The Hottest Boxing Storylines to Watch in Week of November 11

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2013

The Hottest Boxing Storylines to Watch in Week of November 11

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    Andre Ward will return to the ring for the first time since he shellacked Chad Dawson last September.
    Andre Ward will return to the ring for the first time since he shellacked Chad Dawson last September.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Another weekend in the books, and another great Saturday of fights to discuss, dissect and maybe even complain about a bit.

    This past weekend we saw the all-too-uninspired return of Nonito Donaire, the continued rise of Mikey Garcia and Vanes Martirosyan prove that despite his 32 professional wins, he has no business near the top level of the sport.

    All that will be picked apart, along with the impending return of Andre Ward this coming Saturday night against a young, hungry and dangerous foe just looking to prove he belongs at this level. 

    So here you go. Within you'll find all the knowledge you'll need to arm yourself with in the boxing week ahead. These are the hottest storylines in boxing for the week of November 11!

Has Nonito Donaire Lost It?

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    Nonito Donaire was dominated by Guillermo Rigondeaux and escaped an upset bid by Vic Darchinyan in his last two fights.
    Nonito Donaire was dominated by Guillermo Rigondeaux and escaped an upset bid by Vic Darchinyan in his last two fights.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Perhaps the best summation of how Nonito Donaire looked in his return to the ring on Saturday night came from my fellow Bleacher Report writer Lyle Fitzsimmons, who described the "Filipino Flash" as looking "comprehensively ordinary" against Vic Darchinyan.

    That observation was spot-on, and if not for a stunning ninth-round knockout that literally saved the fight for him, we'd all be asking whether Donaire was finished as a professional prizefighter after a stunning defeat.

    You can slant the outcome if you wish. You can emphasize that Donaire was able to overcome a tough, determined foe bent on revenge and came through when it counted. That's certainly a valid line of reasoning, and you'd find more than a few people willing to agree with you.

    But the problem, at least insofar as a guy who a year ago at this time was blazing up the pound-for-pound rankings, is that for all his grit and determination, Donaire was supposed to blitz through Darchinyan as he had when they first met over six years ago. And he didn't.

    The fact that he looked so cautious, so wary of letting his hands go and so hittable—Darchinyan almost couldn't miss with his left hand—raises serious questions. He was in there with a crude power puncher, who stylistically should've been a dream matchup for him to look spectacular. In fact, that's exactly why he was chosen.

    Some questioned Donaire's desire to continue fighting after his last bout, and that chorus is likely to swell. His callout of Guillermo Rigondeaux in the post-fight interview notwithstanding, there is absolutely nothing you can take away from Saturday's fight that suggests the outcome of a rematch would be any different.

Is Mikey Garcia the Most Exciting Young Fighter in Boxing?

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    Garcia is now a two-time world champion.
    Garcia is now a two-time world champion.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Mikey Garcia is quickly establishing himself as one of—if not the—best young stars in boxing.

    He's like a surgeon in the ring. He feels his opponent out, figures out a weakness and then comprehensively takes them apart with laser-like precision. His latest victim, this past Saturday night, was incoming WBO Super Featherweight Champion Roman "Rocky" Martinez.

    Martinez began the fight well and even scored a flash knockdown on Garcia in the second round. Unfortunately for him, that was the biggest moment he'd have all night. 

    In the middle rounds, Garcia began throwing his punches with more frequency and more conviction. He systematically tore Martinez apart with hard shots to the body and head and ended the night in the eighth round with an absolutely vicious left hand to the body. 

    Garcia has been on quite a streak lately. In January, he dropped the rugged Orlando Salido four times en route to a dominant technical decision victory that netted him a featherweight title. He followed that up—after losing his title on the scale—by blitzing former champion Juan Manuel Lopez in June.

    And now you can add Martinez—who amazingly came into the fight as the only Puerto Rican world champion in the sport—to that list of victims. 

    Garcia is extremely fun to watch, and he is about as dangerous a fighter as you'll find in the sport. He's highly marketable and could become HBO's next transcending star if he keeps fighting like he did on Saturday.

