’s actually quite funny that this came out because Pacquiao is no stranger to these kinds of allegations. Manny even sued Floyd Mayweather Jr. because Floyd had repeatedly hinted in the past that Pacquiao has been taking PEDs and that this is the reason why he has been able to move up in weight and still keep his speed and power.

I think this is an unfair allegation against Marquez. Like Floyd’s accusations against Pacquiao, there is no proof that Marquez took steroids.

All these excuses and allegations notwithstanding, I think we should all just be honest and admit to ourselves that Manny Pacquiao really had trouble against Juan Manuel Marquez because Marquez is a damn good boxer and he just gives Pacquiao fits. He has been a thorn in Pacquiao’s side for three fights now, and this won’t change even if both boxers meet in a fourth fight.

Hell, even Pacquiao himself admitted that Marquez gives him trouble because the Mexican is just one tough hombre.

I mean, if Pacquiao could admit that, then perhaps the rest of us should as well.

How now, Pacquiao nuthuggers?

Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Will They Ever Get to Fight Each Other?

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

I think the more accurate question is this: with all the shit that has been going on, who the hell should fucking care anymore?

For the longest time, boxing fans have all been clamoring for a fight between these two guys, and for the longest time, we all had to content ourselves with conflicting reports. One day a story says a deal is close to being reached, the next day another story says initial talks have bogged down.

There was a time when Pacquiao nuthuggers were blasting Mayweather for allegedly ducking Pacquiao. Then when Mayweather demanded for an Olympic-style drug test and Pacquiao wouldn’t budge, it was the Mayweather fans’ turn to accuse Pacquiao of not wanting the fight. When Pacquiao finally relented to the stupid drug test, Mayweather didn’t want the fight anymore.

Tired yet? Oh, but all that bullshit gets worse.

Just recently, after Pacquiao struggled against Juan Manuel Marquez in their third bout, Mayweather began making noises again about wanting to fight Pacquiao. People reckoned that perhaps Mayweather saw something in the third Pacquiao-Marquez fight, a chink in the Filipino boxer’s armor that Mayweather thought he could exploit. People were actually feeling genuinely excited and hopeful that a deal would finally be reached. But—you guessed it—no talks happened, no deal was signed, nothing.

Nor would a deal happen even when Pacquiao hinted that he was amenable to getting a smaller piece of the pie just so the fight could push through.

So is anyone really surprised that even though Floyd Mayweather’s jail term has been pushed back to June just so he could fight on May 5, the fight still isn’t happening?

We actually have a rare instance here: both fighters are finally willing to fight each other. Problem is, it seems as though it’s Top Rank’s Bob Arum who doesn’t want the fight to push through. A bigger venue should be built, says Arum. Pacquiao suffered a cut in his last fight against Marquez, and said cut won’t be fully healed on May 5, adds the Top Rank head honcho.

What the fuck? Bullshit.

A fight of this magnitude doesn’t need a bigger venue. Las Vegas has lots of decent-sized ballrooms available, and even if you jack up the price of tickets, you would still get a full house. And with the closed-circuit revenue and PPV buys thrown in, everyone involved will, undoubtedly, be very, very happy money-wise. This is Pacquiao and Mayweather after all, guys who could each pull in significant ticket sales and PPV buys even if they weren’t fighting each other.

But for some strange, mind-boggling, and frustrating reason that he alone knows, Arum wants the fight to be pushed to June, but that won’t be possible because, obviously, Mayweather’s ass is going to be behind bars by that time. (Also, for some strange, mind-boggling, and frustrating reason, Arum has been shoving Miguel Cotto, Tim Bradley, and Lamont Peterson down our throats as possible opponents for Pacquiao.)

There were times when it was Mayweather who should be rightfully blamed; other times, it was Pacquiao who was at fault. After all, both those guys are boxing superstars and they both have huge egos. Now? Blame it all on Arum.

You’d think a sage promoter like Arum would be happy that the two best cash cows in the business are both willing to trade leather once and for all. You’d think Arum would be happy that a fight of this magnitude will  finally be made. You’d think Arum would be happy to make a shitload of money off this fight and that he should get off his lazy eighty-year-old ass and seize the opportunity and start negotiating with the Mayweather people right away.

