Donaire headlines marathon card at Hilton
Story and photos by Chris Cozzone
“Latin Fury 13 /Pinoy Power III” has just about everything a fight fan could want in a card. There are current world champions defending their belts, young-and-hungry challengers and former greats. Talk about bang for your buck, too – the bouts on the PPV-televised card total a marathon 80 rounds in ten bouts for live fans, 46 rounds in four bouts for TV viewers.
The only thing missing earlier today was half of the main event – but even that vacancy on the lengthy line-up was filled midway through the afternoon.
After headliner Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (22-1, 14 KOs) lost his dance partner Gerson Guerrero (34-8, 26 KOs), shortly before the final presser commenced at the Hilton in Las Vegas, promoter Bob Arum assured the crowd that a fill-in would be secured shortly.
“We have received word from Tijuana,” joked promoter Bob Arum. “Pancho Villa is on horseback leading an army of 115-pound Mexicans to challenge Donaire.”
Guerrero, a longtime contender and former title challenger, was scratched off the line-up today after the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled him unfit to fight when physicians discovered an aberration on his eye.
“I’m at a loss,” the ever-cheerful Donaire said today. “I don’t know what to say.”
Actually, Donaire said plenty, spending most of his time at the podium praising the other fighters on the card, before smiling and throwing up his hands.
“It happens in boxing,” said Donaire. “It’s one of those things. The way I look at it, it’s part of whatever God has planned for me.”
A couple hours after the press conference, a fill-in was secured in former title challenger Manuel “Chango” Vargas (26-4-1, 11 KOs), of Jalisco, Mexico.
Vargas will not only be giving up time to prepare against Donaire, but plenty of weight, having campaigned as a minimumweight last year. Weighing 105 in his last bout – a split decision loss to Donnie Nietes for the WBO minimumweight title – Vargas will be jumping up three divisions and ten pounds to take on Donaire.
In the co-main event of the Top Rank show Saturday, former superflyweight and flyweight champ Fernando Montiel (39-2-2, 29 KOs), of Los Mochis, Mexico, will take on undefeated Filipino hopeful Ciso “Kid Terrible” Morales (14-0, 8 KOs).
In the biggest fight of his life, by far, Morales said he was coming prepared and that all the Filipinos would be racking up wins Saturday night. After hearing the chuckle from the crowd, Montiel countered with, “I don’t understand what he said, but I’m probably just as prepared.”
Montiel is looking at a possible showdown with Donaire sometime this year – and, should he win against Morales, is expected to fight the winner of fight that precedes his.
In a battle of former champs, Puerto Rico’s Eric “Little Hands of Stone” Morel (41-2, 21 KOs) will take on Gerry Penalosa (54-7-2, 34 KOs), of the Philippines, in a 12-round WBO bantamweight title eliminator that will determine the mandatory challenger for Montiel vs. Morales.
Penalosa was short on words, but Morel made up for the former champ, saying, “I’m here, I’m back, and I still got it. If he thinks this is going to be an easy fight, enh-enh.”
Morel has been on a six-bout win streak since his return in 2008, while Penalosa fought last April, losing to Juan Manuel Lopez.
In the opening ten-round featherweight bout, Filipino Bernabe Concepcion (41-2, 21 KOs) will battle Puerto Rican Mario Santiago (21-1-1, 14 KOs).
Concepcion lost by DQ in his last bout when he hit Steven Luevano after the bell in a WBO featherweight title bout. The cards were near-even before the stoppage. In his only world title fight, Santiago, too, has fought Luevano – resulting in a draw.
Six bouts starting at 4 p.m. will comprise the undercard:
In an eight-round welterweight bout, Filipino Mark Melligen (16-2, 12 KOs) takes on Raymond Gatica (11-0, 6 KOs), of Austin, Texas. Melligen is coming off an upset loss to Michel Rosales in November while Gatica is undefeated, against far inferior opposition.
In an eight-round super featherweight fight, Diego “I’m the local guy” Magdaleno (13-0, 3 KOs), of Las Vegas, ups his opposition a notch by taking on Floriano Pagliara (10-3, 6 KOs), of Cecina, Italy.
Undefeated middleweight Matt Korobov (9-0, 7 KOs), of Orotukan, Russia, looks for his tenth win in a sixer with St. Louis’ Lamar Harris (6-4-3, 4 KOs).
In a six-round super featherweight bout, Puerto Rico’s Hector Marengo (5-0, 3 KOs) will take on Edgar Portillo (6-3, 4 KOs), of Midland, Texas.
Pro debuting flyweight Bruno Escalante will go four with Japan’s Takashi Okada (1-0, 1 KO).
In the opener, Phoenix amateur standout Jose Benavadiz (1-0, 1 KO) will take on Matt Ellis (1-1, 1 KO), of Milwaukee, Wisc.