Monday, March 2, 2009

Boxing is dead?

I am sure you have seen the talking heads screaming that boxing is dead and will never recover. They tell you the heavyweight division is garbage and nobody cares anymore. While the first part of that may in fact be true, the second needs to be reevaluated. Part of the problem is the people talking and writing these things are not boxing fans, but just casual observers spewing out what everyone else is saying. MMA may be on the verge of taking over, but boxing isn't going down for the count. It is here to stay and after a thunderous 08, 2009 is trying to go punch for punch.

Case in point, Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez versus Juan Diaz for the lightweight title. A matchup that promised fireworks on paper, Number 1 and Number 2 inside the ring. A veteran counter puncher in the 16th year of his career and an up and coming young bull who loves to pressure. Sometimes when things appear too good on paper they end up disappointing on fight night.

This battle did no such thing.

Juan Diaz, fighting in front of his hometown in Houston, came out and applied the pressure from the opening bell. Marquez was back pedalling looking for that counter hook that he just could not find early. The first four rounds had Diaz backing Marquez into the ropes, looking like the stronger, faster fighter. Diaz even opened up Marquez in the fifth, but the tides would soon change.

This match had everything you could ask for, a fast pace, no clinching and blood. Oh yes there will be blood.

Marquez answered his 5th round cut, by opening up Diaz in the 8th in a similar fashion to the way Nate Campbell had the previous fight. The veteran was landing with the more flush and harder cleaner shots and Diaz was in trouble.

The middle rounds saw Marquez turn it on leading up to the climatic ending in the 9th. The blood was flowing into Diaz's eye and Marquez left was following right behind. Marquez hit him with a flurry that wobbled the "Baby Bull" and eventually put him down to the canvas.

The end was near. Diaz got back to his feet, but he was in trouble. There was no clinching to survive the round, he was going down swinging and Marquez hit him with a brutal uppercut that left Diaz crumpled in a heap, in the center of the ring.

The first time I noticed the ref in the ring was when he waved his arms to signal it was all over. That is when you know you are watching something special, when you forget the referee was even in the ring until the knockout. Fight of the year has already been decided, but if it hasn't I can't wait for the fight that tops this.

How close was this fight before the knockout? One judge had it a draw, one had Diaz up 77-75 and the third judge had Marquez up 77-75. In other words, this was one hell of a scrap.

Juan Manuel Marquez surprisingly did not call out Manny Pacquiao the man who he had two controversial battles with, but Floyd Mayweather, the retired pound for pound best in the business. With Pac Man already fighting Ricky Hatton, it makes sense. No one really believes Floyd is done fighting and after Saturday night, what a time for him to make his "comeback".

On this night, Marquez showed the world that Boxing is alive and well and so is his career.

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