Right?

Wrong.

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who has been feuding with Arum for the longest time, had a mouthful to say: “I think all the media members and fight fans, and so on, have started to get it—because some people still aren’t getting it—that Bob Arum doesn’t want that fight,” Schaefer said. “I don’t know how much more proof people need, or if they’re just drinking Top Rank’s Kool-Aid, or what it is, but it’s apparent to just about anyone by now, hopefully. Those that don’t get it yet, I think you have to wonder.”

But as always in this never-ending saga of tragic proportions, there is a glimmer of hope. According to a recent report from Ronnie Nathanielsz of the Manila Standard, Arum has shown willingness to make the fight and will try to get Las Vegas judge Melissa Saragosa to push Mayweather’s sentence further back so that the fight can be made either late May or early June.

Arum indicated he was ready to go before judge Melissa Saragosa and request that she push back the incarceration date so the fight, which the world wants to see, can take place.

The belief is that the judge, who postponed Mayweather’s incarceration from Jan. 6 to June 1 to allow him to keep his contractual obligations for a May 5 fight, is likely to grant the request.

With that piece of information, it seems that there is indeed some hope yet for the fight to push through. But after all the pile of shit we’ve been fed all this time, it’s best that us boxing fans take all this with heaping tablespoons of salt.

It sucks that instead of being able to enjoy the biggest fight that could be made in boxing right now, fans of the sweet science have to make do with a load of shit and a lot of salt.

Fuck that. We all deserve much, much better.

Pinoy Fight Scribe’s Assorted Wednesday Fight Bullets

by Mark Lorenzana

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2011.)

– If you don’t like Frankie Edgar, fair enough. It’s your opinion, anyway. But you’d have to be an idiot not to admire the guy’s heart, will to win, and fighting spirit.  Just like in their first fight, Edgar got tagged early by Gray Maynard’s vicious strikes and was visibly hurt and in trouble. In fact, by the end of the first round, Edgar already appeared to be suffering from a broken nose. So what does the guy do? He sucks it all up, fights on, and knocks out his opponent cold. That’s what he did. That’s what champions do. Not to take away anything from Edgar’s win, though, but he was helped in large part by Maynard’s reluctance to let his hands go. I understand that Maynard wanted to avoid what happened in their last fight where, after putting Edgar on Queer Street, he went all out on his offense and gassed out. But I think Maynard may have been a little too gun-shy from the second round onward until the end of the fight when he got knocked the fuck out, and that proved to be his undoing. Maynard could have ended the fight in the second round if he just pounced on Edgar—fighting aggressively doesn’t mean fighting stupidly, and one can be effective by utilizing controlled aggression and not wasting punches. Anyway, so far, the two fighters have fought each other three times already: the first fight went to Maynard via unanimous decision, the second fight was ruled a draw, and now this recent knockout win by Edgar. So that’s one win apiece, one loss apiece, and one draw apiece. Will there be a rematch? I hope so. All three fights so far have all been barnburners and both guys seem to love kicking each other’s ass.

– Kenny Florian’s title-whoring didn’t pay off as Jose Aldo held on to win by unanimous decision to keep his UFC featherweight title. Florian actually started his career as a middleweight then went down to welterweight, lightweight, and now the recent cut to go down to 145. Worry not, Kenny, there’s still the bantamweight division. You can always cut off an arm and challenge Dominick Cruz for his belt. If that still doesn’t work, cut off the other arm so you can compete at 125, the flyweight division. (You just have to figure out a way to win by just throwing kicks.) Dana White said that the new UFC weight class is expected to debut next year. Good luck, Kenny! After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, go down in weight.

