Commentary

Marquez a good first step for 'Money'

Originally Published: September 21, 2009
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Las Vegas
Welterweight
Floyd Mayweather Jr. W12 Juan Manuel Marquez
Scores: 120-107, 119-108, 118-109
Records: Mayweather, 40-0, 25 KOs; Marquez 50-5-1, 37 KOs

Rafael's remark: So after 21 months in a retirement that few believed would last, "Money" Mayweather returned to the ring, in part because he needed the money to satisfy IRS issues and other debts. That was but one of the many outside-the-ring issues that have surrounded Mayweather. But inside the ring, none of it matters, because that's where Mayweather is most comfortable. There were no signs of distraction as he battered Marquez in a superb performance that lacked only a knockout. It should have been a shutout on all three official scorecards. Judge Bert Clements had it that way. Judges William Lerch (118-109) and Dave Moretti (119-108) perhaps threw Marquez mercy rounds. The fight was all Mayweather, all the time, including a knockdown on a flush left hook that Marquez never saw in the second round.

Mayweather, a former five-division champion who was boxing's pound-for-pound No. 1 before abdicating his perch by retiring, claimed after the fight that he was a little rusty. But he didn't look it, even though he had been out of the ring since a December 2007 10th-round knockout of Ricky Hatton. In fact, Mayweather didn't look like he had been out of action for a week, much less almost two years. He was fast, sharp, accurate with his punches and rarely got hit by Marquez. The CompuBox punch statistics were shocking in their overwhelmingly pro-Mayweather nature. While Marquez landed just 69 blows the entire fight (including no rounds in double digits), Mayweather pasted him as he landed an alarming 59 percent of his shots (290 of 493). His jab was especially deadly and was probably the reason for Marquez's bloody nose.

It's not like Mayweather, 32, did this to some pitiful pug. Marquez, 36, was almost universally regarded as the No. 2 fighter in the world on the various pound-for-pound lists before the fight. He's a three-division champion and reigning lightweight champion with a long track record against top opponents. He had never been remotely dominated in a fight and essentially had gone even-up with Manny Pacquiao in two sensational fights -- a disputed draw and a more heavily disputed one-point split-decision loss. Yet against Mayweather, Marquez could do absolutely nothing. It sure makes you wonder whether Mayweather could be that dominant if the day comes when we see the biggest fight possible in the sport: Mayweather against Pacquiao (if Pacquiao defeats Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14, which is no guarantee at all).

For all of Mayweather's dominance, however, the size disparity in the fight can't be overlooked. It was stark. Although Mayweather fought as a junior lightweight and lightweight earlier in his career, he has steadily moved up in weight, becoming a full-fledged welterweight in 2005. Mayweather even beat Oscar De La Hoya to win a junior middleweight title. Marquez, however, is a career featherweight with only five fights at junior lightweight (three) and lightweight (two). He jumped up two weight divisions to face Mayweather and didn't carry the extra weight well. He weighed in at 142 pounds, two lighter than the 144-pound contract maximum. Mayweather, meanwhile, ignored the 144-pound contract weight, coming in at 146. He was due to pay a $600,000 penalty to Marquez for the extra two pounds, but because Mayweather didn't have to suck down to make weight, it simply added to his already overwhelming advantages.

We all know about Mayweather's incredible skills, which were all on display Saturday. But we want to see him use them against fighters proven in his own weight division. Pacquiao, with his devastation of De La Hoya and far easier knockout of Hatton than Mayweather's, is the obvious money fight and the match to determine who really is No. 1 pound-for-pound. There is also Cotto, if he defeats Pacquiao. And don't forget about Shane Mosley, the reigning welterweight champ, who bumrushed Mayweather's interview with HBO's Max Kellerman in the ring after the fight to call out Mayweather. Mayweather is blessed with several quality opponents for fights that fans and media want to see. He got his comeback fight out of the way against a talented but smaller man. It went the way many thought it would go. Now, it's time for Mayweather to finally take on the best in his own division.

