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Bill Dwyre

A powerful statement by Marquez

September 14, 2008|Bill Dwyre

LAS VEGAS -- Juan Manuel Marquez, one tough Mexican boxer, took out his recent frustrations in spectacular fashion here Saturday night.

Marquez, still smarting from the split-decision loss he was handed in March at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, made the best statement a boxer can make.

In a 135-pound main event at the MGM Grand, against an older, more wily boxer who knows every trick there is and uses them all, Marquez knocked out Joel Casamayor with two incredible punches.

They came in the 11th round of a fight that Marquez had fairly well taken over by the third or fourth round. The first one sent Casamayor falling backward and down on his butt. And the second completed a go-in-for-the-kill barrage after Casamayor got up and made the mistake of attempting to go on.

This time, Casamayor, three years Marquez's senior at 37, went down hard and referee Tony Weeks dived on him to cover him up and make sure there would be no more punches thrown. Casamayor's corner descended on the veteran in concern, but he was OK and eventually walked out of the ring, waving to the fans.

Marquez has fought in the shadow of other Mexican fighters for years, including Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.

And now, at 34, his star is suddenly rising, as it did even after he lost while fighting Pacquiao.

Even Casamayor, who has been fighting on a world-class level since he won a gold medal for Cuba in the 1992 Olympics, appreciated Marquez's skills.

"I fought like a real champion, but Marquez was the best tonight," Casamayor said. "He knew how to control my punches."

Afterward, Marquez talked about the future, about how he had come up in weight to make this fight and how he would be open to fighting anybody at any reasonable weight class.

Casamayor, whose record went to 36-4-1, wasn't quite as certain about the days ahead.

Asked about continuing, he said, at first, that he wanted a rematch and then seemed to back off.

"I'm just very emotional," Casamayor said.

Marquez said, "I wanted to fight for all the Mexican people and I did that. He was the best lightweight in the world, but I was the more intelligent fighter tonight. I knew how to neutralize his left hand."

Not totally. When the fight ended, Marquez's right eye resembled what it looked like after Pacquiao, another left-hander, had fired on it for 12 rounds.

But this time, you should have seen the other guy.

Casamayor had cuts around both eyes and his nose seemed to change shape after several shots on it in the sixth round. Most likely, it was broken, although Casamayor continued with nary a blink.

Before the roundhouse round, Marquez's big 11th, the evening had its share of moments. That's why they call these things boxing "shows."

The semi-main event was a contest between a veteran, Vernon Forrest, and a fighter from East L.A., Sergio Mora, at 154 pounds. Forrest has won multiple titles over the years, but Mora was the champion of the division and sanctioning body they fought for, a body that will not be mentioned here because there are so many of them almost none of them matter.

What was interesting was that Mora had gotten this big fight at least partly on the basis of winning a made-for-TV boxing show, "The Contender."

Mora had won the title in June in Connecticut, but this time, Forrest dominated and said afterward, "You now saw a real champion and a broken contender."

Mora countered, "He's an old guy. I should have won."

Before the main event, they played three national anthems, one from Mexico, one from Cuba and one from the United States. Casamayor entered the ring, draped in a Cuban flag.

Stranger things have taken place in boxing, certainly, but Casamayor hasn't lived in Cuba for 12 years and, as a defector just prior to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, probably isn't welcomed back. He lives in Miami.

In the best fight of the night, until Marquez unleashed two roundhouses in the 11th round of the main event, Oxnard's Victor Ortiz, only 21, won his first pro title, sent his record to 22-1-1 and looked the vastly superior fighter against the champion, Roberto Arrieta of Argentina.

"He was talking to me during the fight," Ortiz said. "He told me I was too young to be the champion. During that round, I dropped him and said, 'Now I'm world champion.' "

This fight card did not have the marquee value of many others, and the attendance was 7,882, or about 2,000 shy of capacity for the boxing setup.

But, in one sensational flurry, Marquez made it worth the money spent by those who did show up.

--

Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. To read previous columns, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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