‘Gift opponents’

Peter Cariño

Peter Cariño

“Gift opponents” have a very important role in boxing, which to make boxing superstars look good. Simply put it, gift opponents are like sheep for slaughter.

This November, Nonito Do-naire and Manny Pacquiao were obviously given gift opponents to help them recover from their respective losses, with Pacquiao coming off with losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, and Donaire to Guillermo Rigondeaux.

In the case of Donaire, Dar-chinyan was never expected to last beyond five rounds, because the Armenian was felled with just one punch in the fifth round of their first fight in 2007.

But who would expect that Darchinyan would turn into a tiger come fight night?

Darchinyan even looked hea-vier and well-muscled compared to Donaire on fight night, and showed no signs of being 37 years old. On the other hand, Donaire looked tentative and wasn’t sure of his game plan because he was relying more on his right cross, which was not really his money punch.

But in the ninth round, Donaire got fired up after his trainer Robert Garcia told him that he could not win the fight by throwing one punch at a time. Donaire then unloaded a series of rights and a left hook, before landing a perfect left hook on Darchinyan during a heated exchange. And down went Darchinyan. Donaire ended the fight with series of right crosses, and two right uppercuts on the Armenian who was eventu-ally cornered.

It is easy to chastise Donaire for not dispatching Darchinyan in the earlier rounds or for even trailing two of the scorecards after eight rounds. But then, Dar-chinyan refused to play the role of a gift opponent, and even wanted the roles reversed. Wow!

So does that depreciate the stock of Donaire? Not at all, because the Filipino was forced to put out his best in the ninth round, which I believe is the best round ever fought by the Filipino boxer this year.

And the ninth round showed that Donaire’s deadly form was still there, which was punctuated by his hypersonic left hook.

In the case of gift opponent Brandon Rios, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach was every vocal in saying that the Mexican-American would end up like a punching bag. He even predicted Rios would be out in four rounds.

Well, on fight day, Rios did not even look half the fighter who gave Mike Alvarado a hard time in two fights. I even wonder if somebody in Rios’ camp mis-takenly (or intently) put a dozen laxatives in one of his protein drinks, or was let loose to enjoy Macau’s night life before the fight.

I was hoping that Rios would put up a good fight or win three to five rounds against Pacquiao, so fight fans will see if Pacquiao can still take the heat of a ring battle. But pummeling a gift opponent, who well, played the role of a gift opponent, does not make for a fight worth crowing about. Sorry to state that, but I wonder if fight historians fondly remember how Mike Tyson made mincemeat of Peter McNeely on December 16, 1995, which was Tyson’s first fight after serving prison time.

I cannot even recall fight fans or boxing writers crowing over Tyson’s easy win over McNeely.

McNeely is the best example of a gift opponent, because he had an impressive record (like Rios), was big (like Rios), tried to bluff Tyson (like Rios), and had quite a fearful monicker (Rios being Bam Bam, and McNeely the Hurricane). But unlike Rios, McNeely was stopped in just one round.

So was it Pacquiao’s fault that Rios fought poorly? Heck no! Was it Rios’ and his camp’s fault? I think so. Can we blame the promoters behind the fight? He he he.

Anyway, do I sound like I’m looking down on gift opponents? Ha ha . . . What many do not know yet is Donaire and Pacquiao were once gift opponents.

Donaire was actually a gift opponent for Darchinyan when the two first fought in 2007 since the Filipino was a massive underdog.

And let us not forget that Pacquiao was a last minute replacement for the original challenger of Lehlo Ledwaba in a title fight in June 2001. Pacquiao went on to stop the African fighter (After that fight, I predicted that Pacquiao’s star will rise).

Pacquiao and Donaire both showed that gift opponents can have great destinies. And Dar-chinyan showed that gift oppo-nents who try to defy the odds are also good for boxing.


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