Monday, March 17, 2008

King of the Featherweights

Pacquiao-Marquez: Clash for the King of the Featherweights

COPIeD BY JIM: At this time last year, how many people would have thought that the glamour fight in the featherweight division would be a battle between Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and not the rubber match between Mexican rivals, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. The former takes place Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It will be a battle for the unified WBA and IBF championship. Hard punching super prospect Miguel Cotto inches closer to a future title as he takes on replacement the knockout artist, Lovemore N’Dou in a 140 pound fight.

Marquez, 30 years old, is the reigning and defending WBA and IBF champ. After losing his pro debut by a disqualification loss, the Mexico City native racked up 29 straight victories before losing a unanimous decision to Freddie Norwood for the WBA featherweight belt. After that setback, Marquez went on to win another 9 in a row including a 10th round TKO over Robbie Peden. Marquez won the vacant IBF featherweight belt when he systematically took apart Manuel Medina by way of a 7th round TKO. After a non title bout, Marquez won a 7th round technical decision over Derrick Gainer when an accidental headbutt mercifully stopped this horrible fight as Gainer was basically running, looking like school child, and not throwing any punches. Marquez brings a record of 42-2 (33) and is 2-1(2) in championship fights.

Pacquiao is as big a star in his native Philippines as that country has. The 25 year old is an all action fighter, who has been a pro since the age of 16, and has a record of 38-2 -1 with 30 big knockouts. He won the WBC flyweight title in December 1998 with a stunning come from behind 8th round TKO over Chartchai Sasakul. He defended that title one time with a 4th round stoppage of Gabriel Mira. In Pacquiao’s next fight, he did not train properly and was overweight at the weigh-in and subsequently was knocked out in the 3rd round by Medgoen Singsurat. He skipped bantamweight altogether and moved up to 122 pounds, where he stunned Lehlo Ledwaba in June, 2001 to capture the IBF title. The southpaw made 4 defenses of that crown that included a sport on the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis undercard, where he knocked out Jorge Julio in 2 rounds. During that title reign, he tried to unify his IBF title with WBO champ Agapito Sanchez, but two Sanchez headbutts opened up a nasty cut on Pacquiao’s face and the doctor had to stop the fight causing a technical draw. Pacquiao gave up his belts to go for big glory and fight the "King of the Featherweights" the great Marco Antonio Barrera. In a shocking display of hand speed Pacquio jumped on and smothered the classy Barrera. Pacqiao sent Barrera down 3 times including in the 1st round. Finally in the 11th Barrera’s corner stepped in and stopped their fighter from further punishment. Pacquiao won every round. His record 7-1-1 (7) in world tile fights.

This has potential fight of the year written all over it. Marquez is one of the most versatile fighters in the world. He can come foreward and is a textbook counter puncher. On the other hand, Pacquiao is a straight ahead volume puncher that is 2nd to none. I fully expect Pacquiao to come right after Marquez once the opening bell rings and test Marquez mettle This is similar to facing an all out basketball press, that is very hard to simulate in training. Not only will he be right in Marquez* chest but he will throwing hard power shots. This could be a mini Hagler/Hearns fight, and if that happens Pacquiao further climbs the ranks as one of the best fighters in the world. I fully expect that to be the case as Pacquiao gets a mid round KO.

Cotto, has been nothing short of spectacular as a pro. He is undefeated with a record of 19-0 (16). The comparisons to fellow Puerto Rican star Felix Trinidad are endless. Cotto, at 23, gets better with each bout, seemingly adding something new in each contest. He is coming off a battering of former world title contender Victoriano Sosa in February. He currently rides a 7 fight knockout streak.

N’Dou has been extremely active this year. He has had 3 fights since February alone. The 1st fight was maybe his best effort as a pro, when he lost a close 12 round decision to the streaking Sharmba Mitchell. Some ringsiders thought that fight could have been a draw, as he pressed the slick southpaw for much of the fight. Since then, 32 year old, South African has had 2 quick knockouts over non discript competition. He brings a record 38-6-1 (24).

The seems like another good showing for Cotto, but he will be facing a formidable puncher in N’Dou, and if he isn’t careful, he will likely get knocked out. N’dou is a huge jump up in competition for Cotto, and his power is something that Cotto may not be able to deal with.

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