HBO launched its 2012 season of championship boxing this evening with a doubleheader snoozefest from San Antonio's Alamodome, not to be confused with the Alamo, where a real fight occurred. The opening bout featured the the much-hyped Filipino Flash, Nonito Donaire, who was moving up in weight to take on Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. for the vacant junior featherweight championship of the WBO, a title described by HBO commentator Larry Merchant as "bogus" as the fighters made their way to the ring.
As things turned out, Vazquez did most of his fighting with Donaire two days prior at a cliched pre-fight scuffle designed to create the illusion of bad blood and ensuing warfare. Sadly, the only bad blood in evidence seeped from the injured left hand of Donaire, who ground out an obvious, if unimpressive, victory over Vazquez, who suffered the first knockdown of his career. Astonishingly, Donaire had to settle for a split decision victory when judge Ruben Garcia scored the bout 115-112 for Vazquez, in contrast to the other two judges who both had Donaire cruising in at 117-110. Reports that Garcia will be evaluated for attention deficit disorder next week have not been confirmed.
In the main event, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., fresh off a DUI a mere fortnight ago, successfully defended his WBC middleweight crown with a unanimous decision against Marco Antonio Rubio, who he outweighed by ten pounds after rehydrating to a 181 pound cruiserweight--a twenty-one pound increase from the weigh-in, which is equivalent to consuming two and a half gallons of water, or whatever other beverage Chavez Jr. may have preferred. The weight diffential proved too much for Rubio, who was bulldozed and shouldered by the space-eating Chavez from rounds two through ten, which were so indistinguishable from one another as to resemble Ground Hog Day. And though the final two rounds produced a flurry of activity, it was too little, too late to salvage an otherwise soporific evening.
HBO's coverage unveiled two new features for 2012: Jim Lampley sporting owlish eyeglasses in an affectation of indeterminate intent, and an irritating attempt at television verité during the undercard, in which the announcers went silent mid-round so the audience could be treated to an insert of Nonito Donaire's trainer shouting predictable instructions and encouragement to his fighter. The experiment lasted a dull minute before it was pulled and declared DOA.
With little entertainment going on inside the ring, HBO was left with nothing more than the wit and acumen of its commentators, who regaled the audience with an announcement that a wave was in progress at the Alamodome, and with pearls such as:
- "Raging Bull . . . Boom!" (Jim Lampley)
- "Rubio's not fighting a smart fight." (Emanuel Steward)
- "Fighting force with farce does not usually work." (Larry Merchant)
In the end, however, all's well that ends well. A vacant bogus title was captured, nobody was hurt, and Harold Lederman never once said, "Jim, I gotta tell you something."