Boxing fans were treated to anything but leftovers this past weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where, once again, the master craftsman that is Juan Manuel Marquez provided another brutal display of pugilistic artistry in stopping the game and spirited Michael Katsidis over nine entertaining rounds. And he stated his case that it's he, not anyone else, that should get the next crack at one Manny Pacquiao.
Let's be clear about this; in no uncertain terms, because of their history (where some believe Pacquiao is 0-2 against Marquez), Marquez’s overall accomplishments and his recent run make him the clear and definitive choice here. Anybody else- short of Floyd Mayweather Jr., of course- is an assault to clear logic and an insult to our intelligence.
Sorry, but blowing out a 10-to-1 underdog isn't making a statement. It's as Chris Rock once so eloquently stated, “doing what you're supposed to do.” Berto did so in knocking out Freddy Hernandez in one round and collecting another annuity check from HBO, courtesy of the other HBO (the Haymon Boxing Organization). His representative, the one that talks to the media does not act like Niccolo Machiavelli, Lou DiBella, will tell you that Berto is ready, willing and able to fight anyone. Well, here's the thing; the fact is, he hasn't. Bottom line, when you look at his flimsy résumé, Berto has fought one legitimate top ten welterweight in Luis Collazo- and he may have lost that fight.
Then you have Shane Mosley.
And the case against him is very simple: Have you seen his last 24 rounds in the ring?
That's all that needs to be said there.
Anyone else getting Pacquiao next, not named Juan Manuel Marquez, is an absolute travesty.
"I don't think Berto or Mosley is a travesty," reasoned HBO's Larry Merchant. "According to people I've talked to in the Pacquiao camp, they think Mosley is still the most dangerous guy out there. That said, I think that beyond a doubt that Marquez earned a right to a third fight. But that doesn't mean that Berto at some point and Mosley, even though he's 75 or 80-percent of what he was, that percent is still dangerous- not just to me- according to people around Pacquiao."
Point taken but then, what are people around Pacquiao's inner circle really going to tell guys like Merchant? “Well, geez, Mosley is more faded than my old blue jeans but he's still the biggest name out there who represents the smallest risk. And if he leaves Golden Boy and we can keep this in-house (again), even better.”?
So if Merchant had his druthers, who would he like to see face Pacquiao next?
Uh, excuse me, Lar’? As John McEnroe once famously shouted to a line judge- you can NOT be serious.
He explained, "Because he's 20 years old, strong and has a chance to make $20 million and blow up the world and he's a great young fighter. But that's not going to happen in the next fight; we know that. I have no quarrel with the notion that Marquez should make money, sure. But can he win the fight? That I am not so sure, that he's got a serious chance to beat Pacquiao- who's already knocked him down four times at lower weights."
That's all true but over the course of 24 rounds that they have been in there together, there is no clear, dominant winner between the two. Yes, Pacquiao has sent Marquez to the canvas numerous times but it could be argued that the majority of those rounds have been won by the counterpuncher from Mexico City.
But Marquez really stated his case once again with another sterling performance in turning away another younger, passionate foe in Katsidis, who decked him in the third stanza with a booming left hook, that wobbled Marquez’s legs. But in true form, Marquez battled back to perhaps make it the best round of 2010.
"It was a tough fight, a very good fight," he said at the post-fight presser. "I was surprised in the third round but I'm a true warrior and I came back to win the fight and I feel I deserve a third fight with Pacquiao."
Katsidis on this night was like a bull that consistently came out charging as if he had seen red. Marquez, the masterful matador, who, when not evading his rushes, gored the tough Aussie early on with an assortment of left hooks, downstairs. Then, as the rounds went on, the Mexican started to surgically dissect Katsidis with exquisitely placed uppercuts. While Katsidis’ punches were heaving and thudding, Marquez's were laced with precision and execution.
As Katsidis finally took his first steps of retrieval in the ninth, he was spared from going out on his own shield from referee Kenny Bayless, who did the prudent thing in rescuing Katsidis from himself.
In what will be a contender for the best bout of 2010, Marquez again painted another masterpiece. He is the Picasso of prizefighting, who does his work on a 20’-by-20’ stretch of canvas. This is why he absolutely deserves another shot at Pacquiao for not only his history with the man but the fact he consistently delivers for the fans. At any weight, Pacquiao-Marquez III will bring compelling action; that much is assured.
Sporting a t-shirt that read, “Marquez Beat Pacquiao Twice” (and read “Your Next” on the back. Hey, these shirts weren't going to be graded by an English teacher), Marquez made his preference clear; "I know there are other fighters out there who are good fighters who are deserving to fight me but I feel that, without a doubt, I made my claim and I deserve a third fight with Manny Pacquiao. And he keeps coming up with excuses why not to fight me. So I think [Golden Boy CEO] Richard [Schaefer] and everyone at Golden Boy will do their best to get me that third fight."
Speaking through Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker, Eric Gomez, Marquez addressed the issue of the size disparity that now exists between him and his Filipino rival.
"When he fought Margarito, he made 144; we can do a catchweight, 142 or even 140. I'm sure he can make the weight- unless he's scared. "Later on, he added, "I think they're just trying to come up with another excuse to not make this fight. I think that the fans deserve it; the Mexicans deserve it; all the Filipinos deserve it. Let's make this fight."