Featherweight
Chris John W12 Rocky Juarez
Retains a featherweight title
Scores: 119-109, 117-111, 114-113
Records: John, 43-0-2, 22 KOs; Juarez, 28-5-1, 20 KOs

Rafael's remark: When John and Juarez met in February in Houston (Juarez's hometown), Juarez received a gift draw in a fight he should have lost. It looked like John had built a big early lead and that Juarez, who did come on strong down the stretch, would need multiple knockdowns to catch up on the cards. In the end, it was ruled a draw and a rematch was put together. It was supposed to take place this past summer, but Indonesia's John became ill, forcing the bout to be postponed. It wasn't worth the wait. After a very exciting first fight, the second bout was something of a dud. John boxed very well and appeared to put together another big lead in a fight far less action-packed than the first encounter. Juarez didn't look like he had much of a game plan. He simply followed the quicker John around the ring, tried to pressure him and often threw only one punch at a time. Juarez appeared a bit desperate in the 12th round and finally went after John, staggering him with a hard left hook in the final minute of the fight. John was ready to go and was trying to hold on for dear life, but Juarez couldn't come up with another big shot to drop John, who made it to the final bell in a fight he dedicated to the late Arturo Gatti. If the round were maybe 10 seconds longer, Juarez might have scored a knockout -- that's how bad off John was in the waning seconds. But that's the story of Juarez's career: He just can't get over the hump, and it doesn't look like he ever will. This was his sixth unsuccessful shot at a world title. Isn't enough enough? He has lost three junior lightweight title bouts, twice to Marco Antonio Barrera and once to Juan Manuel Marquez. And in featherweight title fights, Juarez, a 2004 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, is 0-2-1, having lost to Humberto Soto and John, and drawn with John the first time around. At this point, Juarez, 29, has become a solid opponent with a good name. John, 30, meanwhile, rolls on having made 12 title defenses.

Lightweight
Michael Katsidis W12 Vicente Escobedo
Wins a vacant interim lightweight title
Scores: 118-110, 115-113 Katsidis, 116-112 Escobedo
Records: Katsidis, 26-2, 21 KOs; Escobedo, 21-2, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: Expected to be a competitive slugfest, it was indeed a slugfest, but not all that competitive -- despite the lunacy of judge Mike Fitzgerald's scorecard favoring Escobedo. Nonetheless, it was an entertaining bout featuring a pair of fighters with big hearts and never-say-die attitudes. Katsidis, 29, of Australia, suffered a cut over his left eye from an accidental head-butt in the first round (shocking that Katsidis would bleed in a fight, right?). Still, he applied his typical relentless pressure throughout the grueling fight. Escobedo, 27, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, just didn't appear as physically strong or in as good condition as Katsidis. Katsidis bullied him, marked up his face and forced him to retreat. Escobedo saw his 12-fight winning streak come to an end, while Katsidis breathed new life into his career by claiming an interim title for the second time. He won his third in a row following back-to-back losses in rousing battles against Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz last year. He is now a mandatory challenger for Juan Manuel Marquez, who despite losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the main event, remains the lightweight world champion. When Marquez returns from the beating he took from Mayweather, a fight with Katsidis could be fun.

Featherweight
Cornelius Lock TKO5 Orlando Cruz
Records: Lock, 19-4-1, 12 KOs; Cruz, 16-1-1, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cruz, 28, of Puerto Rico was coming off an impressive fifth-round knockout of Leonilo Miranda, who had an imposing 30-0 record with 28 knockouts heading into their January fight. But Cruz could not keep his momentum going as he was taken apart by Detroit's Lock, 30, who is part of the Floyd Mayweather camp. In his last fight in July, Lock lost a lopsided decision to Antonio Escalante in a "Friday Night Fights" main event. He took a lot of punishment in the bout, but rebounded in this pay-per-view opener to hammer Cruz with no apparent ill effects from the Escalante beating. Lock put his punches together well, hurting Cruz in the first round with a right hand and then dropping him with a left. In the fifth, a big right hook to the chin knocked Cruz down. Although he was up by eight, he was shaky and referee Robert Byrd appropriately called it off. Very nice rebound victory for Lock, who can fight a bit despite his inconsistencies.

