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Joel comes in smokin’

Nov 30, 2004 3:51 AM

He’s been steadier than black bean soup and Havana cigars.

The prize pugilistic export of Cuba in the post-Castro era since Jose Napoles three decades earlier slipped over to Mexico. And even as an undersized underdog against the tough Jose Luis Castillo, Joel Casamayor should make things interesting Dec. 4 at Mandalay Bay.

Castillo, if you put the proverbial gun to my head, would be the choice in this lightweight title fight. He is a welterweight who somehow can still make 135 pounds while Casamayor is moving up from 130. He is the man Floyd Mayweather Jr. said has been his toughest opponent.

Mayweather, the sweetest scientist of the current generation, couldn’t keep away from the tough Mexican champion. And at 33, Casamayor is not exactly in his prime any more.

Yet this is a fight that should be at least seen, if not bet. Castillo has been anywhere from 3-2 to 8-5, Any move upwards, which should be anticipated, might make Casamayor a good value.

I’m not sure Castillo, while deserving favoritism, will be good value. But then, I have long been a sucker for the 1992 Olympic bantamweight champion, who beat Wayne McCullough in Barcelona. I went to Kansas City in 2000 to see him win the WBA junior lightweight title from Jong Kon Baek of South Korea. In his only two pro losses, I thought he beat Acelino Freitas and the rematch bout against Diego Corrales.

Let’s face it, I’m a fan and not to be trusted entirely on this matter.

But you don’t need me to tell you that Casamayor is a fine boxer. He has the advantage of being a southpaw, who can move and punch a lot harder than it would appear from first glance. Casamayor was never off his feet until Freitas incorrectly got credit for a knockdown, though the punch missed the Cuban completely.

Corrales had him down, of course, but Chico is one heck of a puncher. Look at what he subsequently did to Freitas. Casamayor not only survived Corrales’s big blows in the rematch last January, he was the one who was coming on at the end of that fight. However, I’m not sure he’ll have any edge in stamina on the sturdy Castillo.

His advantages are in hand and foot speed qualities which, even at his advanced age, Casamayor has in quantity. I’m not sure that for one-punch power Casamayor is not the better man here. Castillo is one of those heavy-handed fellows who just beats opponents down. He hurts the opposition more than he stuns it.

He went 24 tough rounds with the still-prime Stevie Johnston, showing he could handle a conventional southpaw. He went 24 tough rounds with Mayweather, showing he could handle a speedy boxer. He was a bargain (I recall getting 13-10 on him) against Juan Lazcano earlier this year when he regained his 135-pound title.

But Lazcano is not in the same league with Casamayor. Castillo has had problems in the past making the 135-pound limit. Any bit of weakness from dieting will not do him in good stead against the clever Cuban. This is one of the reasons it’s difficult to recommend him in what figures to be a very two-sided battle, especially since facing speed can be very draining.

This is an "on-the-one-hand, but on-the-other-hand" type of matchup. On any mythical pound-for-pound list, these gentlemen deserve at least honorable mention. On my latest ratings, which have not yet been updated, Castillo was No. 14 and Casamayor No. 15.

Since Castillo is bigger pound for pound, it would seem he deserves the nod. Even up, but not giving away as much odds as I think will be necessary, and certainly not against a clever left-hander who is faster and can punch.

At least we can be thankful to Showtime for putting together this card though the other two fights are hardly in the same class. It is a triple-header that opens with an undefeated heavyweight prospect, Samuel Peters of Nigeria, going against the enigmatic Jeremy Williams, who is coming off a big victory over an over-rated Swedish meatball, Atilla (The Hunk) Levin.

Williams can box and punch, though his chin is not exactly of Fort Knox strength, Peters has been less than a dangerous puncher as the opposition has gotten tougher. Williams is by far the toughest he has faced so far, and I believe would be a worthwhile bet as an underdog if and when a price is listed.

The semi seems merely a showcase for new IBF super middleweight (a 168-pound Limit) champion, undefeated Jeff Lacy. He is another example of Shelly Finkel getting richer.

Lacy, nicknamed "Left Hook," though his right hand is not to be taken lightly, should have little trouble with Omar Sheika. The challenger can punch a bit, but has little else to recommend. If there is an "under," that would be my choice.