More than Juan way to look at things
Weeks after boxing pundits coronated a new pound-for-pound king, Juan Manuel Marquez is demanding a recount. Based on the way he handled sturdy vet Joel Casamayor, Marquez might have a valid argument, writes Eric Raskin.
Originally Published: September 15, 2008By Eric Raskin | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Jae C. HongThe man at lightweight: Juan Manuel Marquez, right, dethroned Joel Casamayor for the 135-pound title.You know the August boxing doldrums have ended when you're up until almost 3 a.m. watching fights and it would have been 4, if not for the cancellation of a major bout. Needless to say, there was a lot happening in the fight game Saturday (and there was also quite a bit not happening, thanks to Joan Guzman's waistline expanding faster than Barry Bonds' melon). There were nearly as many battles with the scale as there were battles in the ring on a wild pugilistic weekend (Guzman, Nate Campbell, Sergio Mora and Timothy Bradley all came in heavy on their first tries), and though the spotlight ultimately belonged to Juan Manuel Marquez, there was too much going on for The Monday Hook to focus on a single topic. So here are four angles worthy of exploration following a Saturday that left east coast fight fans sleep-deprived but certainly not plotline-deprived:
Winners and losers, no gray area
So often in boxing the difference between victory and defeat comes down to which three judges are selected to sit around the ring. But on Sept. 13, the winners and losers were all clear-cut for a change, and the only judging-related controversy arose when six judges scored a single fight. More on that, and on WBC president Jose Sulaiman's unquenchable desire to make up rules as he goes along, in a moment; first, a rundown of the evening's big winners and losers.
By becoming the first man to knock out Joel Casamayor -- punching through Casamayor's Rutherford B. Hayes beard to do it -- Marquez was the biggest winner of the night. Casamayor, in turn, was a clear loser for the first time in his career (unless you count his "win" over Jose Armando Santa Cruz). Three months after Mora upset Vernon Forrest via narrow decision, Forrest established total superiority in the rematch, winning by decisive scores of 117-110, 118-109 and 119-108. And even in a fight that didn't happen, Campbell vs. Guzman, who won and who lost couldn't be more transparent. Ten months ago, Guzman weighed 129 ½ pounds for his fight against Humberto Soto; for his first fight at 135, he missed by 3 ½ pounds and made no effort to come any closer before calling off the fight even though his opponent wanted to go through with it. "Little Tyson" (how odd that the "Little" part of his nickname is now even more inappropriate than the "Tyson" part?) was by far the biggest loser on Sept. 13, and whereas weight-challenged Jose Luis Castillo got second and third chances because of his popularity, Guzman isn't popular and deserves the ostracism that's coming his way. Campbell, on the other hand, won big without fighting. He was a total class act throughout and said all the right things. "I'll sign things, I'll take pictures and I'll talk about anything you want to talk about -- as long as it's not too kinky," he told the crowd at Beau Rivage in an effort to placate them -- even though he'd done no wrong. Wrapping up the subject of clear winners and clear losers, thank goodness Bradley beat Edner Cherry decisively on that Beau Rivage card, since Sulaiman is embroiled in a bizarre U.S. vs. Mexico war that's taking place purely within the confines of his own mind and he refused to recognize the decision of the Mississippi judges, instead bringing three WBC-appointed officials. In the end, Bradley won comfortably on all six scorecards and Sulaiman's bid to further tarnish the sport of boxing was thwarted.
Icon SMINate Campbell emerged a winner on Saturday -- without ever throwing a punch.
The fight Marquez can't wait for
There will be an inclination on the part of new lineal lightweight champ Marquez to wait and see what happens on Dec. 6 between his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, and Manny Pacquiao, in hopes of securing a third fight with Pacquiao. You can understand why: A 35-year-old fighter is usually looking for paydays, and PacMan represents Marquez's best hope for making millions.
But who wants to see Marquez on the shelf until next spring or summer waiting for Pacquiao? Especially when you consider that if the Filipino beats De La Hoya, he'll become an "event" fighter, looking to fight only the names that matter to the mainstream, and Marquez will have been waiting for something he probably isn't going to get. Fortunately, Marquez seems to recognize that, saying after knocking out Casamayor, "The third fight will probably not happen." Maybe avoiding talk about Pacquiao is simply the politically correct thing to do when your promoter is already scheduled to fight him. Or maybe Marquez just doesn't want to get his hopes up. But fans' hopes are already up for the possibilities at 135 pounds now that Marquez is the man. A fight against Campbell, who holds three alphabet belts, would settle any title debate. A showdown with Juan Diaz, who outpointed Michael Katsidis on Sept. 6, would be a tantalizing matchup of young and old lions. And even a title defense against Santa Cruz, to erase the lingering stench of that Casamayor decision 10 months ago, would serve a purpose and probably prove entertaining. Marquez should make one of those fights happen. And if he, and we, are lucky, a third fight to settle the score against Pacquiao will be a viable option two fights from now.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong"Mind if I fight?" With Oscar De La Hoya taking on Manny Pacquiao in December, Marquez will have to wait just a bit longer for a third crack at the Filipino fighter.
Hall of Fame fence flux
I wrote a column in June about fighters on the Hall of Fame fence, and three of them saw action over the weekend. So how has the outlook changed?
Marquez was almost definitely in already, but now he's a first-ballot slam dunk. If Casamayor was looking slightly better than 50/50 to get in before Saturday night, he might have shifted to the other side of that equation with the Marquez fight, since the "I've never been knocked out and could arguably have zero losses" argument no longer applies. Forrest had fallen way off the fence when he lost to Mora, but such a decisive revenge win got him back into the discussion. A third fight with Ricardo Mayorga might not be a bad thing for Forrest, so he can avenge his other two losses and finish his career claiming, like Lennox Lewis, to have beaten everyone he ever fought.
AP Photo/Eric JamisonWe're still on the fence about Casamayor's place in the Hall.
Floyd Mayweather retires. Manny Pacquiao looks sensational against David Diaz. There is no pound-for-pound debate. At least not until Marquez sensationally KOs Casamayor and makes us all revisit Pacquiao's one-point win over him six months ago. I scored that fight 114-113 in Marquez's favor, as did ESPN.com's Dan Rafael and Darius Ortiz. If Marquez had gotten that decision, which truly could have gone either way without argument, he'd be the frontrunner for Fighter of the Year and he'd likely be universally recognized as the pound-for-pound king right now. As it is, we should defer to the judges' official verdict and give Pacquiao the top spot, pending reevaluation after his fight with De La Hoya. But off this win over Casamayor, Marquez could justifiably claim the number-two position over Joe Calzaghe, who was underwhelming against Bernard Hopkins his last time out. (And before you insist that Hopkins is crafty and difficult to look good against, note that the same description applies to Casamayor.) Because two of three judges at Mandalay Bay in March said so, Pacquiao rules the pound-for-pound lists. But in 24 rounds, he hasn't been able to rule Marquez, who just might be the best fighter in the world even if nobody is willing to recognize it. Eric Raskin is a contributing editor for, and former managing editor of, The Ring magazine.