The question “How should a boxer fight?” brings back to memory the bouts between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado and that between Nonito Donaire and Toshiaki Nishioka on October 13 last year at the Home Depot Center at Carson, California.
The wins registered by Rios and Donaire is a study in contrast.
Many were enthralled by the way Rios and Alvarado exchanged leathers without letup during their non-title fight last year. Their intentions to hurt one another was so clear right from the beginning. Nobody rode the bicycle, nobody weaved and bobbed, they both stood their ground at the center of the ring and threw their bombs.
It was a classic phonebooth fighting that the boxing world witnessed that night. The more and the harder the punches the two exchanged the louder the claps and cheers that could be heard from the spectators. Such is reminiscent of the scene from ancient Roman arenas where gladiators fought to death amidst the cheers of the viewing public.
As the two ring gladiators stood toe-to-toe bombarding one another with haymakers, the spectators stood in wild frenzy cheering the brutality unfolding before them.
They did not stop smashing each other’s face until finally the referee had to stop the fight and declared Rios the winner by technical knockout.
On the contrary, the main event that night, the junior featherweight title fight between Donaire and Nishioka, was viewed as devoid of excitement. And it was not Donaire’s fault, for while the Filipino Flash displayed calculated aggression, his opponent was overly cautious, obviously unwilling to exchange.
Boxing fans expected nothing less than what they saw in the previous fight. They wanted to see another humdinger of a fight. Another relentless exchange of brutal punches until one of the protagonists would succumb to the pains inflicted on him or quit in his stool.
But how really should boxing be fought? Of course, the answer is obvious. Boxing fans want action.
Boxing fans want action from the time the bell rings to signal the beginning of the fight until it rings again at the end of the round or the fight itself. Preferably, they don’t like to hear the bell signaling the end of the round or a fight, they want that in the heat of exchange of fists a boxer would lay down in the canvass flattened by the meanest of punches that his opponent is capable of giving.
Is this what the boxing fans love to see? Witness how boxers get maimed and mauled by their opponents, possibly going out of the squared ring in stretchers or wheelchairs.
How should boxers be trained and psyched? Must they be trained and psyched in such a way they would subscribe to the philosophy “hit and get hit till death do they part”?
Such is a devil-may-care approach to fighting, a style preferred by boxing fans. Such a style that endeared the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hears and Mike Tyson to boxing fans. It is a style that gives maximum entertainment for those who love boxing.
The degree of entertainment and excitement Rios’ triumph brought was unbelievable. It was considered a great win. Some believe that it gave Rios a legendary status. But Donaire also won, by technical knock out. The way Rios did. Twice that Nishioka kissed the canvass.
Donaire won with technical precision. He hurt his opponent so bad in the early goings that the latter almost lost the will to fight.
Donaire put Nishioka in survival mode. But that hardly was noticed for the boxing fans at Home Depot and those who were watching in their televisions around the world were still awestruck by the way Rios and Alvarado performed.
But Donaire also hit Nishioka the way Rios hit Alvarado. Both Donaire and Rios hit their opponents, and they hit them bad. The difference was that Donaire was hardly touched by Nishioka. There was hardly a dent in Donaire’s face. On the other hand, Rios was also badly hit by Alvarado. He was just also bloodied and marked. Rios was as badly hurt as Alvarado. Luckily he was able to sneak in very good shots in that fateful Round 7 of the fight.
The fight could have gone either way. It could have been Alvarado’s hand that was raised in victory. But in the main event, Donaire left no doubt as to who would win. He used his intelligence and skills. Not senseless bravado.
A disciple of phonebooth fighting would always put a foot in the jaws of defeat. Conversely, an intelligent fighter ensures he will be the victor.
Donaire, just like Floyd Meyweather, exemplifies the art of “how to hit your opponents while avoiding their punches.” For why may a boxer allow himself to get hit and be hurt (and perhaps ending up as a loser) if he could avoid it. No chin is “made in hell” that can withstand a haymaker of a shot. Remember how the mighty Pacquiao was ambushed by the right hand from his nemesis Marquez.
A boxer can get a win by not getting hurt. The boxing fans will enjoy seeing how a boxer inflicts punishment on his opponent while avoiding the same. And that’s the way Donaire did it to Nishioka, and most of his opponents.
So, how must a fighter fight?
Is it his choice?
Or does it depend on what the boxing fans clamor?
Or maybe, what the promoters dictate.