But it’s too little, too late -- by three or four years. Stagnation is hovering around Donaire, and also his fellow Bay Area stars Andre Ward and Robert Guerrero, and 2013 is beginning to seem like a lost year for all three. If Donaire-Darchinyan is the best fight out there for any of them, the year’s highlight for our power trio will have been Guerrero’s decisive loss to Floyd Mayweather in May.
Donaire’s breakthrough upset of Darchinyan at 112 pounds took place in 2007 and they nearly staged the rematch at 115 pounds in 2009-2010, when it still seemed attractive. By 2009 one could envision a Guerrero-Juan Manuel Marquez match someday not far off. That was the year the Super Six tournament began and it was possible to envision the title match with Carl Froch that Ward won in 2011.
As 2013 winds down, these remain the ideal matches for the trio. That’s stagnation. Guerrero, Donaire and Ward have made a lot of progress since 2009, with Ward and Donaire the past two fighters of the year, but that was then and this is now.
Darchinyan, 37, has lost four fights since mid-2009 at weight classes far below the 126 limit at which Donaire, 30, coming off an upset loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April, insisted the Darchinyan rematch be staged. But Donaire’s leverage is limited.
Donaire-Darchinyan won’t even be the main event in Corpus Christi , where a junior lightweight bout between unbeaten Mikey Garcia and WBO super-featherweight champion Roman Martinez is reported to be the headliner. (Although boxrec.com insists the Corpus Christi event will take place Nov. 16, both my source and several reports say Nov. 9 is correct.) As early as 2008 and as recently as 2012, Donaire fought sub-mains on Top Rank cards headed by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and the latter took place in Texas. That was because of the Chavez name, but progress remains elusive. Donaire still hasn’t fought in the Bay Area since before the first Darchinyan fight. Even if Donaire beats Darchinyan easily, no one will be aroused by anything less than a knockout.
Guerrero needs a big fight, and soon. His loss to Mayweather may have increased respect for the loser and put the more-beatable Marquez atop The Ghost’s wish list. But he has to wait his turn. Marquez has his hands full with Timothy Bradley on Oct. 12.
That doesn’t leave Guerrero bereft of good match-ups however. The welterweight division is overflowing with them. The most prominent rumor, perhaps losing steam, is that Guerrero will challenge the new WBA interim welterweight champion Keith Thurman, who is 21-0 with 19 knockouts and is a new sensation.
One can picture that bout taking place in San Jose, although hockey season is nearly upon us and Guerrero might not easily book the Shark Tank soon. Even so, Guerrero shapes up as the other guy against Thurman. He shapes up the veteran opponent testing the rising star and risking loss of relevance.
Ward, who hasn’t fought since his 10th-round knockout of Chad Dawson last September, and can be labeled injury-prone, hasn’t lost relevance but wants to ease in with a tune-up fight before he takes on someone of Froch’s caliber, if not Froch himself. Ward and HBO are having some trouble agreeing upon what constitutes an acceptable opponent.
Ward is learning that HBO doesn’t think he has the juice to carry a pay-per-view extravaganza or earn himself $1 million to fight some thrice beaten European we’ve never heard of.
Yes, Ward is hugely popular in the Bay Area and has drawn several respectable crowds in Oakland. Yes, he is the best super-middleweight and best light heavyweight, and ranks second in the world to Mayweather pound-for pound. But he has not wowed the casual boxing fan elsewhere. Boxing fans respect him, but they’re not eager to watch him.
None of the three can be said to have passed his peak as a boxer, although Donaire and Guerrero are approaching that stage. But let’s face it: Their collective rise to stardom, which put all three of them in the pound-for-pound top 10, appears to have topped out.
We can look forward to many more glorious victories for all three in the next couple of years, and Ward may yet achieve true superstardom, but it’s as a threesome that they have been such a Bay Area phenomenon, and that’s what may have peaked last year.