By Graham Houston
Unfortunately, some discord has developed concerning Rodel Mayol’s WBC light-flyweight title defence against Omar Nino Romero in Mexico on Saturday night. The Filipino camp has expressed concerns about getting fair treatment in Romero’s hometown of Guadalajara, and the WBC has responded by expressing surprise and pointing out that the organisation stood behind Mayol when he won the title in highly controversial fashion against Edgar Sosa in Mexico last November.
There will be a neutral referee, Vic Drakulich, of Nevada, plus three U.S. judges.
I think that suggestions of possible bias can be counterproductive. The Mayol team has in effect cast aspersions on the integrity of the officials. It is never a good idea to do this. I well remember Larry Holmes’s insulting comments about judges before his rematch with Michael Spinks. Holmes lost on a controversial, split decision. Who knows if Holmes’s well publicised remarks had any effect on the scoring of some of the either-way rounds?
The WBC has not commented about the specifics of the Mayol-Sosa fight, but there is no doubt that the Filipino fighter got a break. Sosa was essentially taken out of the fight by a sickening collision with Mayol’s head in the second round that left the Mexican boxer with — as was later discovered — a fractured cheekbone. A point was taken from Mayol under the WBC’s head-clash rule but this made no difference — Sosa was in no position to hold off Mayol’s follow-up onslaught.
That fight probably should have been ruled a no decision due to the severity of the impact when Mayol’s skull met Sosa’s cheekbone, but no one could have known how much damage had been inflicted without an x-ray.
So, after being on the right side in a disputed ending, the Mayol side is doing itself no favours by going back to Mexico and suggesting that they might not get fair play on Saturday.
One, as ever, hopes that, should this fight go the scorecards, there will be no cause for controversy.
The fight (which can be seen on PPV along with the Wilfredo Vazquez Jr vs Marvin Sonsona title bout that takes place in Puerto Rico) should be entertaining and highly competitive.
Romero, 33, is a former champion who surprised the boxing world by outscoring Brian Viloria in Las Vegas. The rematch ended in a draw but is now listed as a no decision because the Mexican boxer tested positive for the stimulant methamphetamine. Romero was inactive for 19 months, in large part due to a suspension over the drug-test results. He lost a split decision to the Filipino Juanito Rubillar in his first fight back but has won three in a row since then, including a unanimous technical decision win over Rubillar in a rematch, when the Mexican boxer was cut in a clash of heads.
Head clashes are always a strong possibility when Mayol fights, of course. Before the fight with Sosa his last three bouts all ended with his opponent cut from contact with Mayol’s head.
This isn’t to say that Mayol intentionally butts his opponents, but he does tend to come in with his head lowered and pushed forward, so if there is solid contact the other man is likely to get the worst of it. I can see Romero getting cut on Saturday and a point being taken from Mayol.
Romero has lost only to Rubillar in the past six years, and he was going into the fight after a long spell of inactivity. He showed his superiority in the rematch. Romero is a smart, quick boxer with a good jab and excellent hand speed. He is a determined individual who will fight right back when an opponent seems to be gaining the advantage. In his rematch with Viloria, Romero suffered a heavy knockdown in the ninth round but rallied and swept the last two rounds on all three judges’ cards.
Mayol, though, has the look of a fighter who has matured and improved. He is a capable boxer and a hard hitter, especially with the straight right hand through the middle. He was winning the fight against the admittedly slow-starting Sosa, and what I particularly liked about Mayol in that fight was his high level of confidence — he fought like a winner against a highly capable champion who was expected to beat him.
Romero will have the crowd noisily behind him, with chants of “Meh-hee-co” to spur him on, but Mayol is accustomed to boxing away from home and won and lost in Mexico prior to the upset win over Sosa.
Mayol was highly competitive in both bouts against the master technician Ivan Calderon, and he looked as if he might have been on his way to winning the first contest, which ended on a technical draw. The 28-year-old Filipino boxer seems to be at the top of his form, boxing better than at any stage in his career.
Romero will win rounds with his jab and combinations, but I think that Mayol’s superior strength and punching power will eventually tilt the bout in favour of the defending champion — and Mayol is a competent boxer, too, and well able to unleash effective combinations. Romero is likely to be under pressure in every round, and while he will be the busier fighter I think that Mayol’s harder punching will begin to take effect. Romero fought very well in the two bouts with Viloria but in the rematch he looked a beaten fighter after nine rounds. It was only Viloria’s strange reluctance to press the issue that allowed Romero to get back into the fight.
I believe that Mayol will increasingly be able to find the target with his hard blows as the fight progresses. Romero can be elusive but I don’t think he can dodge all the punches that will be coming at him, and if Mayol can hurt him and slow him down a bit then the Filipino boxer can begin to assume control of the contest.
There is the very real chance of this fight ending on a head clash, but whether it goes the distance or is literally cut short I am going with the harder punching Mayol to win a close decision.