It may or may not have been the Fight of the Year, but I doubt anyone was too disappointed tonight, as Juan Manuel Marquez successfully defended the lightweight championship of the world against Michael Katsidis in a slugfest battle at the MGM Grand.
Marquez (52-5-1, 38 KO) looked great in the earlygoing, but was floored and hurt on a nasty left hook in the third by Katsidis. Marquez looked hurt, but as always, he showed his unbelievable ability to rebound from a dire-seeming situation. Though Katsidis tried his best to finish him in the round -- though he didn't get reckless -- Marquez wound up beating up on Katsidis by the end of that round.
After that, Marquez mostly took over. But Katsidis (27-3, 20 KO) just refused to back down, eating hard shot after hard shot. Marquez in particular featured a gorgeous left hook to the body that took a toll on Katsidis, who couldn't find enough sustained rhythm. Meanwhile, Marquez was all rhythm and precision. He was simply too talented for the courageous Katsidis.
In the ninth round, Marquez flurried and attacked with power and accuracy. Katsidis appeared on bad legs, looked lost in the ring, and stopped fighting back. Eventually, referee Kenny Bayless had no choice but to stop the fight.
It was a good fight, one to remember. In a rough year for boxing, it's been great to get so many good fights here at the end of the year. Hopefully next year the highlights will be more consistent and plentiful, but right now we're in the middle of some mild boxing bliss. Congratulations to Juan Manuel Marquez, who again stated his desire to fight Manny Pacquiao for a third time. And hats off to Michael Katsidis, who fought tonight in honor of his late brother, Stathi, who passed away 40 days ago. Michael may not have won, but if there's anyone possibly disappointed in his performance, his grit, his toughness, his desire, and his heart, that anyone is an idiot. Michael Katsidis, as always, gave all he had in the ring tonight, and here's looking forward to seeing him back in action in 2011.
On the Undercard
- Andre Berto TKO-1 Freddy Hernandez: This one turned out to be every bit the grotesque mismatch it was on paper. Hernandez (29-2, 20 KO) really had no business fighting for a major welterweight title, but what can you do? There have been worse title challengers. Berto (27-0, 21 KO) was in great shape and clearly here to make a statement. He made that statement in 2:07 with a right cross on the button that put Hernandez on the mat. Freddy got back up, but the fight was stopped as he was not all there. Berto also wants to fight Pacquiao. I'd settle for a legitimate challenge from anyone at this point.
- Jason Litzau SD-10 Celestino Caballero: When the scores were announced for this one (96-94 Litzau, 97-93 Litzau, and 96-94 Caballero), I felt great. I really did, and I'll tell you why. I scored it 95-95, but felt if anyone won, it was Litzau. Litzau (28-2, 21 KO) came to win this fight. He was in good shape and put in a strong performance. Caballero (34-3, 23 KO) did not come to win this fight, or at least he sure as hell didn't expect that gosh, the other guy ALSO wants to win. Caballero put in a crap performance. His talent should have carried him through this fight, but he wasn't prepared. His inflated opinion of himself caught up with him in this fight. Litzau, as I said before the fight, wasn't a midget against Caballero, and just like against Jeffrey Mathebula, Caballero didn't look so great when he wasn't towering over a guy who was giving up anywhere between five and nine inches of height. Litzau wasn't discouraged by him; Caballero couldn't hurt him, especially with those slappy body shots that appeared to have zero effect on Litzau. This was a tale of two fighters. Litzau was an underdog bent on winning. Caballero was looking forward to chasing a big fight and complaining about not getting it again. Instead, he's now a 34-year-old guy that just looked bad on HBO against a guy nobody thought would beat him. Litzau was a reported 13-to-1 underdog. He earned this win. Congrats, Jason. And Caballero might have really screwed the pooch here -- by coming in unprepared, he lost to someone he shouldn't have, and now he's NEVER going to get Lopez or Gamboa. Back to the drawing board, and without much time to spare.
- Walter Estrada SD-8 Nate Campbell: That should do it for Nate. Scores were 77-74 (twice) for Estrada and 76-75 for Campbell. Estrada lost a point for holding, or else it would have been a majority decision win. Estrada (38-13-1, 25 KO) is a pure journeyman who has in recent times been stopped in five by Kevin Mitchell, stopped in two by Marvin Quintero, and stopped in one by Yuriorkis Gamboa and Michael Farenas. Campbell (33-7-1, 25 KO) was a good fighter at his best, and just never really got to capitalize on the 2008 upset of Juan Diaz. It's a shame it wound up this way, but these things happen. Nate's 38 and has been through the battles in his career. And he's done as a contender.
- Erislandy Lara TKO-1 Tim Connors: Mismatch on paper and clearly played out as one. Lara (14-0, 9 KO) is ready to contend, but his last three fights have been wastes of time and clear steps back from early 2010 wins over Grady Brewer and Danny Garcia.
- Keith Thurman, Bastie Samir and Michael Finney all won on the undercard.