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Joel Casamayor: “Time For War”

BY David A. Avila ON March 20, 2008
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CABAZON, CALIF.-The world is not enough for Joel “El Cepillo” Casamayor.

Yes, he holds the Ring Magazine lightweight world championship and yes, his only losses were controversial, but the Cuban expatriate wants more. Much more.

Cuba’s ultimate boxer Casamayor plans to rebound from a dismal showing when he faces Australia’s warrior prince Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20 KOs) at Morongo Casino Spa and Resort on Saturday, March 22. The fight will be shown on HBO’s Boxing After Dark.

“No more talking,” said Casamayor (35-3-1, 21 KOs). “It’s time for war.”

Talk is all Casamayor heard following his split-decision win over Jose Armando Santa Cruz at Madison Square Garden last November. Many felt the Cuban was soundly beaten, but two judges blew that one.

“I tell you with everything in my soul, I won that fight,” said Casamayor, whose three losses were to Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo and Acelino Freitas. “No matter what, I know in my heart I really won that fight.”

Casamayor gives full credit to Santa Cruz’s performance that pushed him all 12 rounds and made him look lackadaisical at times. But now he feels obligated to explain his mediocre performance.

“I hadn’t fought in 13 months and then I fought this guy with long arms who punched a lot,” explained Casamayor. “Plus, we had sparred before and he knows my style very well.”

Rust was the Cuban’s excuse. But can the rust be brushed off at age 36?

El Cepillo, which means a hairbrush and relates to his ability to shoeshine opponents with punches, hasn’t been able to dominate since moving up to lightweight. But he insists that last version is not the true image.

“People will see the old El Cepillo,” Casamayor says. “Expect a war.”

For the past 60 years Cuba has exported a ton of talented boxers including Kid Gavilan, Sugar Ramos and Luis Hernandez. That’s the style that’s been molded over and over again by the Cuban boxing factory.

Casamayor is dying to prove he belongs in that lofty company. Plus, holding the linear version of the lightweight title he won from the late Diego Corrales is not enough. He wants all of the lightweight titles.

“I am the best lightweight in the world,” Casamayor says.

During the press conference on Thursday, both fighters greeted each other, but no words were exchanged. Casamayor is treating this fight like his first pro fight. He wants to erase the stigma of last year.

“We’ve been working hard,” said Roger Bloodworth, who prepared the Cuban southpaw in Arizona. “He’s more than ready.”

Katsidis ready too

Australia’s Katsidis smiles at the opportunity.

"It’s a great thing and a very exciting night for me,” said Katsidis at the press conference on Thursday. “It’s time to get in there and do what I’m supposed to do.”

And what Katsidis does best is attack, attack, attack.

“This is why I fight, to test myself against the best boxers in the world,” said Katsidis. “I’m in heaven.”

The Aussie from Toowoomba, Queensland has been a virtual vagabond while fighting in England and the U.S.

“If I’m going to be famous I have to fight in places like the U.S. or England where boxing is popular,” Katsidis, 27, said. “You can’t fight someone like Joel Casamayor in Australia. You have to come to this country to do that. And I want to fight the best.”

From the time he landed on American shores he’s accepted every fight tossed at him. Katsidis wants to let no opportunity pass him by including a fight against WBO junior lightweight titleholder Joan Guzman that was canceled when that fighter was injured.

Thomas Brandon Smith, who trains Katsidis, said they’ve been traveling the world in preparation for this fight.

“We spent four weeks in Thailand then moved on to L.A. for six weeks,” said Smith who’s trained Katsidis for 16 years. “We got no excuses.”

Katsidis merely smiles and waves. No more talking.

“All my life I’ve wanted to test myself against the best,” Katsidis says. “No time to waste.”

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