Finally, action, and on two fronts, too.
On the Western front next Saturday, Oct. 7, we have the rubber match between two of the most exciting practitioners in the game, Diego (Chico) Corrales and Joel Casamayor, on Showtime from Mandalay Bay.
That same night, Don King unveils his latest circus act, 7-foot-2 or maybe just 7-foot (at that height, what difference does it make?) Nikolai Valuev defending one of those "world" heavyweight "titles" against whatever is left of Monte Barrett. That’s in Chicago on HBO, which is pushing hard to become another ESPN.
Yes, dueling dates and a chance for dueling debts.
Actually, even I probably have a 50-50 chance for this double-header. Except, I have this nasty habit of never picking against Joel Casamayor, my favorite Cuban, and for too long a much-underrated pound-for-pounder. He was a brilliant boxer with sharp punching ability, good chin and a warrior’s heart. Trouble is, he’s now 35 and showing a bit of fraying around the edges.
If it weren’t for Jose Luis Castillo, Corrales would best be linked in our collective memories with the former Olympic champion. Casamayor got a controversial stoppage in his first fight with the game Corrales when the Vegas ringside physician ruled that Chico’s mouth was bleeding too fiercely to continue. The cause was an ill-fitting mouthpiece. Before the stoppage, both had taken turns knocking down the other. In fact, I believe that Casamayor was well on his way to victory by knockout. Every time he hit Corrales, he hurt him.
For some reason, though, Joe Goossen was dismissed as his trainer and he showed up in the Corrales corner for the rematch. Goossen got Corrales to actually box some behind his superior, at least longer, jab and Chico got a split decision. Both were down in this one, too. I was in the minority that thought Casamayor won. In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen him really lose was to Jose Luis Castillo, although his victory over Nate Campbell could be questioned as much as his defeats by Corrales II and Acelino Freitas.
Casamayor has been the only Cuban expatriate to have a successful boxing career in this country (Jose Napoles was based in Mexico, Juan Carlos Gomez in Germany). It was Joe Goossen who made the difference, getting Casamayor to leave the Calle Ocho section of Miami, where all Cuban fighters are regarded as heroes and treated accordingly, into the more Spartan reaches of California.
I believe that kind of dedication can help Casamayor for this fight, too, especially at +175. I’m not sure, though, he can pull off the upset. I don’t buy the theory that Corrales, who has been in more donnybrooks than Sinn Fein, might be a few bullets short these days. I think the southpaw Casamayor will always give him trouble, and at -215, I can not recommend him. Even I acknowledge that Corrales should prevail eventually. In other words, if you have to bet, look elsewhere.
Value(v) with NikolaiLike maybe Chicago, where Valuev is -450 and reportedly got a gift decision when he beat John Ruiz for his belt. Still, sight unseen, I’ve got to like Valuev against my old New York buddy, Barrett, who hasn’t fought since August of last year when he hardly threw punches against Hasim Rahman in a dreadful exhibition. Barrett, who can punch a bit, has never beaten anyone of note save the ghosts of Greg Page and Tim Witherspoon. His "big" victory was over Owen Beck, who has also been blasted out by Valuev. Barrett is +350 and I love underdogs, but I just can’t picture him as a winner in this mediocre matchup.
Digging underThere are a couple of pretty good matches on the respective undercards, though I haven’t seen any lines on either. Beneath Corrales-Casamayor, wild-swinging Vic Darchinyan should score a knockout over Glenn Donaire to retain his IBF flyweight title. Showtime will give him a chance to again call out Jorge Arce, the Mexican who recently had an HBO mismatch against Hawk Makepula. That was where the walkins took longer than the fight. Makepula, looking like a Benny Hinn convert, came in singing an opera-length gospel. Arce, wearing a cowboy hat and sucking on a lollipop, rode in on the back of a Harley.
Said Darchinyan: "I don’t remember de la Hoya, Chavez, Morales or Barrera wearing a cowboy hat and sucking lollipops."
Sleeper in Chi-townIn Chicago, the fight of the night figures to be the rematch between Thomasz Adamek of Poland, who won one of those vacant light-heavyweight "title" belts against Paul Briggs of Australia. Many considered the first matchup one of the best fights of 2005.
Adamek is the real reason this show wound up in Chicago, which has a bigger Polish population than Warsaw. He should have it easier the second time around.