Thirty-nine-year-old Omar Andres Narvaez made things look easy Friday night.
The WBO super flyweight champion, Narvaez (42-1-2) picked up his second win over the talented Felipe Orucuta (29-3). But incompetent judging was at hand in this one just like their last, producing a dubious majority decision and marring El Huracan’s incredible 11th title defense.
This victory extends a four-year reign over the 115-pound division, dating back to May 2010 when the Argentine outslugged the gangly Everth Briceno for not only the WBO super flyweight belt but also the right to call himself the best fighter in the weight class.
Narvaez, a former 112-pound world champion and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s very best junior bantamweight, has suffered just one defeat in his career (to Ring Magazine’s Top Five pound-for-pound, at the time, Nonito Donaire at bantamweight). But he has remained undefeated (and near untouchable) at super flyweight.
Things were no different in his rematch with the TBRB’s No. 6-rated super flyweight Orucuta.
Narvaez, a tank of a fighter, plodded through most of his 5’7” opponent’s punches early on. The 28-year-old Orucuta tried desperately to find his rhythm with long, straight punches. Dubbed “El Gallito,” Orucuta threw rights and lefts, but few had any effect on one of the sport’s more deceptive defensive fighters.
The longtime champion brushed off the young Mexican’s attack with aggressive blocking techniques, repelling punches off his sturdy forearms and then hopping into close quarters to slam punches into his opponent’s chest and let loose his renowned left hand.
The first four rounds all looked the same.
Orucuta was bent on finding his range, firing one-two combinations with regularity—the same lanky striking that gave Narvaez fits in their first bout 15 months ago, resulting in a controversial split decision.
In Round 5, Narvaez’s back began to touch the ropes. El Gallito’s volume began to wear on him. Now mixing in spiraling hooks and uppercuts with his continual jab-straight combos, his punches were touching up the Argentine. This formula worked even better in Round 6. The 39-year-old circled away from the assault the best that he could, but Orucuta deserved the fifth and sixth.
The Mexican was outboxing his older foe. The narrative would have been nothing new: The young, strapping fighter dethrones the older, gritty champion, and a new generation is introduced. A dramatic change for the super flyweight division seemed imminent, and it made sense. For the most part, boxing is a young man’s game.
That is, of course, for the most part.
Narvaez’s left hand came to life in Round 7, and it couldn't miss. He is a fighter who operates from maximum distance, a peculiar stylist who counters without moving his feet. Reminiscent of James Toney, the WBO champion planted his feet to the ground and slipped his opponent’s oncoming punches, countering brutally but nonchalantly with overhand lefts and timely right hooks that connected to the head of Orucuta over and over again.
This was some of the best counterpunching seen all year, and the challenger had no answer for it.
Rounds 8 and 9 were all Narvaez. And in the championship rounds, a stoppage looked near.
El Huracan was on the horizon, and he gave Orucuta everything he could handle in the final three stanzas, walking his opponent down and untying flurries that severely staggered El Gallito in the 12th. The scorecards read 116-112 to Narvaez, twice, and a silly 114-114 draw from judge Pat Russell.
Orucuta’s high output must have been what swayed a few too many rounds his way. But his punches were visibly glancing off Narvaez’s shoulders and parries all night—that is, when they were hitting anything at all. Nevertheless, it was a spirited effort from both men. Orucuta has plenty to be proud of. Only 28, he gave a fine champion like Narvaez his arguably two toughest title defenses and remains near the top of the super flyweight division.
On the same token, Narvaez not only defended his WBO strap for the 11th time but also improved his record in world-title fights to an astonishing 28-1-1—just three wins away from matching Julio Cesar Chavez's record of 31. This includes the Argentine's spell as WBO flyweight champion from 2002 to 2009.
Pushing 40—ancient for this sport—Narvaez doesn’t seem to age. And he doesn’t lose.
Like all men fighting below 118 pounds, El Huracan is overlooked. And his only glare of publicity seems to be his bantamweight title fight against Donaire, a fight that cannot be held against him because of Donaire's natural size and ability.
Narvaez is a tremendous champion and an even better fighter.
The TBRB's No. 2-rated 115-pounder Carlos Cuadras is scheduled to fight twice to end 2014. He is the WBC super flyweight champion and a high-octane fighter who proved he can also outbox an opponent who brings heavy artillery to the table in his bout with the violent-hitting Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (TBRB's No. 4) this past May.
If Cuadras, 26, can carry on into 2015 unscathed, a Narvaez-Cuadras unification bout would be a purist's dream.