Juan Manuel Marquez got up from this third-round knockdown to stop Michael Katsidis in the ninth round Saturday in Las Vegas. Photo / Chris Cozzone-FightWireImages
Juan Manuel Marquez: It’s a joy to watch Marquez fight. The 37-year-old Mexican is all we want our champions to be: skilled, resilient and brave, as he was in his ninth-round knockout of Michael Katsidis on Saturday in Las Vegas. He’s a finely tuned technician who might throw the best combinations of his generation. And his ability to stare down danger is inspiring. A perfect example came in the third round. Marquez was floored – and apparently hurt – by a perfect left hook with about two minutes remaining in the round. He got up, quickly recovered (as he always does) and got the better of Katsidis the rest of the round with a hellacious series of punches. He was awesome in the most-literal sense of the world. Marquez and Manny Pacquiao are the two most-precious gifts in the sport. We should enjoy them while we can.
BIGGEST WINNER IN DEFEAT
Michael Katsidis: Katsidis endured a horrible personal tragedy only about five weeks ago -– the sudden death of his older brother, Stathi –- yet stepped into the ring to do battle with one of the greatest fighters of his or any time. That in itself was proof his uncommon courage. Then he put Marquez through absolute hell for eight-plus rounds of a thrilling brawl, earning further admiration from those who witnessed it. The Aussie failed to win, which is nothing to be ashamed of against Marquez, but demonstrated that he’s a much-improved boxer who could give anyone an extremely tough time. He was asked immediately after the fight whether he thought Stathi would’ve been proud of his effort. Damn right he would have. We have yet to see the best of Katsidis.
Pacquiao-Marquez: The fight everyone wants to see is Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. but it might never happen. The next-best matchup is Pacquiao-Marquez. The two engaged in a pair of fiercely competitive fights in 2004 and 2008, one that ended in a draw and the other in a controversial decision for Pacquiao. In other words, Marquez earned a third fight. And it probably is the most marketable fight outside Pacquiao-Mayweather, with the possible exception being Pacquiao-Shane Mosley. I fear that Pacquiao will turn to Mosley because he perceives it to be an easier fight that will generate more money than a matchup with Marquez. I hope I’m wrong. I hope Pacquiao fights the man who truly deserves the opportunity.
BEST WEIGHT LIMIT
140: Bob Arum reiterated that Pacquiao will fight at 147 pounds no matter who he faces in his next fight. That’s fine if he fights Mayweather or Berto. It’s unfair if he fights Marquez. Of course, fighters who drive promotions as Pacquiao does have a right to dictate terms; that’s how it has always been in boxing. And most fighters try to gain an advantage where they can. Strictly from a competitive perspective, though, Pacquiao-Marquez should be at 140 pounds. That’s Pacquiao’s natural weight. And Marquez probably would be effective at that weight even though he’s more comfortable at 135. Marquez will look like he did against Mayweather if he’s forced to go up too high, slow and sluggish. It wouldn’t be a good fight.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Carl Froch: Froch deserves a tremendous amount of credit for his performance against Arthur Abraham on Saturday in Finland and in the Super Six World Boxing Classic overall. The Englishman was seen by many as a tough, but crude boxer who probably was in over his head in the super middleweight competition. However, he has demonstrated that he’s a very good, clever boxer in addition to his unquestionable toughness. He made Abraham, one of the tournament favorites, look like an amateur during the most-lopsided fight in the competition. I won’t pick him to win the tournament championship –- or even necessarily beat Glen Johnson in his next fight –- but I will no longer be surprised at anything he does.
BIGGEST WINNER III
Andre Ward: The fact the Olympic gold-medal winner beat Sakio Bika on Saturday in Oakland, Calif., is no surprise. Ward has demonstrated unusual ability in victories over Mikkel Kessler and Allan Green. However, if there was any question whatsoever about his toughness going in, there isn’t now. Bika is as physically strong and rough as anyone in the division. Ward withstood the pressure and, like a champion, took control midway through the fight to win going away. Very impressive. Ward strikes me as the kind of fighter who can and will do whatever it takes to win fights. He reportedly injured his left index finger in the fight, which could delay his semifinal bout against Arthur Abraham in the Super Six tournament.
Arthur Abraham: The Germany-based Armenian entered the Super Six World Boxing Classic as one of the most-imposing fighters in the world. Now he can only hope to remain relevant. Abraham stopped a faded Jermain Taylor to open the tournament but has lost two in a row since, a DQ after punching Andre Dirrell while he was down in a fight Dirrell was winning and an embarrassing one-sided boxing lesson against Froch on Saturday. Now he’s scheduled to face Andre Ward in the tournament semifinals. A victory would turn things around for him but that’s very difficult to imagine given his last two performances. If he loses, Abraham will have been a true bust.
BIGGEST LOSER II
Celestino Caballero: Caballero was one of the most-feared lighter-weight men in boxing, an excellent boxer with a powerful punch. Jason Litzau is a capable fighter but was hired to be Caballero’s stepping stone to big-money fights against the top featherweights. Surprise! Caballero, who claimed to be sluggish because of added weight in the junior lightweight bout, seemed to be disinterested while Litzau clearly was inspired. The result: Litzau by split decision in a very entertaining fight. Caballero probably is talented enough to bounce back but, at 34, the clock is ticking. Litzau has now beaten Rocky Juarez and Caballero in succession. He’ll probably never be an elite fighter but he certainly is getting the most out of his considerable ability.
Andre Berto: The welterweight titleholder was hoping to make a statement that would put him a better position to land a lucrative fight with Pacquiao. Mission accomplished. Berto took out limited but tough Freddy Hernandez with one dramatic right hand 2:07 in the first round of his fifth title defense on the Marquez-Katsidis undercard. Hernandez had lost only a split decision in his career. I don’t think Berto would beat Pacquiao because of a talent disparity but he would be a legitimate opponent. He’s young (27), quick handed, undefeated and hungry, qualities that would make for a compelling matchup. That said, I’d much rather see Pacquiao fight Mayweather or Marquez and so would most people.
Giovani Segura: THE RING junior flyweight champion’s eight-round knockout of Manuel Vargas on Saturday in Mexico was lost in the shuffle during a busy weekend. However, his exceptional 2010 should not be overlooked. The powerful Southern California product took the 108-pound title from Ivan Calderon and knocked out all four of his opponents this year. He probably won’t win anyone’s Fighter of the Year because he’s so small but one could argue that he deserves it. Segura has KO’d his last seven opponents since he was outpointed by Cesar Canchila in July of 2008, including a victory over Canchila in a rematch. No fighter is hotter than he is.
Larry Merchant, on Pacquiao’s next opponent (to Yahoo! Sports): “Take a look at the résumés. Marquez is the only guy since the first (Erik) Morales fight to give Pacquiao problems. He actually gave him two great fights. He’s earned it. He’s not a welterweight, but he’s still earned it, and maybe the fight’s at 140 or 141 or 142, something like that. There’s no question he’s earned it. There’s no question that Berto has a very thin résumé, for all the promise he has. I think you solve the whole thing by having Marquez fight Pacquiao and having Berto fight Mosley, who he was willing to fight earlier this year. Then have the winners fight and you settle it in the ring.”