Saturday night's pay-per-view main event between currently borderline Hall of Fame potentials Joel Casamayor and Juan Manuel Marquez is an intriguing one. Maybe not $44.99 worth of intriguing for most of you (and I don't blame you, either), but it's interesting.
Both men are still tough, skilled, cerebral and sometimes brilliant fighters. They're also guys that leave themselves open a lot these days, either because they're trying to make good fights in their twilight years, or simply because these are, after all, their twilight years, and reflexes are getting a little slower.
For the Cuban Casamayor, a win over Marquez would seal his HoF destiny for me, and I think even with a loss I'd be inclined to vote for him. He was an excellent amateur, winning gold at the 1989 Junior World Championships and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. He's had a brilliant professional career, as inconsistent as he's been at times. If he beats Marquez, I think he's a no-brainer. But that's just me.
As for Marquez, beating Casamayor would give him the legitimate championship at 135 (like it or not, Casa's the champ), meaning he'd be a three-division world titleholder in his career. But outside of the disputed win over Barrera -- which called badly for a rematch that never happened -- he's still yet to notch a career-defining victory. He's beaten lots of good and talented fighters, and you could argue that he has beaten Manny Pacquiao twice, even though his record shows him at 0-1-1 against Manny.
Both of these guys have a lot to lose on Saturday night. A Marquez win could send Casamayor into retirement. He's 37 years old, after all. A Casamayor win could all but eliminate any shot Marquez has at landing a third fight with Pacquiao in the future. And either man winning could give them that fight with Pacquiao down the line, which would be big money. For now, it looks like the winner will likely take on fellow Golden Boy lightweight Juan Diaz.
So how's this one shake out? Let's try to figure it out.
Casamayor has a 61% knockout rate (21 KOs in 36 wins), and Marquez is at 73% (35/48). Still, the difference in their rates is thanks to a lot more creampuffs on Marquez's dossier than can be found on Casamayor's sheet. Joel was fighting for an interim world title at 17-0; it took Marquez 30 fights before he ever challenged for a recognized world title.
Southpaw Casamayor knocked out Michael Katsidis in March, of course, while Marquez last scored a knockout win against a game but very overmatched Jimrex Jaca in 2006.
Since 2003, Casamayor is 8-2-1 with knockouts of Katsidis, Lamont Pearson, Antonio Ramirez and Diego Corrales, though the Corrales stoppage was due to cuts inside of Chico's mouth.
Since 2003, Marquez is 9-2-1 with knockouts of Jaca, Terdsak Jandaeng, Marcos Licona and Manuel Medina. Since beating Jaca down, he's failed to stop Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez or Manny Pacquiao -- no shame in any of those, those are very tough guys with good beards.
What's the call here? The last five years haven't shown us any real difference in the knockout power of these guys, with Casamayor's stoppage of Michael Katsidis the best of the knockout wins between the two. And Katsidis fought that night with reckless abandon, the real knockout punch coming on a left hand he never saw.
Since I think there's no real way to say which guy has more pop, this now comes down to which man is more likely to score a knockout win. Personally, I think we'll hear the judges' scorecards after 12 rounds, but if anyone scores the KO, I'd bet on Casamayor. His punches aren't as straightforward, he's shifty, he's harder to hit, and he's never been knocked out. Marquez has also never been knocked out, but he's been thumped in both fights by Manny Pacquiao, also a lefty that comes in at awkward angles frequently. I figure the man more likely to be caught totally off-guard is Juan Manuel Marquez.
Advantage: Casamayor, ever so slightly
Marquez has never been known for lightning-fast combination punching or anything, but he puts some good stuff together. Casamayor's hand speed was at one time outstanding, though he has slowed a bit as he's gotten older, as everyone does.
Against Katsidis, though, Casamayor looked reborn following his atrocious November 2007 decision gift against Jose Armando Santa Cruz, a fight that I scored 10-2 for Santa Cruz, and that's about as close as anyone besides the three ringside judges had it. In March, Casamayor had some of the old slip-and-slide working for him, popping a tight, possibly nervous Katsidis at will in the early rounds, and then catching him with that crucial and brutal left in the 10th round that began the end of the Aussie slugger.
Marquez looked somewhat slow in March against Pacquiao, even though I had him as a one-point winner. It was more that he looked a little bit slow in comparison to the fast, powerful Pacquiao, who combines speed and sock like nobody else in boxing right now. Still, Juan Manuel is at his best counter-punching, not leading off. And again, that could be said for Casamayor, too -- but Joel fared well taking the initiative against Katsidis, and he could do the same if he presses for it against Marquez.
Yet another area where these men, when on their game, come out similar in their differences. Casamayor uses his elusiveness and slithering style to avoid punches, while Marquez simply does a good job with the fundamentals of thwarting his opponent's attack.
Where I again have to like Casamayor just a bit more than I do Marquez is the fact that Joel, when he doesn't get cocky, can be a defensive genius. Marquez has notably gotten more aggressive as he's aged, which is generally a reverse, and we've seen him whacked down by Pacquiao (three times in the first fight, once in the second) and hurt by Barrera in their fight, knocked down legitimately, which wasn't called. Though Katsidis knocked Casamayor clear out of the ring at one poiint and was hurting him with good blows for a few rounds, it felt like it was more of a case of Casa getting lax and taking his foot off the gas, so to speak. He let himself get overly confident, feeling he could dominate and even embarrass Katsidis. Turned out he couldn't without keeping himself 100% focused.
