This Saturday's Vernon Forrest/Ike Quartey fight on HBO has been dubbed "Now or Never," of course, which makes enough sense. Both Forrest and Quartey are years removed from significant victories -- Forrest beat (well, dominated) Shane Mosley twice in 2002, and Quartey's prime was nearly a decade ago.
Of course, ask either guy, and it's not now or never. With guys like Carlos Baldomir and Glen Johnson finding themselves late in their careers, there's really no reason that either Quartey or Forrest (or both) couldn't have that same sort of resurgence. Or is there?
The 35-year old Forrest's problem has largely been health, with four surgeries largely sidelining him since his pair of 2003 losses to Ricardo Mayorga. Forrest returned last July to beat Sergio Rios, then came back in October to defeat Elco Garcia. For Quartey, 37 in November, it's just inactivity. After losing a tough split decision against Oscar de la Hoya in February '99, Quartey took a year and two months before fighting a young Fernando Vargas, another loss. Quartey was then out of boxing until January of 2005, when he beat Clint McNeil. He fought twice more last year, beating Verno Phillips and Carlos Bojorquez.
So what can we expect out of Forrest/Quartey? Part of me wishes I knew, but really, I'm intrigued to see these two guys square off at this stage. Both can fight, there's no question about that. At their best, Forrest was probably better, and was once arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world until Mayorga jumped into his head and ended that all before the third round was over in their first contest. These are guys with sterling records, though -- Forrest at 37-2 and Quartey at 37-2-1 -- that have not lost to outright bad fighters. Both of Forrest's losses came against Mayorga, and Quartey lost to Oscar and a younger, hungrier Vargas. So there's no shame in the losses these two have been dealt. Mayorga was simply a bad matchup for Forrest, and Quartey fought tough in both of his defeats.
Now we're here, with both of them looking to get back into contention, a couple of former welterweight champions. But still, I've just got no idea what to expect out of this fight. It's something I could see being a slow, cautious drag, or a fight that could end after five rounds of action, depending on how much both guys truly feel they have to prove, no matter what they say in any interviews.
I am a fan of Vernon Forrest, because when he's on, he's dynamite to watch. The way he handled Shane Mosley in those two fights was outrageous to me at the time, and still is in some ways, because as we've learned this year, Sugar Shane can still fight, and he could damn sure fight then. Is there an underdog here? I don't think so. Even if you consider that it was longer ago that Quartey was considered a top-tier fighter at six years and counting, you have to handicap Vernon a little for his injury history, which haunted him some against Garcia last year, in a fight that was far tougher than it should have been for Forrest, largely due to his arm troubles.
I'm saying this one's basically a pick 'em, and I'm ready to see it go down. Oh, and HBO will be broadcasting a little fight between Kassim Ouma and Sechew Powell. August 5 is a night for premium boxing, with Quartey/Forrest + Ouma/Powell going up against the Marquez brothers on Showtime. It should be a fun night for all boxing fans.
(And give me Forrest via eighth round KO.)