Unification... Will It Work This Time?
By Chris Strait, SocalFightFan (April 7, 2009) DoghouseBoxing.com  
In the wake of Timothy Bradley becoming a two-belt champion in a division, I am reminded of other similar situations in boxing in the last decade. By similar, I mean where two belt holders fought each other to raise awareness in a division where the recognized champion either had another belt, or no belts at all. Sometimes this strategy works. Sometimes it doesn't. A few examples:

When it worked: Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Derrick Gainer (WBA/IBF Featherweight) - After years of being ducked by the big names, this win finally did it. Marquez dominated Gainer, and won a technical decision, which finally made him worth the risk to Manny Pacquiao. This move launched him into fame and accolades as one of the top fighters in the game. I'm sure Manny wishes he hadn't taken the risk, however. For even though he's 1-0-1 in fights against Marquez, the closeness of the matches makes this the one name that people keep mentioning as his archrival. It has to get annoying.

When it didn't work: Leonard Dorin vs. Paul Spadafora (WBA/IBF Lightweight) - 2 TV familiar fighters unifying in one of their backyards, to raise awareness to the star of the division, Floyd Mayweather Jr. While both put on a great show, the fight ended in a draw, which led to the complete ineffectiveness of this unification. Dorin soon lost his title on the scales before a mandatory challenge, then his only loss came in his next fight, via bodypunch against Arturo Gatti. He promptly retired. Spadafora's career was soon derailed by legal troubles, and while he has still not lost, he has barely fought... and against absolutely no one of note. Perhaps if we had a winner in that fight, it would have shined enough dollar signs to keep both fighters focused on the goal.

Jury Still Out: Celestino Caballero vs. Steve Molitor (WBA / IBF Junior Featherweight) - Vasquez and Marquez have the fame, but are not active. Juan Manuel Lopez has all the buzz, but no real challengers. So, these two fought to raise awareness of their names. The hometown fighter again could not pull a win, this time losing by humiliating knockout. Caballero's star is on the rise, but it does not look good for the big names just yet. Vasquez and Marquez remain idle, while Lopez is opting for a safer test against Gerry Panalosa.

If Hatton wins, Bradley may get the call. If Pacquiao wins, no way... at least not yet.

Chris Strait

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