– “Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck,” says Chael Sonnen in the post-fight interview after submitting  Brian Stann. Silva, who was at the arena watching the fights (and who was seated next to a grinning Sir Charles Barkley) just smiled when Sonnen said this. Sonnen wasn’t satisfied, and added, “If I beat you, you leave the middleweight division. If you beat me, I’ll leave the UFC forever.” He then stormed out of the Octagon. Frankly, I can’t wait to see if Sonnen can do the same thing that he did to Silva in their last fight, where he repeatedly overpowered the Brazilian and gave him hell for five rounds before Silva  was able to submit Sonnen late in the fifth round. Sonnen has so far been the toughest opponent that Silva has faced inside the Octagon. Problem is, Sonnen’s excellent performance against Silva may have been tainted by the fact that the post-fight drug tests showed that Sonnen had elevated testosterone levels, possibly because of performance-enhancing drugs. This led to Sonnen’s subsequent suspension, which is why it took him more than a year to step back into the Octagon. I can’t wait for those two to square off again and see if Sonnen will really stick to his word to leave the UFC forever if and when he loses to Silva.

– So here’s the thing: the Donnie Nietes-Ramon Garcia Hirales fight was very close and could have gone either way. I scored it 115-113 for Nietes, giving him rounds one, two, three, four, five, six and eleven. After the sixth round, Nietes started gassing out , and that’s why he wasn’t throwing as much punches as he should have. Nietes said that it might have been the inactivity or that he overtrained or both that caused him to gas out. In any case, there are a lot of people out there that are crying about the Mexican being robbed, and I feel for the guy, of course. He came to enemy territory to defend his title and went home without it. What’s curious to me was that it was only the Filipino judge, Danrex Tapdasan, who had the score most reflective of the fight that transpired: he had it 115-113 Nietes, same as my unofficial scorecards. The two foreign judges, Lisa Giampa and Carlos Ortiz Jr., had it 118-110 and 117-111 respectively. I mean, what fucking fight were those guys watching? Well, that’s boxing for you. I just hope Nietes grants Garcia Hirales a rematch soon to settle the score and they fight, preferably, on neutral territory like the United States. Or better yet, in hostile territory again for Nietes, in Mexico. I also just hope that Donnie gets better conditioning training for his  future fights, so he can be more effective. This actually wasn’t the first fight that he showed signs of gassing out; in the past, he has shown similar conditioning problems. That said, congratulations to the two-division champ, our very own Donnie “Ahas” Nietes. Mabuhay ka, Donnie!

– Just like his ALA stablemate Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, A. J. “Bazooka” Banal is a favorite target by Internet trolls who park at boxing forums  and find pleasure in bashing Banal and finding fault in his every move. They call him a bum and a loser whenever they have a chance, and they belittle his achievements. Well, I don’t know if they can find fault in A. J.’s performance last Sunday against his Mexican opponent, Mario Briones; but I personally think it was an impressive win  by the Cebuano boxer. He showed improved conditioning, he was sharp on both offense and defense, and he wasn’t in a hurry to knock the guy out—he was focused and stuck to a game plan. As a result, Banal won by a wide unanimous decision and dealt Briones the first loss of his career. Who knows? If Banal continues to improve, maybe he will eventually get that long-awaited rematch against the only fighter who has ever dealt him a loss (and a stoppage loss at that)—Panamanian Rafael Concepcion.

– Rafael Marquez is the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez (duh). Note that we use the word younger here relatively—Juan Manuel, at thirty-eight, is actually older than Rafael by two years.  In terms of career, Juan Manuel has also fought  a lot more fights and boxed more rounds than his younger brother, but judging from the latter’s fight against WBC super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka, it seems that Rafael has logged a lot more mileage than his older brother. Rafael didn’t throw enough punches, and Nishioka was able to hit him at will. When a fighter ages, the first things that he loses are his speed and reflexes. And in the lower weights, losing your speed and reflexes puts you at a very huge disadvantage. Besides, Marquez’s four grueling fights against fellow Mexican Israel Vazquez  took a lot from him. I don’t know if Rafael is contemplating retirement (I think he should be, but then again, I take a look at both Erik Morales and Jorge Arce, and I think twice), but perhaps it would be a good idea for him to sit down and take a look at his long and illustrious career. It was a great run, and if the former champion and future hall of famer decides to hang up his gloves soon, every hardcore boxing fan worth his or her salt should thank Rafael Marquez for the unforgettable fights and, more importantly, for giving so much to this oftentimes unforgiving sport.