Junior middleweight
Erislandy Lara KO1 Jose Varela
Records: Lara, 8-0, 5 KOs; Varela, 23-7, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: In the final fight before the pay-per-view coverage began, Lara, 26, looked good blowing out Varela. Lara, a 2005 world amateur champion and Cuban defector, is one of the top prospects in boxing. Part of the recent influx of Cuban amateur stars into the pro ranks after a series of defections, Lara could turn out to be the best of the bunch -- although there are others such as Guillermo Rigondeaux and Yuriorkis Gamboa who are sensational. Lara has speed and power and appears hungry to excel. Varela stood no chance despite the disparity in their records. The fight ended when Lara, a southpaw, detonated a straight left hand on Varela's chin late in the first round, sending him to the canvas. Varela had no particular interest in continuing and was shaking his head "no" during a halfhearted attempt to get to his feet. He didn't. Fight over. Lara moves on.

Saturday at Neubrandenburg, Germany
Middleweight
Sebastian Sylvester W12 Giovanni Lorenzo
Wins a vacant middleweight title
Scores: 116-112, 115-113 Sylvester, 116-111 Lorenzo
Records: Sylvester, 32-3, 15 KOs; Lorenzo, 27-2, 19 KOs

Rafael's remark: After middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham relinquished his belt a few months ago in order to move up to super middleweight to participate in Showtime's Super Six tournament, fellow Sauerland Event-promoted boxer Sylvester was ordered to face New York-based Dominican Lorenzo for the vacant belt. Sylvester, 29, of Germany, had lost his previous title shot when he dropped a lopsided decision to titleholder Felix Sturm in November. But Sylvester rebounded to win two fights in a row to set himself up for the vacant-title bout. Lorenzo had some early success, but Sylvester, who suffered a cut on his forehead from an accidental head-butt in the first round, used a disciplined game plan and good technical skills to claim the tactical fight, which should have been a unanimous decision, not a split decision. Lorenzo, 28, lost for the second time in three fights, with his other defeat also coming on points in June 2008 when he was upset by faded former junior middleweight titlist Raul Marquez in a title eliminator.

Friday at Miami Beach, Fla.
Junior featherweight
Guillermo Rigondeaux TKO3 Giovanni Andrade
Records: Rigondeaux, 3-0, 3 KOs; Andrade, 51-12, 41 KOs

Rafael's remark: Rigondeaux, 28, was one of the all-time great amateurs. The Cuban defector won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 and surely would have been the favorite to win another gold in 2008 had he not been booted off the Cuban national team for attempting to defect in 2007. He finally did defect earlier this year. Now working with superstar trainer Freddie Roach, Rigondeaux was scheduled for a 10-rounder in only his third professional bout. His handlers are going to move him fast, and there's no reason they shouldn't. At his age and with his extensive amateur experience, don't be surprised if he is fighting for a world title inside of 10 fights. Andrade, 39, of Brazil, stood no chance despite the massive difference in pro experience. In the second round, Andrade took a knee without being hit just to get away from the fast southpaw. Rigondeaux worked Andrade's thin midsection extremely well. In the third round, Rigondeaux landed a strong body shot that sent Andrade to a knee wincing in pain. He beat the count but quit before the fight could resume, ending his five-fight winning streak. It came as no surprise. Andrade, who has lost to top opponents such as Juan Manuel Lopez, Rey Bautista, Johnny Tapia, Celestino Caballero, Martin Honorio and Wladimir Sidorenko, had quit in several previous fights.

Light heavyweight
Yordanis Despaigne TKO1 Mickey Scarborough
Records: Despaigne, 3-0, 2 KOs; Scarborough, 4-1, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cuba's Despaigne, 29, a defector who lost to American Andre Dirrell in the quarterfinals in the 2004 Olympics, smashed Scarborough, 32, of Kansas City, Mo. This one was target practice for Despaigne. He hurt Scarborough with a right hand, which drove him into the ropes. Despiagne didn't let up, raining blows on Scarborough, who was covering up on the ropes until referee Frank Santore called off the carnage at 1:41.

