1. All hail the new lightweight king!
By knocking out Casamayor, Juan Manuel Marquez accomplished several things at once. First off, he became the first man to ever stop Casamayor, and it's not like Joel hasn't ever been in there with guys that could finish a fight.
Secondly, he showed again that at 35, his manner of "has slowed down some" isn't exactly bothersome. He is still a world-class fighter in every respect and one of the three best, pound-for-pound, in the sport today.
Third, and most important, he took Casamayor's legitimate, lineal, Ring Magazine lightweight championship. Marquez is the man at 135 -- not Pacquiao, not Campbell, not anyone else. It's Juan Manuel Marquez. To be THE lightweight champion, you have to beat Marquez.
I am one of the few that actually likes Casamayor. I've always liked watching him fight, I like his genuine mean streak, I like his style in the ring. I'm just a fan of his. And I thought he fought as well as he could last night, but that Marquez was just the better man. I had the fight scored close (96-95 for Marquez at the time of stoppage), but I also noted during the bout that the only rounds that were clearly in one man's favor all belonged to Marquez. Casamayor never dominated a round, though I thought he won his share.
The fight stats tell you that Marquez was clearly winning, though they were padded a bit by those rounds where he smoked Joel. Joel did win rounds, and it was a very competitive fight. The spectacular finish secured this as a memorable bout.
But while I like Casamayor, I did hate having to always almost cattle prod my way into noting time and again that he was THE lightweight champion. He won a great fight against Michael Katsidis in March, and his performance was highly respectable last night, too. But neither erases the nasty stink of his gift decision win over Jose Armando Santa Cruz last November, and that wasn't going to go away. With Marquez, there's no controversy, there's no debate. He's the lightweight champion. Fact. Plain and simple.
2. So what's next?
I'd bet good money that we'll see Marquez make a defense against Juan Diaz in early 2009, as both fighters are Golden Boy-controlled and the fight is very attractive on paper. That'd be a good one, but then again I think just about any fight those two have should be a good one, so that's kind of a no-brainer. After beating Katsidis on September 6, Diaz was rumored to be in line for the winner of last night's fight. It seems like an easy situation to manage, and should probably go forward. Hopefully they don't think it's a 45-dollar pay-per-view next time.
As for Casamayor...? I do think he can still fight at a very high level, and I'd keep him at the back end of the division's top five after last night. (I'm going to update the lightweight rankings later, so there's a spoiler.)
That said, he should strongly consider retirement so long as he's financially secure. It seems like it takes a big fight to motivate him, and right now there just might not be any of those out there, unless he wants to try to make something happen with Nate Campbell, which might not be so easy to do now that Casamayor doesn't bring a whole lot to the table other than a revenge story for Nate. Casamayor should go to the Hall of Fame, or he's borderline at the least. But he's also 37, has no title, and has never been a draw. He doesn't have that many fans, frankly.
The older he gets, the closer he comes to fully losing what he's great at, which is counter-punching out of being exceptionally elusive. He had SOME of that last night, but he also got tagged with a lot of punches that the younger Casamayor avoids. An in-prime Casamayor could have fairly easily beaten the Juan Manuel Marquez of last night, I think. Marquez was straightforward, threw good combinations, but also left himself open enough that a peak years "El Cepillo" would've smacked him around more than the 37-year version did. That's not to discount Marquez's greatness or question him in any way; it's merely saying that Joel, good as he still can be, has definitely slipped. Walking away from the sport a proud loser against a great fighter would be no shame.
3. Speaking of shame, Joan Guzman ought to have plenty of it today
Last night was supposed to be a banner night for the lightweight division. Casamayor and Marquez held up their end of the bargain in Las Vegas, and Biloxi, Miss., was to play host to a three-title bout between WBA/WBO/IBF titlist Nate Campbell and rival Joan Guzman, who like Marquez was stepping up from 130 pounds.
It might not seem like the biggest deal ever, but the unprofessionalism shown by Joan Guzman is absolutely deplorable for a number of reasons. There is literally no reason he shouldn't have been able to make 135 pounds. He's had weight issues in the past, but come on -- at what division does it stop, you know? We don't need another Jose Luis Castillo. Coming in three and a half pounds over the limit, Campbell would've been absolutely justified in saying, "No deal. Fight's off." That's the exact weight differential in the exact class that allowed Castillo to beat the crap out of Diego Corrales in their second fight. It IS a big deal.
But Campbell was willing to go out there in a non-title matchup, which would at least have given the Biloxi fans an event that they'd paid to see. Instead, with the fight cancelled because of doctors advising Guzman not to risk it, everyone is ripped off. Showtime is ripped off, the promoters are ripped off, Campbell is ripped off, the fans of Biloxi are ripped off, and the general boxing public that largely planned to watch that fight instead of a $45 pay-per-view are ripped off, too.
When I say Campbell was ripped off, I don't mean monetarily. He will get his purse. This isn't his fault. But Campbell took time away from his family to work his ass off to prepare for this fight, and it was for nothing. Nate could've fight any number of other guys, but he chose a fight with Guzman because Guzman's a good fighter, a legitimate challenger, and it's a fight people wanted to see.
Joan Guzman did the sport of boxing a disservice yesterday. You've got a few thousand more fans in Mississippi that now will be going, "Jeez, boxing sucks, this guy didn't even show up." Last-minute cancellations are disastrous. Guzman has cost a lot of people a lot of money with this. He and his team gave no prior warning that their man was having trouble making weight, as Jorge Barrios and his team did the week before when their guy was struggling to get down to 130 against Rocky Juarez. That was the right way to handle it. This was exactly the wrong way.
