As deals and desires to fight upper echelon boxers like Miguel Antonio Barrera and Floyd Mayweather fell through in late 2006 into 2007, Joel Casamayor found himself growing a bit bored with a sport he’d engaged in as a pro since 1996. He was 35, and had boxed thousands of rounds in Cuba, and then in the US, after he defected in summer 1996. His mastery of craft wasn’t appreciated, he felt, as he saw himself as worthy of being in the top pound-for-pound mix.
When he looked so uninspired against Jose Armando Santa Cruz at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10, 2007, underneath the Cotto/Mosley main event, people were ready to stick a fork in the Cuban. This was after he drew with Kid Diamond in June 2005. But Casamayor rebounded with a takedown of undefeated Michael Katsidis, a fight some starcrafters were hoping he’d lose. He was past tense, a slickie who ran too much to be a major draw, never destined to be a pay per view attraction. But then he perked up, got reinvigorated, and realized that his opportunity window was open a crack still.
The window is wide open now, for the 37-year-old Casamayor (36-3, 22 KOs, winner of five straight) gets the chance to prove he belongs on P4P lists when he welcomes Juan Manuel Marquez (48-4, 35 KOs, 4-2 in his last six scraps) to the 135 pound class on September 13 at the MGM Grand. The commonly held belief that Casamayor can’t draw will be tested, with the bout being offered on a pay per view basis ($44.95, with the Sergio Mora/Vernon Forrest rematch adding support). No sanctioning body belt will be on the line, but no matter, as real fight fans don’t need a title to signify the worth of boxers they follow.
On a conference call to hype the bout, Casamayor, through an interpreter, explained his resurgence, and admitted that he didn’t get jazzed to fight the little-known Santa Cruz. “This time I am more prepared than ever before,” he said. “This is my first pay per view event, and it is long overdue.”
It makes sense; the 35-year-old JMM elevated himself on P4P lists with two sterling tussles, in 2004 and in March, with Manny Pacquiao. Wins over faded Marco Antonio Barrera and Rocky Juarez kept him relevant, and on Sept. 13, he will see how his skills look five pounds north. Did JMM crave this fight with the counterpunching Cuban? Not so much.
“I wanted a third fight with Pacquiao,” JMM said via interpreter. “I was not happy with Manny’s decision. In the second fight something strange happened with the decision. But Casamayor is the best 135 pounder, and I am happy for the fight. I will prove to the people and myself that I can do better things at the higher weight division. I will get the victory and prove I am good in any division. I will put everything on it, and I am looking forward to fighting bigger fights.”
There are those that worry that Marquez is still too fixated on Pacquiao, and may be looking past Casamayor, which would be disastrous for him. That may well be the case. “Manny fought David Diaz, who is not the top at 135 pound,” he said. “I want to prove I’m the best at 135 pounds.” But, he added, “I’m not trying to win to get a Pacquiao rematch. I’m thinking of Casamayor only. I worry about making it a great fight for the fans, not a rematch.” He showed admirable humility when he admitted that he is not certain how his first 135 outing will go. He might stay at 135, he said, or drop back down if he doesn’t feel fast and strong.
Marquez offered his take on the De La Hoya/Pacquiao Dec. 6 beef. “Everybody is wanting to see it. I support the Mexican, and he’s my promoter. It’s going to be a great fight. But for Pacquiao, maybe it was more for money than boxing.”
The Mexican insists that Casamayor is the best fighter at 135, though fans of Nate Campbell and PacMan would vehemently disagree. Casamayor holds a win (January 2003, UD10) over Campbell, for the record.
Casamayor grew weary hearing up his subpar outing against Santa Cruz. “I am not interested in Santa Cruz stuff,” he snapped. “I hadn’t fought in a year. I don’t want any questions on other fighters, just Manuel Manuel Marquez.”
But he perked up, and went back into sweetness mode. “I feel real happy, like a little kid in a candy shop. I thought it would be Barrera, but it’s Marquez. I’ve been waiting for this shot my whole life.”
One man has one eye trained on unfinished business. The other man insists that he is lasered in on the task at hand on Sept. 13, and is motivated by the desire to show all us experts that he deserves to be seen as P4P material. Who are you leaning towards, TSS Universe?