I’m off to the races, quite literally. My attention is more on the Breeders’ Cup than on boxing, especially with the matches coming up next weekend.
Yes, I’ll probably want to get another view of Cristan Mijares, a top-of-the-line technician who deservedly is off the board. At least, I couldn’t find any line on this junior bantamweight unification fight against hard-punching but limited Vic Darchinyan in a Showtime feature from Carson, California.
Mijares is an eyeful – a balletic southpaw with quick hands and sharp combinations. Darchinyan is no slouch, but at 32 the Armenian-born Australian seems to be slowing. He’s already at a speed disadvantage against Mijares. Last year, he was violently knocked out by Nonito Donaire at 112 pounds. That’s been his only loss – so far.
Donaire is on the undercard of a Bob Arum pay-per-view card featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Of course, if main events were decided strictly by talent, Donaire should be topping the Mandalay Bay bill. A South African fighter Moruti Mthalane with the nickname of Baby Face challenges Donaire on a decent but not compelling card.
A Breeders’ Cup it is not.
In fact, as I am attempting to improve the breed by wagering at Santa Anita, I am reminded of an ancient connection between the only two adult sports (all others, of course, are children’s games). Back in 1987, when I was a bit younger, I was privileged to be in the press box at the third annual Breeders’ Cup races, witnessing one of the great stretch duels of all time – Ferdinand nosing out Alysheba.
Though two of my favorite trainers (Charlie Whittingham and Jack Van Berg) finished 1-2 in the Classic, I didn’t have time to interview them. I had written my column earlier in the day on the failure of Groovy to win the Sprint.
It was a logistical decision. I didn’t want anything like cashing the winning and exacta tickets to slow me. After the Classic, I had to rush to LAX to catch a flight to Las Vegas where that very night Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., at the peak of his career, was to brilliantly beat down and stop Edwin Rosario. I got there in plenty of time to cover Julio.
For that one night, at least, Chavez was the greatest fighter in the world. Mike Tyson was in his prime then, and guys like Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Evander Holyfield were kicking butt. But so far, Chavez would be a failure if boxing had a Breeders’ Cup. He has not been a top sire, yet.
His oldest son, Julio Jr., would not be an allowance horse. He is a nice boxer, undefeated in 38 pro contests and still only 22. More accurately, he’s 22 and eight months – or about six months older than his dad was when winning his first of many world titles after stopping the tough Mario (Azabache) Martinez.
Junior is being targeted for minor prizes such as revenge matches. The one blemish on his record, a draw, was immediately overruled by a majority decision in the kid’s favor.
Last July, in Mexico, he needed the home-court advantage to score a majority decision over a popular but limited Minnesota fighter, Matt Vanda. On Saturday in Vegas, where again he will enjoy the home-ring edge, Junior meets Vanda in another 10-round fight that Bob Arum deems a big deal.
Brand names sell and there is no finer brand name in boxing than Chavez. And so what if he can’t fight all that much? If nothing else, as he wends his way through carefully chosen mediocrities, he will bring back memories of better days.
And I’ve had better days betting on Breeders’ Cups. At least, my favorite days in sports can take my mind off the voter fatigue I’ve been suffering lately. Well, that, too shall pass soon and don’t go by my handicapping. Yes, I think Obama will win, but then old men fool me.
I thought Kelly Pavlik would win, too. But he was no match for wise old Bernard Hopkins.