Ask the Fight Scribe: Stupid Answers to Nonexistent Readers’ Thoughtless Questions

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

When I was a kid, I enjoyed reading my dad’s collection of Mad Magazines, and one of my favorite long-running segments of the humor magazine was the great Al Jaffee’s “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” That, along with Gustavo Arellano’s witty and irreverent “Ask a Mexican” column in the OC Weekly as well as Drew Magary’s hilariously profane Funbag in Deadspin, is the inspiration for this blog post, which, I hope, will be the first of many here on Pinoy Fight Scribe.

I’m not claiming that this uninspired and painfully unoriginal blog segment will be witty or hilariously profane (after all, both stupid questions and thoughtless answers are—you guessed it—going to be supplied by yours truly [how fun {or pathetic} is that?]). Instead, I’d like to think of this as a drunken dare gone horribly wrong. (Come to think of it, even after more than two years of its existence, this entire blog feels like a drunken dare gone horribly wrong.)

The first installment of this auto-answer bag will focus on boxing. On to the questions (and answers):

Q: Will Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. eventually fight each other? If the fight happens, who’s your pick?

A: In all honesty, I don’t think the fight will ever happen. Here are just some of the reasons:

  1. Both guys have huge egos. Especially Mayweather.
  2. Mayweather is afraid to tarnish his undeafeated record, and Pacquiao has a very good chance of handing Floyd his first loss.
  3. It appears that Bob Arum is not too keen on making the fight happen.

They may fight, or they may never fight at all, but one thing’s for sure—a lot of boxing fans have grown tired of all the shit that has been flying from both camps. World War III won’t erupt if the fight doesn’t push through, and the fight, if it happens, won’t solve the global food crisis or bring about world peace anyway. So fuck it. Shove this damn fight up all them greedy boxing people’s filthy asses.

If the fight does, by some divine intervention, push through (late this year, for example), I’m going with Pacquiao. If the fight happens much, much later (a few years from now), I’d have to give it to Mayweather. Both fighters aren’t spring chickens anymore, and both have lost a step or two. Pacquiao is an offensive pressure fighter who relies more on his physical talents to win fights, while Mayweather is more defensive minded and tactical. In their primes, Pacquiao’s pressure will be too much for Floyd, and I’m leaning toward a Pacquiao split decision win. Past their primes, I’m leaning toward Mayweather via unanimous decision.

Q: Who is Genaro Garcia?

A: It depends on which Genaro Garcia you’re referring to. There’s Genaro “Panterita” Garcia, a Mexican lightweight boxer who sports a dismal 10-12 win-loss record and whom Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista knocked out inside two rounds early this month. Then there’s  Genaro “Poblanito” Garcia, another Mexican boxer whom Bautista was supposed to be fighting instead of Panterita. This Genaro Garcia sports a better record of 38 wins, 8 losses, with 22 of those wins coming by way of knockout.

Apparently, someone screwed up, and ALA Promotions lost money because of the switcheroo. Now ALA is suing the Mexican agent who screwed up, Hugo Correa, but the latter is denying any wrongdoing and insists that he sent the correct Genaro Garcia to the Philippines.

Anyway, Google the name “Genaro Garcia,” and you’ll find out that there’s a shitload of people around the world with the same name. With a little patience, hard work, and lots of idle time, you’re bound to come across the Genaro Garcia that you’re looking for. Good luck. You’ll need it.

Q: Will Manny Pacquiao really retire after his fight with Timothy Bradley? I don’t know who to believe anymore.

A: Just read the news on a daily basis and decide which story you want to believe in. One day a news report will say that Pacquiao is planning to retire after the Bradley fight so he can focus more on his religious duties; the next day, another news story will say that Pacquiao will fight on until 2013. Just remember, don’t let the conflicting reports get to you. You know what, I change my mind. Do not read the news at all. And avoid the sports section at all costs. Go turn on the TV and watch the Corona impeachment trial or something.

Q: Are Nonito Donaire and Brian Viloria Filipinos?

A: Of course they are. But don’t ask Arnold Clavio. Or maybe you already did, that’s why you’re confused. Else you won’t be asking this extremely stupid question. Next.

Q: Will Pacquiao be a good Bible ambassador for the Catholic church?

