Contrasts lie at the heart of boxing, both in terms of styles and personalities. The differences between Saturday's main event fighters -- WBO super bantamweight titlist Nonito Donaire and Mexican veteran Jorge Arce -- couldn't be more stark. Donaire has a pleasant but reserved demeanor while Arce is the ultimate extrovert. Donaire is careful and scientific as he picks his opponents apart while Arce bulldozes his way inside and blasts away with both hands, often bleeding heavily as he does so. Donaire is making a big run toward Fighter of the Year status for 2012 while Arce is looking to achieve yet another improbable comeback. In other words, Donaire is clinical; Arce is chaotic.
Will one of the best of today add to his impressive resume or will one of yesterday's best find his way back to the top of the mountain? Their recent CompuBox histories offer the following story lines:
Regaining His Form: Until October's fight with respected longtime WBC junior featherweight king Toshiaki Nishioka, Donaire was going through a rough patch, not in terms of results but in how he achieved them. Jeffrey Mathebula dominated Donaire statistically -- 231-151 in total connects -- and in his last three fights his performance level had declined when compared to the three that preceded it. He was throwing fewer punches per round (48.2 from 55.1), landing slightly less of them (27.7% overall and 36.9% power from 28.8% overall and 43.2% power then) and tasting more of his opponents' leather (26.5% overall and 30.7% power from 23% overall and 23.5% power).
But against Nishioka -- arguably his best opponent in terms of resume he had yet fought --- he regained his elite form. Throwing 56.2 punches per round (above the 49.2 he logged against Mathebula and the 46.3 and 55.5 he averaged against Vazquez Jr. and Omar Narvaez respectively), Donaire out-landed Nishioka 134-49 overall and 111-26 in power shots. He also landed 45 percent of his power punches and fielded 29.9% of Nishioka's power punches.
He also regained the "fear factor" as Nishioka averaged just 23.1 punches per round, including just 14.3 in the first four rounds. That brought back memories of Narvaez's surprisingly tepid showing where the normally high-octane Argentine threw just 299 punches (24.9 per round) and 116 power shots (9.7 per round) in 12 rounds.
But if anyone will demonstrate fearlessness against the hard-punching "Filipino Flash," it's Jorge Arce. Here's why:
Bringing It: Even at age 33 and after 70 professional fights over nearly 17 years, Arce fights with the zest of an ambitious youngster. That drive has enabled him to overcome a rough stretch that included big-fight losses to Cristian Mijares (L 12), Vic Darchinyan (KO by 11) and Simphiwe Nongqayi (L 12) and produce a Comeback-of-the-Year worthy campaign in 2011 when he won Vazquez Jr.'s WBO super bantamweight belt, reversed the loss to Nongqayi (KO 4) and improved on past performances against Lorenzo Parra (KO 5) and Angky Angkota (W 12).
Extreme volume has been Arce's calling card. He averaged 107 punches per round in blasting out Nongqayi, 78.9 versus Angkota, 70.9 versus Parra and threw 90 in the three minutes nine seconds against Jesus M. Rojas, which ended in a no-contest after Rojas threw a low blow, kidney punch and head-butt almost all in one motion.
But not only does Arce throw tons of punches, the vast majority of them are his strongest blows. Over his last five fights Arce averaged 74.5 punches per round, of which 55.3 -- or 74.3% -- were either hooks, crosses or uppercuts. His opponents could only muster 46.7 punches per round in response.
Arce's Achilles: Two major flaws in Arce's approach will make the task of dethroning Donaire much more difficult -- leaky scar tissue above both eyes and his leaky defense.
The good news for Arce is that the cuts haven't been as prevalent in recent fights, but his sieve-like defense remains a problem. Rojas landed 50 percent of his power shots in June while Parra connected on 48% of his and Nongqayi 40% of his- that's an avg. of 45% by three Arce opponents. Arce is capable of defending himself well when the mood strikes him, as was the case against Angkota where the Indonesian landed 31.6% of his power shots. Don't expect that against Donaire, whose accurate power punching was on full display against Vazquez (60%) and Nishioka (45%).
Prediction: Any fight involving "Travieso" will be exciting and his all-out attack will force Donaire to bring out his best stuff. Unfortunately for Arce, Donaire's best stuff is among the best there is in the sport. Arce has a terrific chin and it's likely that he'll go the distance with Donaire -- unless cuts prevent him from doing so. Donaire by clear-cut -- no pun intended -- unanimous decision.