Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who said boxing was dead?

With a slow weekend of MMA, my focus this week turns to boxing where even when the UFC had a couple of events this month, boxing stood strong and shined brightly. With four weekends in a row of exciting high profile fights, boxing has proven it still has a lot of fight left in it. Who said boxing was dead?

Last night's exciting bout between WBA/WBO lightweight (135 lbs.) champion Juan Manuel Marquez (52-5, 8 KO's) and dangerous Michael Katsidis (27-3, 22 KO's), where Marquez won via a ninth round TKO, was just the latest in a month that has brought us many boxing thrills.

It all started on November 6, when Marquez's younger brother Rafael, he himself a former multi-weight champion, stepped up in weight and competition to challenge WBO featherweight (126 lbs.) champion Juan Manuel Lopez. The result, an action packed eight round war that finally took its toll on the younger Marquez who couldn't answer the bell for the ninth round. That fight was also the latest installment in the famed Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry in boxing.

The following weekend on November 13, it was the return of arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world and easily the sports most marketable and recognized figure Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao. I only say "arguably the best pound or pound" because of the great Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. However, with Mayweather's inactivity, it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to lay any claim to that title.

Regardless, Pacquiao stepped up to the plate once again, taking on a larger opponent in former multi-weight champion Antonio Margarito. Fighting for a record eighth title in a different weight class, albeit both fighters were considerably under the light middleweight limit of 154 lbs., Pacquiao once again showed his dominance as he pummeled Margarito over twelve rounds. At that moment, there was no question that the big money draw in boxing right now is Pacquiao; thus the reason the last couple of weekends were to answer who would or could be next for the Pacman?

Last weekend it was another 'catchweight' fight, this time in the middleweight (160 lbs.) division, between WBC/WBO middleweight champion Sergio 'Maravilla' Martinez and former multi-weight champion Paul 'The Punisher' Williams. Ironically, for Williams, Martinez finished him in devastating fashion with a "punishing" one-punch knockout in the second round. That one punch, not only redeemed Martinez for a questionable split-decision loss to Williams one year earlier, but posed the question, "is he too big to fight Manny Pacquiao?"

While he was not opposed to the idea, even Martinez admitted, it would have to be at a weight probably not commensurate for Pacquiao to even consider; which brings us to last night's Marquez/Katsidis fight. With Marquez's convincing finish, although he was dropped in the third round by a Katsidis punch, it looks like a possible third fight between he and the Pacman may be the next logical step.

The first two fights were legendary, the first ending in a draw and the second in a disputed split decision win for Pacquiao. While those fights were fought at super featherweight (130 lbs.), both men are older and larger now. Marquez went up to welterweight (147 lbs.) to fight Mayweather and was no match for 'Money', especially at that weight. Also, Pacquiao admitted that in his win over Margarito he may have gone as high as he can go as far as challenging himself against larger opponents. Thus, at super lightweight/junior welterweight (140 lbs.) the fight would be a perfect match for both.

While those name fighters jockey for position against the cash cow Pacquiao, there are young stars in boxing such as welterweight champion Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KO's) and junior welterweight champion Amir 'King' Khan (23-1, 17 KO's), who are also trying to make their way towards the pound for pound best. Berto showed himself last night in a first round destruction of a game, but over matched Freddy Hernandez and Khan will display his skills in two weeks when he is featured on HBO against contender Marcos Maidana.

Whatever the case, boxing has come on strong at the end of this year as we head into 2011. My only concern is whether or not it can, or more importantly, will sustain this momentum heading into the New Year. Boxing has shown a propensity in the last few years, especially in the wake of MMA's emergence, to disappear and fall short of the call for meaningful fights. They are finally answering that call and doing it in a big and positive way; let's hope it continues. Who said boxing was dead?

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