A: Let me answer your question with another question: has Pacquiao been a good congressman so far? Wait, come to think of it, yes, maybe he can be a good Bible ambassador. He hates contraceptives, right?

Q: What’s up with Juan Manuel Lopez? Does Orlando Salido have his number?

A: Juanma is an exciting fighter with great power and decent boxing skills. But he also has a porous defense, a suspect chin, and bad ring habits. Juanma can box, no question about that, but when he gets hit, he tends to slug it out with his opponent. That’s what happened in his first fight with Salido, that’s what happened in his second fight with Salido. He also has a problem with Salido’s overhand right, which he can’t seem to avoid hitting his face with. Juanma needs to go back to the drawing board and work on some adjustments in his game, or else he won’t be able to regain his belt.

Q: Aren’t the Klitschko brothers going to fight each other or something? It seems to me that they are holding the major heavyweight belts hostage. What do you think?

A: Of course they aren’t going to fight each other—they’re brothers. Manny Pacquiao won’t fight Bobby, Nonito Donaire won’t fight Glenn, and I won’t ever fight my younger brother inside a boxing ring. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s just wrong. About your other question, I don’t necessarily think that the Klitschkos are taking the belts hostage because they aren’t ducking anyone anyway. They take on all comers. The problem is, they don’t make heavyweights like they used to, so those opponents that get thrown the Klitschko brothers’ way all suck. So what happens is that we get all these awful heavyweight fights that are just a pain to watch. My advice to you: stick to the lower weights so you can enjoy your boxing. Or if you want to watch overweight, out-of-shape big guys trying to beat each other up in slow motion, it’s up to you. This is a free country.

Q: Why are you so damn lazy? Instead of updating this blog almost every day, you barely post four or five entries per month. You should be ashamed.

A: Blogging about boxing and MMA won’t pay my bills or put food on my table or buy me beer. A day job will, that’s why I have one. And that day job requires me to work long hours, which can be mentally taxing. I don’t have all the time and energy to update this blog every day because I need to work. And this is not work, this is a hobby, a labor of love.  So there. Unless you can afford to give me at least a thousand bucks per day so I can focus full time on updating this blog more often, I suggest you shut the fuck up.

OK, that’s it. Schizo post over. Nothing to see here anymore. Till next time, folks.

Fight Scribe Bullets: (Very) Late Afterthoughts on UFC 144

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

I haven’t written any MMA posts for some time now, so let’s have a UFC 144 bullets post. After all, this blog isn’t called Pinoy Boxing Scribe, but Pinoy Fight Scribe. But I guess you’ve already figured that out by now. Duh. Anyway, on to the bullets:

– I posted this the other day in my Facebook account:

Funny how Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg were being a bit biased toward Yushin Okami for the first couple of rounds, and then Tim Boetsch knocks Okami out in the third round. Just because the fight is being staged in Japan doesn’t mean you need to kiss the Japanese fighter’s ass, dudes. Knockout of the night!

OK, now that  I watched the replay, I take back what I said about Rogan and Goldberg being a bit biased toward Okami (yes, most of the time I post stupid stuff on Facebook). I mean, both Rogan and Goldberg can and have been biased in their commentating in the past, but this wasn’t one of those fights. They were calling the fight as it unfolded, and they were correct that Okami had been dominating Boetsch in the first couple of rounds. Until Boetsch connected on some wild but vicious shots on Okami’s mug in round three, that is. I mean, anyone who gets hit flush by Boetsch’s power shots will drop like a sack of potatoes, so the outcome wasn’t really surprising.

Too bad for Okami, though, who got knocked out in front of his countrymen. He could have just hopped on his bike in the third round, considering that he already had the fight in the bag by winning the first couple of rounds handily. In boxing, MMA, and other fight sports that involve striking, power is the great equalizer, and Okami should have realized that. Doesn’t matter if you’re dominating the fight in the scorecards because one punch or kick can change everything.

Oh, and yes, Boetsch didn’t get “knockout of the night” honors. Anthony Pettis did.

