Not much happened in the boxing world over the past week. Thus, using the same format as always, Weekend Review will be devoted primarily to the first in a series of big weekends to close out 2010 – Nov. 5 and 6.
Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez: Lopez has had several important fights in his young career but this is a significant step up, at least potentially. The unbeaten featherweight is poised to become the next Puerto Rican star but must continue to win to claim that distinction. He has generally been spectacular, combining formidable skills with crushing power, but has also shown some vulnerability. Rogers Mtagwa, for example, took him to the brink. Marquez, experienced and extremely powerful, has demonstrated in the past that he has the tools to exploit the weaknesses of any opponent. This fight, this Saturday in Las Vegas on Showtime, is about as intriguing as it gets.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK
Rafael Marquez: How good is Marquez at this point of his career? Impossible to say. He could be anywhere from Top 10 pound for pound to nearly washed up. The problem is that he hasn’t been active. The former two-time titleholder, now 35, has fought only twice in more the 2½ years. He stopped journeyman Jose Francisco Mendoza in May of last year and then did the same this past May to Israel Vazquez, who most agree has nothing left. In other words, Marquez engaged in three taxing battles with Vazquez and proved very little in two subsequent fights. Has he taken too much punishment? Will age have caught up to him? Or does he remain the fierce little warrior with lights-out power? We’ll see on Saturday.
Robert Guerrero It was only 20 months ago, in March of last year, that Guerrero was labeled a quitter by some after he was cut against Daud Yordan and didn’t demand to continue fighting in what turned out to be a two-round no-contest. Since then, he has won four straight, beaten two world-class foes (Malcom Klassen and Joel Casamayor) and won another a major title. No one is talking about the Yordan fight any longer. Guerrero faces perhaps his biggest challenge in former U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo on the Lopez-Marquez undercard. Assuming he wins, and he probably will, we look forward to seeing him face some of the truly big names in the sport.
Vicente Escobedo Escobedo is a well-schooled, tough contender but has yet to realize his apparent potential coming out of the 2004 Olympics. His split-decision loss to Daniel Jimenez in 2006 seemed to shake his confidence. He slowly built momentum before finally earning a significant opportunity against Michael Katsidis in September of last year but lost a split decision. This is a big opportunity for him to get over the hump. If he beats Guerrero, he can look forward to some lucrative matchups. If he loses, observers might start to view him as just another solid prospect who couldn’t quite make it. That’s not to say he wouldn’t get more chances, though. He’s only 28.
Zab Judah: Judah, with help from promoter Kathy Duva, has somehow managed to remake himself into a humble man and a legitimate threat at 140 pounds even though he’s fought only once in the past year and hasn’t beaten an elite opponent in five years. He’ll have to take care of unbeaten Argentine Lucas Matthysse on Saturday in Newark, N.J., to prove that all this is for real. Matthysse is formidable. Still, don’t be surprised if Judah, 33, wins. He always had the physical talent. He just never had his head on straight, a problem he seems to have worked on recently. If he prevails, he’d pose a legitimate threat to any junior welterweight in the world.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK II
Lucas Matthysse: Matthysse’s record looks scary: 27 fights, 27 victories, 25 knockouts. Here’s the problem: 24 of those fights have taken place in Argentina and the remaining three don’t mean much, including a fourth-round TKO over a faded Vivian Harris in February in Mexico. The brother of former contender Walter Matthysse might be a powerful puncher poised to take on the world. Or he might be one of those fighters who built his record and reputation against inferior opposition only to be exposed on the big stage. The Judah fight gives him the opportunity to prove he’s legitimate.
MOST MUST-WIN II
Allan Green: The super middleweight contender, who faces Glen Johnson on the Zab Judah-Lucas Matthysse undercard, looked as if he didn’t show up in his one-sided loss to Andre Ward in a Super Six World Boxing Classic fight in June. He claimed he overtrained. If he fails to beat his 41-year-old opponent on Saturday, which is a realistic possibility, he’s going to have an extremely hard time convincing people that he’s anywhere near as good as he says he is. If he wins, he’ll move into the tournament semifinals and face either Ward again or the winner of the Arthur Abraham-Carl Froch fight, depending on whether he scores a knockout and how that latter fight turns out.
Glen Johnson: Here he is again, making noise at an age when most fighters are deep into their second careers. Johnson was fortunate to receive the opportunity to fight Green after Mikkel Kessler dropped out of the Super Six tournament. After all, he lost to Tavoris Cloud in his last fight and is 3-3 in his last six. However, he had the name recognition and the reputation of coming to fight every time he steps through the ropes. The odds say he’ll come up short against his younger opponent. No one will be shocked if he finds a way to pull off an upset, though. Undoubtedly many boxing fans around the world will be rooting for one of the sports’ great ambassadors.
BIGGEST WINNERS OF PAST WEEKEND
Lemieux, Sylvester, Geale and Zappa: Middleweight David Lemieux surprised no one by stopping Hector Camacho Jr. in one round. The Canadian has fought 24 times. Time to step up his opposition and think about fighting outside Montreal. Sebastian Sylvester easily outpointed capable Mahir Oral to retain his middleweight title, a nice victory. Roman Karmazin, 37, isn’t the fighter he was but he’s still very good and extremely tough. That makes Aussie Daniel Geale’s victory over him – a 12th-round TKO – in a middleweight title eliminator particularly impressive. Unbeaten lightweight Lenny Zappa (Leonardo Zappavigna), another Aussie, passed a meaningful test and earned a title shot by stopping Ji Hoon Kim in the first round.
Ross Greenburg of HBO, to Yahoo! Sports: “Boxing is in a position now where we just have to get the best guys, regardless of what weight class they’re in, and put them in the ring with each other. We’re going to scope out the best fights we can, from 112 on up. If it’s a good fight, we’re at least interested in talking about it. We want to reenergize the sport and help create new stars and you do that by putting the best guys on in compelling fights.”