Junior middleweight
Yudel Johnson W8 Frankie Santos
Scores: 79-73 (twice), 77-74
Records: Johnson, 3-0, 1 KO; Santos 17-8-4, 8 KO

Rafael's remark: Johnson, 28, won an Olympic silver medal for Cuba at the 2004 Athens Games before eventually defecting earlier this year with teammates Guillermo Rigondeaux and Yordanis Despiagne. He easily outpointed Puerto Rico's Santos, 30, who dropped to 3-8-2 in his last 13. Johnson had too much of everything for Santos, a very experienced opponent -- he has faced the likes of Francisco Bojado, Lamont Peterson and Matthew Hatton -- for a fighter in only his third pro bout.

Welterweight
Felix Diaz TKO1 Omar Brown
Records: Diaz, 2-0, 2 KOs; Brown, 1-3, 0 KOs

Rafael's remark: In a sick mismatch, the Dominican Republic's Diaz, 25, who won an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, destroyed no-hoper Brown, 32, who took the fight on four days' notice. Brown had only a few amateur fights while Diaz had around 250, making Brown human roadkill in this one. Diaz, a southpaw, knocked Brown into the ropes with a flurry, triggering a standing eight count from referee Frank Santore only 30 seconds into the fight. Then came a second knockdown. After a third knockdown from a nasty uppercut, Santore called it off without a count after just 88 seconds of Diaz dominance.

Friday at Santa Yanez, Calif.
Heavyweight
Tony Grano KO4 Travis Kauffman
Records: Grano, 16-1-1, 13 KOs; Kauffman, 18-1, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: Kauffman, 24, of Reading, Pa., had a solid amateur career, was being groomed as a possible contender and had hooked up with powerful manager Al Haymon. But his glossy record had been built against woeful competition. Grano, a tough 28-year-old from Hartford, Conn., with limited skills, exposed him in the "ShoBox" main event. Kauffman was winning the competitive bout through the third round before it turned wild. In the fourth, Kauffman picked up the pace and began to go more on the offensive. He hurt Grano with a pair of right hands and seemed to have him in some trouble. That's when Grano, who is trained by former light heavyweight titlist Lou Del Valle, hit Kauffman low. There was a brief delay while Kauffman recovered, but the time also helped Grano get himself together. Moments later, a tiring Grano spit out his mouthpiece and was warned by the referee. But the additional seconds to replace his bit certainly helped, because Grano came alive when the fight resumed. He unloaded on Kauffman, battering him around the ring with a two-fisted attack that finally sent him to the canvas for the 10-count under an avalanche of punches. Given Kauffman's powerful connections and the fact that Grano was perhaps aided by throwing a low blow and spitting out his mouthpiece, don't be surprised if there's a rematch. Kauffman wants one. Grano celebrated his upset victory by showing up at the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez fight the next night in Las Vegas and introducing himself in the media center, clearly very proud of his entertaining knockout victory.

Bantamweight
Chris Avalos KO4 Giovanni Caro
Records: Avalos, 12-0, 10 KOs; Caro, 13-8-4, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: What a terrific fight. The "ShoBox" opener was a thoroughly entertaining slugfest from start to explosive finish as Avalos, just 19, showed grit and determination for such an inexperienced young fighter. The Lancaster, Calif., resident and Mexico's Caro, 26, went at it toe-to-toe from the opening bell. Although Caro's record isn't very good, he has loads of experience against good opponents. It was a calculated risk by Avalos promoter Gary Shaw to match him this tough at such an early stage of his career, and it worked out well. Caro had Avalos, who had been ill during the week with flu-like symptoms, in a little bit of trouble in the third round, but Avalos worked through it. In the fourth round, Avalos hurt Caro with a right hand and moments later flattened him with a flush sweeping right hand to the chin for a spectacular knockout. A great fight and an excellent learning experience for an exciting prospect.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.