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Pacquiao vs Vargas: Donaire, Valdez headline PPV undercard

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Three WBO title fights make up the Pacquiao-Vargas PPV undercard.

Nonito Donaire vs Jessie Magdaleno

Nonito Donaire

Gennady Golovkin Fight Week Media Workouts Photo by Alexis Cuarezma/Getty Images

Record: 37-3 (24 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5½" / 68" ... Age: 33

Notes: Donaire is 33 years old and hasn’t beaten a truly good opponent in a long time. If you semi-ignore his 2014 win over Simpiwe Vetyeka, a weird technical decision with iffy scoring, it’s been a little over four years since Donaire beat Toshiaki Nishioka, who was already a foot out the door himself.

Since that time, Donaire has beaten a washed up Jorge Arce, a washed up Vic Darchinyan (and he struggled badly), club fighters William Prado and Anthony Settoul, tough but rudimentary Cesar Juarez, and Zsolt Bedak, who has never been a good pro. He has also lost to Guillermo Rigondeaux and was physically dominated by Nicholas Walters, necessitating a move back down in weight to 122 pounds.

If nothing else, it’s hard to tell where Donaire is at, because the guys he’s been beating aren’t world class, Juarez coming the closest. Juarez is a good fighter, a hell of a scrapper, and that was a great fight. It proved that Donaire does still have the grit to bite down and get through a tough night, which is important. And Nonito is still a good fighter, no doubt about that. But does he have the drive to be great anymore? That’s been the question for a long time.

Jessie Magdaleno

Toshiaki Nishioka v Rafael Marquez Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Record: 23-0 (17 KO) ... Streak: W23 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5’4" / 66" ... Age: 24

Notes: The younger brother of Diego Magdaleno, Jessie is hoping to get to a level that his big bro hasn’t, and that’s a world title and a marquee win.

Diego had chances for world titles in 2013, a split decision loss to Rocky Martinez, and 2015, a TKO-2 loss to Terry Flanagan. Jessie has always been thought to be the more talented of the two, but he’s been matched pretty soft so far, and Donaire is a huge step up in opposition. If Magdaleno wins, it may be more due to Donaire’s decline than anything.

Matchup Grade: C+. This matchup is about bang average what should be expected of a world title matchup in boxing. Donaire is established, he’s who he is, but he’s also on the back end of his career, clearly. Magdaleno is a good prospect who may or may not be more than that. I’m giving this a C+ in hopes that it will be better, but with reservations that it might be worse.


Oscar Valdez vs Hiroshige Osawa

Oscar Valdez

Oscar Valdez v Evgeny Gradovich Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Record: 20-0 (18 KO) ... Streak: W20 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5½" / 66" ... Age: 25

Notes: Still in his prospect days, Valdez has the WBO featherweight title, sent his way with a win over unbeaten but desperately overmatched Matias Rueda this past July, a second round TKO victory for the former Mexican Olympian.

Rueda was, at best, probably the third-best win on Valdez’s record, but the other two ahead of it — arguably, anyway -- still leave questions. Evgeny Gradovich is a former world titleholder himself, sure, but he’d been on a rough run and hadn’t looked good in a while. This past April, Valdez thrashed him in four. In September 2015, Valdez faced and defeated Chris Avalos, a solid veteran test at the time, as was Gradovich, even with the asterisk.

Valdez is a fighter to be excited about. He passes the eye test with flying colors, has big power, brings a lot of action, and somewhat like Arturo Gatti, is probably a better boxer than he often cares to show. That said, he has defensive holes that are going to be a problem against tougher opponents. Luckily, he’s not facing one this Saturday.

Hiroshige Osawa

OPBF

Record: 30-3-4 (19 KO) ... Streak: W8 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 70" ... Age: 31

Notes: Osawa hasn’t lost a fight since 2009, a streak of 16-0-1 added to his record. He also hasn’t beaten anyone of note in that time, but he’s won the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific featherweight titles, and so here we are, with a world title challenger who realistically probably isn’t one of the 50 best fighters in the division.

Matchup Grade: D+. Look, there is reason to watch this fight, and to be sorta excited to do so, but it all rests on Valdez being an exciting punisher, and Osawa seemingly tailor made to be excitingly punished. So can we call it good? No. But we may be able to call it entertaining, at least if you love a good beatdown.


Shiming Zou vs Prasitsak Papoem

Shiming Zou

Roman Martinez v Vasyl Lomachenko Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Record: 8-1 (2 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'4½" / 64½" ... Age: 35

Notes: These two have met before, in 2014 in Macau, on the Pacquiao-Algieri undercard. It was a one-sided decision for Zou. The only reason this is happening again is that the WBO ordered this for their vacant flyweight title.

The pro ranks have been a mixed bag for Zou. He came in old and already past his prime, he’s got no punching power, and he has at times seemed a little overconfident in his abilities. No matter how great an amateur you were, the pro game is different, and Zou has had to learn that along the way. Though he’s been mostly successful, there were indications he would struggle against better opponents, and when he faced one in Amnat Ruenroeng, he lost a clear decision.

But, he’ll probably pick up the world title he’s been seeking, and that Top Rank has tried to maneuver for him. Zou has eleventy quajillion people watching all his fights in China, so an all but gift wrapped world title could make that thirteenely quajillion.

Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym

Clash In Cotai II - Manny Pacquiao v Chris Algieri Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Record: 39-1-2 (24 KO) ... Streak: W12 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'2" / 62" ... Age: 35

Notes: Kwanpichit didn’t do so hot against Zou last time. Zou didn’t physically look great once it was over, as you can see above, but the scores were 119-106, 119-106, and 120-103. It was a rout.

The rematch doesn’t figure to go any better for him, but you never know. Zou isn’t getting any younger and has never really looked great as a pro. Still, the fact that Kwanpichit has just one loss and it was such a wide one to Zou says a lot about Kwanpichit’s level of opposition in general. He’s won 12 straight since then, sure, but against opponents with a combined incoming record of 115-107-3. He’s never won a fight outside of Thailand, his only attempt against Zou in Macau.

Long story short, the odds aren’t great for Kwanpichit. Sometimes Thai fighters are pretty damn good even though they face a lot of weak opponents. Sometimes they’ve just faced a lot of weak opponents.

Matchup Grade: D. It’s not really Top Rank’s fault. I mean, this is what the WBO ordered for a vacant flyweight title fight, and given how easily Zou handled him the first time, why wouldn’t everyone jump at the chance?