– In mixed martial arts, you can’t be a one- or two-trick pony. MMA is one of the fastest-evolving sports, and fighters need to be well versed in striking, grappling, and wrestling to be able to reach the highest levels. Chuck Liddell relied more and more on his right hand (as well as his take-down defense but nothing else) in the latter stages of his career, and he paid the price for it. Same goes for Tito Ortiz who is arguably the best ground-and-pound fighter in history but who possesses no more than a working man’s ability on the stand-up and, not to mention, Royce Gracie who is one of the best ground fighters in the game but has not been able to improve on the other aspects, notably in both striking and wrestling, to be able to compete at a high level with more versatile opponents. These guys are specialists, and what I mean by specialists is that they are  more well-versed in certain aspects of the game rather than being all-around fighters.

Jake Shields is one of the best specialists in the game today. He has a great wrestling and jiu-jitsu background—he is a former NCAA Division II wrestler and has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Cesar Gracie. His weakness, though, is his striking. He doesn’t have much pop in his shots that’s why he always looks to bring the fight to the ground. In his fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama, it was apparent that Shields had a disadvantage in the striking department against  the Japanese brawler and judo master but, surprisingly, decided to fight toe-to-toe with Akiyama for most of the fight. In fact, Shields won a wide unanimous decision mostly because of his striking. I saw an improved stand-up game from Shields, and if he continues to work on his punches and kicks enough to get more power behind those shots, he might just find himself in prime position for a crack at the UFC welterweight title again.

– Cheick Kongo and Mark Hunt aren’t the best MMA heavyweights out there, but I always get a kick (pun not intended) whenever two huge guys fight each other. You just can’t afford to blink, or else you’re gonna miss a devastating and exciting knockout. I’m glad I didn’t blink because the fight was over at around the two-minute mark of the first round. Hunt has heavy hands, and Kongo should have been more wary of the Super Samoan’s fists. Instead, Kongo left his mug open and got cracked by several nasty punches. That’s all it took to plaster Kongo on the canvas. Don’t count on any of these guys to be fighting for the UFC heavyweight title soon, though.

– Quinton “Rampage” Jackson came in six pounds over the light heavyweight limit of 205 against Ryan Bader and, as a result, had to give up 20 percent of his purse. The extra weight didn’t help Jackson, though, because Bader cruised to a unanimous decision victory. Jackson looked like he was out of shape, and there are reports that he was fighting with a hurt hand. There are also some talks that Jackson took Bader lightly. That shouldn’t take anything away from Bader, though, who did what he needed to do to secure the win.  Bader has improved his game a lot, especially his defense, but it’s safe to say that he’s still a long way from a rematch against Jon “Bones” Jones who virtually destroyed him in their first fight.

– Pitbulls were originally bred to fight each other, and dogfighters measure a dog’s worth by its gameness. Gameness is a term that often refers to the eagerness of a dog to accomplish its task despite the threat of substantive injury. A game working dog will keep on working until it accomplishes its task, and a game pitbull will fight on for hours and will shrug off blood loss, dehydration, exhaustion, and even broken bones until it kills the other dog or until it dies, whichever comes first. One journalist put it best when he wrote, “Game is the dog that won’t quit fighting, the dog that’ll die in the ring, the dog that’ll fight with two broken legs.”

In the MMA world, one of the gamest fighters out there is Frankie Edgar. You knock him down, you hurt him, you break his nose—he’ll keep coming. Edgar beat B. J. Penn and Gray Maynard (both of them twice!) because he just wouldn’t quit. Edgar almost beat Ben Henderson (who put in a very good performance but was a little tentative at times, which accounted for some of the fight’s lulls in action) because he just wouldn’t quit. Edgar is a small lightweight, and his walking weight is probably just a couple of pounds over the 155 limit, but he makes up for the size disadvantage  with his speed and tenacity. I’m not a big fan of Edgar, but I’ve got tons of respect for the guy just like, I’m sure, many MMA fans out there. Edgar and Henderson both won “Fight of the Night” honors, and I hope they fight again soon. Edgar might have lost his title, but he shouldn’t be ashamed of his performance. If he decides to go down to featherweight or even down to bantamweight, he might even become a dominant force.

With Edgar’s gameness, I wouldn’t doubt that at all.