Lopez, Donaire

July 06, 2010 7:08 AM


The main events are on Showtime next Saturday, featuring two of the more exciting little fellows in a pair of bouts from Puerto Rico, where I had to take shelter in the third-base dugout to hear the decision giving Wilfred Benitez the welterweight title.

That’s because the first scorecard announced at Hiram Bithorn Stadium was in favor of the defending champion, the very capable Carlos Palomino. Except that day in the ballpark where the Mets and Marlins played a series last month (the stadium was named for the first Puerto Rican major leaguer), El Radar, or as he liked to call himself, "The Bible of Boxing," had given Palomino a 15-round lesson in the manly art of self defense.

As the crowd hollered its shock, and missiles began to fly around the ring, the late Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated suggested we beat a hasty retreat before we were trampled by the angry mob.

We got to the dugout in time to hear the first decision over-ruled by two gentlemen who happened to be watching the fight – I gave Benitez 12 of the 15 rounds, I believe – thereby assuaging the crowd’s anger.

I interviewed the judge and asked him how he had arrived at his myopic decision, and he said "didn’t you see all the body shots Palomino was landing?" No, I saw all the body shots blocked by Benitez’s forearms and elbows.

Then the judge mentioned that maybe he didn’t see so well because the sun got in his eyes a lot. You remember Billy Loes? No, of course you don’t. Anyway, he was the flaky Brooklyn Dodger pitcher who once lost a World Series groundball in the sun – hey, it’s possible, the ball took a high bounce. Loes was the guy who used to say he didn’t want to win 20 games because then he’d be expected to win 20 games every season. At least he never lost a 15-round world championship fight in the sun.

The Hiram Bithorn judge shall go nameless here, though once Frankie Carbo, the gangster who ran boxing in the bad old days, spotted him at the train station in Philadelphia and told a reporter friend of mine, "See that guy? You can buy him for a cup of coffee."

There shouldn’t be any blemishes on the Showtime card. In fact, they probably could do without judges for the television double-header.

Obviously, with no betting lines around, the sharpies realize this is less sporting competition than marketing for fights in the future.

The headliner is Juan Manuel Lopez, the flashy Puerto Rican who won his superfly title with a one-round knockout of the dangerous Daniel Ponce de Leon. Juanma, who rivals Miguel Cotto for No. 1 in the hearts of Puerto Rican aficionados, is already penciled in for a fall match against Raoul Marquez, who after a couple years’ rest from his first three epic fights against Israel Vazquez, ended that series with a decisive stoppage.

These plans of rats and men should not be derailed by a Manny Pacquiao protégé, Bernabe Concepcion. The Filipino can punch and Juanma has shown that despite his 28-0 record with 21 knockouts that his last line of defense, the chin, may be more China than Great Wall. But if there were a line on this apparent mismatch – Juanma is an elite fighter, Concepcion is at best a "prospect" – you could probably give away the barn on Lopez.

Same would be true in the semifinal, where another elite fighter, Nonito Donaire, who just hasn’t fought enough for my discerning taste since destroying Vic Darchinyan in five eye-popping rounds three years ago, should have no trouble defending whatever alphabet trinket he has, and the No. 3 place on my pound-for-pound list behind only Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao, against Herman Marquez, who is no relation to the Marquez fighters you know and love, Raoul and Juan Manuel. Dandy Dan Rafael, the boxing maven from espn.com, called Marquez a "C-class" fighter. Most major leaguers couldn’t beat Donaire, whose lone loss on a 23-1 ledger was in his second pro bout nine years ago.

Unless, of course, the sun gets in his eyes and he doesn’t see the punch coming.