Is Andre Ward Still on the Top of His Game?

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    The year 2013 hasn't been kind to Andre Ward.
    The year 2013 hasn't been kind to Andre Ward.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    For undisputed super middleweight champion Andre Ward, the year 2013 has been one to forget.

    He hasn't been in the ring since an impressive demolition of then-light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson last September, and he's since endured surgery to repair a tear in his right shoulder and months of rehab.

    As dominant as Ward has been—he currently sits at No. 2 on many pound-for-pound lists including The Ring Magazine and ESPN—he has been injury-prone and has only fought once since capping off an impressive run in the Super Six tournament with a dominant victory over Carl Froch to claim the 168-pound title. 

    For that reason, much of Ward's continued presence at the top of pound-for-pound lists has to do with his reputation and the dominant way he cleared out his neighborhood and even took down the top dog a weight class above. 

    It's not crazy to wonder whether the inactivity and injuries could bring Ward down a notch when he steps into the ring on Saturday night. That's not to say he won't win, or that he doesn't still deserve consideration amongst the best fighters in the sport, but that he has some serious questions to answer in the ring. 

    Shoulder injuries are tricky for boxers. And if Ward's isn't completely healed, or if he re-injures it, he could find himself in some trouble.

Can La Bomba Prove He Belongs at This Level?

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    La Bomba can punch with the best of them.
    La Bomba can punch with the best of them.Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    It's impossible to watch Edwin Rodriguez's one-round thrashing of Denis Grachev without being impressed. To call it a fight would be misleading: It was just under one round of one guy pounding another guy from one end of the ring to the next.

    In less than three minutes, Rodriguez landed an absurd 70 punches, including 59 power connects, according to Compubox, and dropped his foe twice. It was nothing less than a complete and utter beatdown.

    Grachev is a solid enough fighter, but he doesn't exist on the same plane as the guy that "La Bomba" Rodriguez will see standing across the ring from him on Saturday night.

    Andre Ward is considered the second-best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, and he has retained that title, despite being on the shelf for more than a year now after shoulder surgery. 

    He presents a whole new level of difficulty, and some feel that this fight is just too much, too soon for the 28-year-old Rodriguez. 

    But he could be getting Ward at just the right time. A long layoff combined with shoulder surgery and months of rehab could leave the super middleweight champion rusty. And Rodriguez isn't even in a situation where he must win this fight.

    Obviously that'll be his goal, but he really just needs to prove he belongs. 

Did Demetrius Andrade Prove Anything with His Title Win?

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    Demetrius Andrade became the first 2008 US Olympian to capture a world championship with his win over Vanes Martirosyan.
    Demetrius Andrade became the first 2008 US Olympian to capture a world championship with his win over Vanes Martirosyan.Harry How/Getty Images

    On Saturday night, Demetrius Andrade clearly dominated a fight that many expected to be close and tough to score, winning a ridiculous split-decision over Vanos Martirosyan and the WBO Junior Middleweight Championship.

    It was ridiculous, almost entirely, because judge Javier Alvarez somehow found a way to score seven  rounds for Martirosyan and award him the win on his card by a 115-112 score. How bad was that card? It was simply awful, and in a boxing year full of atrocious scoring in some high-profile fights, it definitely ranks up there with the biggest stinkers.

    For context, Bleacher Report scored the bout 116-111 for Andrade and awarded him nine of the 12 rounds.

    Luckily for Andrade, the other two judges actually watched the fight and awarded him an all-too-narrow split decision and his first world title. 

    The 2008 U.S. Olympian utilized his superior speed and boxing ability to carry much of the fight and beat the biggest name opponent of his career. 

    But did we learn more about Andrade, who did look good, or Martirosyan, who was listless and settled, from Round 1 and looking for one or two big shots per round and little else? Vanes simply didn't seem interested in the fight, and despite a power edge, he looked content to allow Andrade to just outwork him.

    So it's hard to determine how much of last night's performance can be attributed to Andrade being good and how much to Martirosyan being bad.

    Both guys were considered protected prospects coming into the fight, and it's probably going to take more from Andrade to shed that label.