As talented as he is, Guzman all but blackballed himself. He's going to be fined and suspended in Mississippi, and that suspension will be effective all over the United States. He's not a name fighter to begin with -- we know him, but we know a lot of fighters that most people have never heard of. He's inactive, he's got only a couple of big wins, and he's no box office draw at all. The major networks are not going to rush to commit to this guy again considering how little he brings to the table business-wise. It's a shame, because he can really fight. But he did this to himself.
4. No MORA that, huh?
Sergio Mora suffered his first career defeat, an unquestionable manhandling loss to Vernon Forrest in their "anticipated" rematch. Forrest won by wide scores of 119-108, 118-109 and 117-110. Mora was never really in the fight. Vernon had his number, was obviously in shape this time, and clearly studied video. The best thing might be that we won't get any of those play on words Mora headlines any time soon, for which I'm thankful. Thanks, Vernon!
This should end Mora's time as a big money fighter, pretty much as soon as it starts. He's not untalented, but if a guy is able to find a home for some offense against his herky-jerky defense, his lack of ANY power just neuters him, more or less.
The loss will probably see Mora go back up to 160 pounds, since he had trouble making 154 this time. The story of his career, I expect, will be that he had one good night against someone else's bad night. Clearly, when Forrest was on-point, Mora was no match for him. It was a man fighting a boy.
5. Let's talk retirement again
21-year old Julio Garcia lost to journeyman Danny Perez, who had fought just one, six-round bout in the last three years. But that's not the real story. Things like this happen, as Garcia proved before when he lost to Troy Browning, a guy who had fought just twice after EIGHT years out of the ring.
Maybe Garcia simply can't beat aged fighters that take long breaks. More likely, though, there's something deeper about Garcia that everyone involved with his career needs to look at. He never looked like he wanted to be in the ring last night. He has major power, but never displayed it, and was very content to eat punch after punch from Perez, whose sloppy, pop-less attacks would have probably gotten him wasted against a fighter that gave a damn about fighting.
Garcia should really think about whether or not he wants to fight, because if he doesn't, a dangerous fighter could hurt him.
6. That's peculiar advice
After the first round, trainer Nacho Beristain told Juan Manuel Marquez something to the effect of, "Give him the first couple of rounds, then you can take over." Marquez didn't roll over for Casamayor or anything, but I did score the first for Joel and the second a 10-10 draw. And Marquez did take over. Maybe Nacho is a mad genius.
7. Really, Golden Boy? REALLY?
Highlighting the pay-per-view festivities last night was a special celebrity host. You think, "Hey, whatever. Boxing? Vegas? Who's gonna host this? Let's find the right guy!"
A.C. Slater, Golden Boy? REALLY?
This is a gross miscalculation of the type of celebrities that boxing fans might want to see. The super dolled-up, fake-smiling Mario Lopez does not fall into that group. While talking to Paulie Malignaggi between fights, he called Malignaggi's May rematch with Lovemore N'dou a great fight, something even Paulie didn't agree with.
There's hype and salesmanship, and then there's just being dumb and terribly phony. Mario Lopez might consider himself a big boxing fan, but he's not the level of boxing fan that needs to be on TV talking about it, if last night is any evidence.
Maybe this is the machismo of the boxing fan talking, but I just don't want to see pretty boy Mario Lopez from Dancing with the Stars on my boxing broadcasts. He was atrocious.
8. More on the pay-per-view
I enjoyed the main event, but the pay-per-view was terrible, and not worth anywhere near $44.99. For anyone that ever wants to slam HBO or Showtime broadcasts in the future, I once again implore you to give a Top Rank or Golden Boy-produced event a try. The difference is night and day, like going from ESPN to your regional Fox Sports Net.
The camera men had awkward angles, which made the building look very strange. Again, Mario Lopez was there. The video blipped out on two occasions. They had several audio problems, particularly early on. The commentary was fine, though they did seem biased for Marquez in the main event and there just aren't many guys that can call a big fight like Jim Lampley or Steve Albert.
For nearly 50 dollars, boxing fans should be rewarded with a little bit more than a non-fight (Garcia-Perez), a gross mismatch (Ortiz-Arrieta) and an uneventful rematch no one wanted to see in the first place. When you've got the production values of HBO, you can get away with lackluster undercards and good main events. But when you don't, you need to deliver more action than Golden Boy did last night, because there's no shine being put on the turds.
9. Where does Tim Bradley go now?
Timothy Bradley won a dominant unanimous decision in what wound up being Showtime's main event and only fight of the night, retaining the WBC junior welterweight title against Edner Cherry.
So what next for Bradley? Hatton and Malignaggi are busy. Andreas Kotelnik will fight Dmitriy Salita next, it appears. At 25 years old and with a 23-0 record, Bradley could perhaps try to unify with fellow American and WBO titlist Kendall Holt, though Holt may face Ricardo Torres for a third time. Victor Ortiz is out there and knocking on the door of contention, too. Veteran puncher Randall Bailey is always around. Junior Witter would undoubtedly love a rematch.
Bradley's in a position sort of similar to that of Andre Berto. He's young and good, but matching him up isn't going to be easy. Despite the world title, he's still at that stage where the promoters are still going to want to protect him a little bit. Lucky for Bradley, there's no one at 140 that would overwhelm him. Let's not forget that Witter was the undisputed No. 2 in the division.
10. Nate Campbell: Quality Dude
Let's give Nate Campbell even more credit. Not only was he willing to fight Guzman despite the weight issue, but when the fight was called off, he still made himself available to the fight fans in Biloxi, offering to hang out in the lobby and chat, sign autographs, whatever. In an age where boxers don't much interact with the public, this three-body lightweight titlist is a man of the people. Good on ya, Nate. Hope you get a good fight soon, because we're all looking forward to seeing you in the ring again.