Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Nonito Donaire vs Fernando Montiel
I was lucky enough to be in Las Vegas to watch Nonito Donaire vs Fernando Montiel live at the Mandalay Bay. Having been a fan for years now, it was incredible to watch the ferocious bantamweight Donaire, top his knockout victory of Vic Darchinyan within two rounds against a formidable fighter such as Montiel.
Having watched the fight on television several times since, (the whole thing is under 7 minutes including the corner talk), I've learned three very important things:
1. Nonito Donaire is a beast.
2. Donaire is pronounced Doe-NAI-Ray and not Doe-NAIR.
3. Richard Steele may have been correct in his stoppage of Meldrick Taylor vs Julio Cesar Chavez I.
Let me explain.
I've long been of the mindset that with 2 seconds left in the round and with Taylor winning, it was highway robbery for Steele to stop the fight. Granted, Taylor had two swollen eyes and was bleeding from nose and mouth, barely hanging on for the last 3 rounds. Then in the final round, being served a vicious blow from Chavez, Taylor crumpled down to the canvas, seemingly unable to continue. Taylor rose at 6 seconds in the count and was resting on the ropes when referee Steele asked him if he was ok. Taylor became distracted and looked to his right, not responding to Steele's second request and so the fight was halted. I've watched that tape over and over again and have always been full of contempt for what was seemingly an incredible injustice to Meldrick Taylor at the hands of Richard Steele. There were only 2 seconds left! TWO! How could Steele live with such a seemingly unfair and irresponsible decision?!
After watching the devastating left hook that Nonito Donaire delivered to Fernando Montiel late in the 2nd round of their fight and seeing how Montiel crumbled to the canvas, convulsing with his hands and legs - I was pretty sure the fight would be over. Instead, Montiel rose to his feet at 6 seconds in the count, stumbled, fell and bounced back up right at 8 seconds. Though he looked dazed, he was astute enough to know exactly where he was in the count and chose to beat it. Referee Russell Mora asked him to take a step forward, which he did not, but the fight was resumed anyway, with Mora stopping the fight approximately 2 seconds later, but not before Donaire had a chance to land another brutal 1-2 combination that Montiel was seemingly too dazed to defend.
For Mora's part, Montiel was the current champion and it was only the 2nd round of the fight. We've seen warriors such as Juan Manuel Marquez get knocked down 3 times in a round only to get back up and come back stronger. I believe referee Mora wanted to give the young champion a chance, but it cost Montiel two hard and unnecessary blows and he sustained further physical injury as a result.
Fight fans were incredulous that Mora continued the fight.
Fight fans continue to be incredulous that Steele stopped the fight.
This begs the question: How long is 2 seconds?
Two seconds might seem insignificant at first thought, but if you really think about it, it can be the difference between making the train or missing it. A gold medal at the Olympics, or dead last. In boxing, 2 seconds can mean life or death. It's a long time when you're the one who is hurt (especially when your opponent can throw 8 hard punches within that time).
The important thing I realized was that when a fighter is done - he / she is done. Regardless of how much time is left on the clock, it's the referee's job as the only other person in the ring to look out for each fighter and know when to stop the fight. Ask any ref and I'll guarantee you not one would ever say that they enjoy stopping a fight and playing a factor in the outcome. They do it because they have to. Because it's in the best interest of the fighter.
As it turns out, Lou Duva, Taylor's trainer at the time, had jumped up on the ring apron, causing Taylor to look to the right at that crucial moment when Steele asked him for a second time if he was ok. His lack of response was what caused Steele to stop the bout. Never mind the fact that a trainer can't be up on the apron without getting his fighter disqualified, but because Duva was not in the frame of our televisions, Richard Steele has shouldered 100% of the blame for the unpopular outcome of that fight. Would things have been different if Taylor hadn't been distracted? Maybe. Maybe not. We will never know. I merely present it as a possible factor, lessening the burden for referee Steele.
I really wish Meldrick Taylor would have won that fight.
But I no longer blame Richard Steele for stopping it. He did what he thought was best for the fighter. He did his job, as hard as that must have been.
I certainly have even more respect for the referees who take on the responsibilities of officiating each fight. Please continue to keep our fighters safe. And stay out of the clinches - let them punch out. Come on.
Thank you to Greg, the ONTHEGRiND BOXiNG listener who inspired me to revisit this and to write about it.