I doubt we'll see him take any silly risks against Marquez the way he did Katsidis, because Casamayor no doubt has vast respect for his opponent. Casamayor might try to fight aggressively at points, but I doubt he'll get dumb. His slick style of dodging punches is not only effective defensively, but gives him new angles to strike offensively, too.
Both of these guys can take a shot and continue on, but I don't think this one is too close. Again, neither man has ever gone down for the count, and Marquez tends to fall more often in recent years, but he always comes back from it, too. If there are any questions about Marquez's toughness and whiskers, go back and look at the first round against Pacquiao in their first encounter. I think "chin" means more than simply being able to take shots and stay standing. There's a lot to be said for the ability to take shots, drop, and come back strong. Both guys can do it -- Marquez does it better than almost everyone in the sport.
I really do think momentum coming into a fight can be a key factor. We've seen fighters lose their way and go into career tailspins many times. Both of these guys have taken their lumps -- folks questioned Casamayor rightly after the debacle against Santa Cruz, and people wondered pre-Barrera whether Marquez could ever win the big one.
We now know that Marquez is truly among the best the sport has to offer, and Casamayor has been resilient his entire career. When he lost to Freitas, he came back and won four straight, including victories against Campbell and Corrales. When he lost to Corrales in the rematch, his stock dropped when that loss was added up with a close loss to Jose Luis Castillo and a draw against Kid Diamond. Since then, he's won five in a row (including a rubber match victory over Corrales), and with the decisive win over Katsidis, he's as hot as he's been since he beat Corrales four years ago.
Marquez is working on a different kind of momentum. He truly believes he beat Manny Pacquiao in March. Had the scores gone his way that night, we most likely would be calling Juan Manuel Marquez the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in boxing right now, and he'd also probably be gearing up for a third fight with Manny. That's a fight he wants. He knows that he has to beat Casamayor to have a shot at facing Manny next year.
I think Marquez is coming in more motivated, which is not to say Casa is coming in light at all. He has emerged past just the diehards and is now known globally by all boxing fans as one of the best in the world.
Advantage: Marquez, slightly
Roger Bloodworth, chief second for Joel Casamayor, is a very good trainer. He's worked with very good fighters over the years, has been re-hired by Jeff Lacy to kickstart a stalled career, and knows Casamayor inside and out.
But as good as Bloodworth is, Marquez trainer Nacho Beristain is a genius strategist and corner man. Beristain is among the absolute best trainers in the sport. He coaches both of the excellent Marquez brothers, and we know how successful that's been in the ring, if not always when it comes to business decisions or politics. There's a reason that Oscar de la Hoya is looking to Beristain, reportedly, to train him for his December fight with Manny Pacquiao, and it's not just because Beristain has been ringside against Pacquiao on more than one occasion. He's outstanding.
Big Fight Experience
Casamayor has fought everyone that would fight him. Corrales three times, Castillo, Freitas, Campbell, Katsidis, et cetera. He never fought Floyd Mayweather, Jr., because Floyd didn't want to fight Casamayor. That, in my opinion, is one of the great missed matchups of the generation.
Marquez has been in the ring with Pacquiao on two occasions, Barrera, Chris John, Freddie Norwood in his heyday, and Robbie Peden, among others. Both guys have been on the big stage before, and the bright lights and pressure that come with main eventing won't affect them in the slightest. These are veterans, bona fide professionals that know the game from top to bottom.
I'm the kind of cat that likes to work off of facts. I'm a fan of every sport, and while I think there can be such a thing as "clutch," I don't think you can do a whole lot to prove it. I like to deal in facts. I like to be able to point at something as real evidence, as proof.
But combat sports do contain a lot of intangibles. How did training go? Is the fighter's mind elsewhere for any reason? Is the matchup simply not a good one?
Both of these guys are counter-punchers. BLH user Brickhaus pointed out in a comment on an earlier post that the last time each man fought natural counter-punchers, bad things happened. Santa Cruz dominated Casamayor, and John won a disputed decision over Marquez. Neither fight was very exciting.
Still, I can't be convinced that this will be a problem, though it certainly could be. Obviously, someone's going to have to take the leading role in the action. If I had to bet, it'll be Marquez, who has shown more willingness to mix it up of late. Casamayor, though, carries a genuine mean streak that can turn him into a lethal fighter.
With the asterisk meaning they're both 100% and focused, I think Casamayor presents far more stylistic problems for Marquez than Marquez does Casamayor. He's a southpaw, he's extremely awkward, he's got power, he's got speed, he's hard to hit, and he can be absolutely frustrating for his opponent, which can cause even more problems. There's no trickery to Marquez; there is a lot to Casamayor.
That gives us a tally of 4-3-1 in favor of Casamayor, and I think that despite considering Marquez a much better pound-for-pound fighter than I do Joel these days, I'm leaning toward favoring Casamayor just a little bit.
It's the matchup. It's the style problem. It's Casamayor being Casamayor, a hell of a fighter and a very unique one at that. Marquez is no-nonsense, and even if he does lose, will still be an excellent fighter at the end of the day.
But I wouldn't bet a dime on this fight. It's got the potential to be outstanding -- both of these men competed in fights that I think are top three for the year back in March. It could also be a stink bomb if both come out tentative, waiting for the other guy to spark first.
We'll be here with round-by-round coverage and scoring for all y'all that don't want to spend 45 clams on this card. The fact that I'm a fan of both guys got the better of me in the end. Despite some reservations, and hating that pricetag, I'm pretty excited for this fight.