With Joel, it's personal

Sep 9, 2008 7:03 PM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | I wish I didn’t play favorites, but in a game as personal as boxing, you often find yourself, even without a bet on the line, rooting silently for one or the other of the combatants.

Now when that "favorite" fighter is also an underdog, there is a good chance of turning the volume up.

But I have endeavored to make next Saturday’s picks as logically as humanly possible. So what if I went to Kansas City to see the former Cuban Olympic champ challenge for his first world title, and come away with the WBA junior lightweight title that he wrested from Jong-Kwon Baek in 2000!

And now Joel Casamayor finds himself a big underdog to the man I rank 1A on my pound-for-pound list, Juan Manuel Marquez. Yet when Marquez, more than a 3-1 favorite squares off against the 37-year-old Casamayor on the $45 pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, my heart and money will probably with the Cuban.

There are reasons besides old loyalty and that he beat titleholder Michael Katsidis with a stunning 10th-round knockout. Marquez, as good as he is, has been vulnerable to hard-hitting left-handers. Manny Pacquiao knocked him down three times in the first round of their first meeting.

Marquez is no spring chicken, either, at 35. Plus this is the first time he’ll be fighting at 135.

Casamayor has proven himself over and over by beating Diego Corrales (they split at 130, Casamayor won at 135) and losing by split decision to prime Jose Luis Castillo. And he can be dirty. Plus, at the buyback rate of 5-2 or 3-1, he is very tempting.

In the 135-pound title match in Biloxi. Joan Guzman has long been one of my favorite southpaws, a dancing demon from the Dominican Republic who has held titles at 122 and 130 pounds. But now he’s making his lightweight debut against one of the best punchers in the division, Nate Campbell.

At the buyback rate of 8-5 or 2-1, Campbell seems like a fairly reasonable investment.

On the pay-per-view show in Vegas, there’s a rematch of Sergio (The Latin Snake) Mora and Vernon (The Viper) Forrest. Mora, the undefeated Season 1 "Contenders" star, upset a flat Forrest for a 154-pound title in June.

Forrest is the slight chalk, but while he has by far the greater credentials, at the age of 37, I don’t feel like laying 6-5 or 7-5.

At Biloxi, there’s a fight that seems deservedly off-the-board. Timothy Bradley, who upset Junior Witter for a 140-pound title is making his first defense in what appears a gimme against Eder Cherry.