Boxing, in my bold opinion, is better enjoyed as a spectator, not as a participatory sport. It is, of course, usually much safer, though I do recall once getting hit by a bottle thrown by an irate fan — at least it was Remy-Martin, though of course it was empty.
What I’m trying to say is that this weekend we can all sit back and enjoy some real punchups as Showtime continues to make good fights.
First, Rafael Marquez, the bantamweight champion whose brother, Juan Manuel, is a featherweight title-holder, defends against an unbeaten and very capable South African, Silence Mabuza, who was very impressive when defeating Cruz Carbajal this year.
In the nominal main event, Jeff (Left Hook) Lacy, who also has a terrific right hand, defends his supermiddleweight (that’s 168 pounds, boys and girls) against hard-punching, smooth-boxing veteran Scott Pemberton. We’ve got punchers in bunches, folks. That makes up for probably not getting really rich on Nov. 5.
Last I saw, Lacy was -625, Pemberton +425. Marquez was —285 and Mabuza a very respectful +225. Both underdogs are live, especially since the card is at Lake Tahoe, where the 6,000-foot altitude can wreak havoc with form for the unwary.
I like the chalk, however. Let’s start with Marquez, who in my pound-for-pound ratings is No. 7, ahead of such stars as his brother, Erik Morales, Diego Corrales, Antonio Tarver, Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton et al (I don’t know how "al" gets on all these lists). Marquez has knocked out two of my previous top 10 talents in Marc (Too Sharp) Johnson and Tim Austin. He may be the best puncher, pounding for pounding, in the game. His right hand is one of the great decision-makers in boxing.
Marquez may be a little "chinny," but getting wobbled by Tim Austin is no disgrace. He should be a much bigger star, but his estranged former promoter, Bob Arum, had difficulty working with the Marquez brothers. Also their trainer/manager Nacho Beristain. Marquez, whose flu bout postponed this match originally set Oct. 1, said he has had no trouble making the weight this time. He expects in another fight or two to move from 118 to 122 pounds.
He faces in Mabuza a good boxer with good power. This could be one of the best fights of the year. I don’t think I’m going to try and get even for my Breeders Cup losses here. I won’t get rich laying 6-1 or so on Lacy, either. Pemberton is 38, hasn’t lost in nine years and twice beat Omar Sheika (the second time by KO), who got two title shots.
At long last, the New England crowd-pleaser is getting his chance at a belt. Pemberton watched Sheika go the distance with Lacy this year. When asked if that gave him confidence, Pemberton replied wisely that "styles make fights."
He has a good style for the tank-like Lacy, who has great power and a seemingly great chin. That should be a concern for chalk players here because Pemberton, who will try to use his height and reach advantages to box from the outside, has a darn good right hand and Lacy is difficult to miss.
I am neither concerned nor worried that Lacy will have a letdown facing Pemberton and not another 168-pound title-holder, Joe Calzaghe of Wales. Calzaghe managed to get out of his commitment by taking a silly tuneup fight and, naturally, became injured. Or, maybe he was wise, because Lacy probably would go through him if he ever mustered enough courage to face the kid from St. Petersburg.
I believe Lacy is on the cusp of becoming someone special. He can punch, doesn’t take backward steps and fun to watch. He’s improving rapidly and, in Dan Cunningham, has one of the best young trainers (see Winky Wright) around. I don’t think he’ll be tripped up by the deserving Pemberton. In fact, I think he will take him out spectacularly.
Perhaps after his Olympic teammate Jermain Taylor gets by Bernard Hopkins again Dec. 3, we can look forward to these roommates fighting over who gets to leave the cap off the tube of toothpaste. And, probably, a place on everyone’s top 10 pound for pound.