So to all the growing numbers of fans who bemoan the catchweight, well, get over it. A Pacquiao-Marquez rubber match at an amenable weight for both parties is one the best fights that can currently be made in boxing.
"Let’s face it; I've never made 147. I've fought as a welterweight; I fought at 145, 144; I've never made [the official welterweight limit]," said Marquez, referencing his bout with Floyd Mayweather, eventually fought at a Floyd-weight. "It's just an excuse; it's just going to be an excuse to get away from the fight but I think it would be too much to accept it at 147. Let's make a catchweight."
Pacquiao, being who he is, has choices. He is the straw that stirs the drink. Marquez really doesn't have that leverage. He realizes this. But his number one priority is a third installment of this entertaining series. "Obviously, that's my priority; I want to fight Manny Pacquiao and if another excuse comes up, then we'll see," he said. "Maybe an Erik Morales, he's making a comeback; he's been winning. I'll go up to 140, no problem for me. But stop making excuses, Manny; fight me."
There really is no argument; Marquez has a much better dossier than Berto; his recent track record and performance is far superior to Mosley and he's got a bigger fan base than either. There should be a public mandate to make Pacquiao-Marquez III a reality.
"No question about it," stated Schaefer. "I mean, how can anyone even ask that question? That's what it should be. You heard the fans in the arena; you ask the fans who they want to see. They're going to tell you they want to see Pacquiao-Mayweather. If they're not going to get Pacquiao-Mayweather, no question about it, they want to see Pacquiao-Marquez."
Now, it's no secret that Golden Boy and Top Rank aren't exactly breaking bread together these days but Schaefer says that he will do everything in his power, on his end, to make this come to fruition.
"I give you my word."
It was like old times at the Rouge at the MGM Grand as I sat with my old colleague Doug Fischer and the two biggest Marquez fans on Earth, Darryl and Kirk, smoking cigars and drinking, talking about boxing. We were joined by Sean Sullivan of Boxing Digest, who ordered, of all things, a Sprite (Some Irishman he is, huh?).
Doug made the comment that covering a Marquez fight and writing about them were great honors, as if he was given the opportunity to chronicle the history of an all-time great boxer. This is precisely why, for the past decade, Darryl and Kirk have gone on pilgrimages to see Marquez fight all across the country and even had flights booked for Indonesia for the original date of his fight versus Chris John.
We started to discuss where Marquez ranked among the all-time great Mexicans. As far as I'm concerned, he surpassed his compatriots, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, a couple of years ago. But we came to the conclusion that right now, he is second behind the Babe Ruth of Mexicans, the incomparable Julio Cesar Chavez. I brought up Salvador Sanchez but the consensus was that it was hard to give him that stature because his career was tragically cut short.
I'll say this for Marquez; unlike those aforementioned great Mexican fighters, Marquez had a much stronger and glory-filled back end of his career. While those other standouts hit a certain wall in their mid-30s, Marquez just keeps peeling back more layers and shows us time and time again that, while we always knew he was the ultimate stylist as a younger fighter, he has even more substance as he reaches the sunset of his Hall of Fame career.
For so long Marquez was overshadowed, under-promoted and mismanaged for much of his career. Even this past weekend, under 5,000 patrons showed up to watch his fight live but those who did were treated to something special again.
There is no denying this man’s greatness in the squared circle.
Well, I guess the simplest and perhaps crudest way to describe what Celestino Caballero did this past weekend in his upset loss to Jason Litzau was to say that he shat the bed. But he didn't just lose this fight (as a 15-1 favorite), he also lost out on any possibility of ever facing the likes of Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
From being the avoided one at 126-130, Caballero is now the “voided one.”
With his listless performance (which was foreshadowed as he failed to make the 130-pound weight limit on Friday afternoon), Caballero has now become just an afterthought. As for Litzau, my hats off; I, like most everyone else, gave him no shot of pulling the upset. But this guy, who has been through his share of ups and downs in his career, fought with the sense of passion and urgency his opponent lacked.
Litzau, who had a productive 2010, with wins versus Rocky Juarez and Caballero, earned himself another payday.
Speaking of bad predictions, I couldn't have been more wrong about Carl Froch's whitewash of Arthur Abraham. I can't wait to see Froch-Glen Johnson...I think Nate Campbell's career may have come to an end, as he was beat in an eight-rounder by journeyman Walter Estrada on Saturday night at the MGM Grand...I saw this tweet from @MottaEspn as I walked into my office in Montebello on Sunday afternoon: "It looks like Chavez Jr. vs. Wolak might be off due to flu that has bothered Chavez Jr. He hasn't trained since Thursday. It's not official." Well, I called Bob Arum shortly thereafter and he told me that while Jr. had gotten ill, he had recovered and the fight would go on this Saturday in Anaheim. Again, I'm just repeating what I was told. This could change. No need to kill the messenger...So did anyone score the Andre Johnson-Cortland Finnegan round 10-8 for Johnson?...Did you ever think you'd see a day when a Nick Saban-led squad would blow a 24-0 lead at home?...Well, Miami fired Randy Shannon as their head coach. But that's only step one. Who do they get? My first choice would be Dan Mullen, who's done a nice job at Mississippi State. If you want to be bold, I'd get Gus Malzahn. But is Chris Petersen of Boise State a possibility?....