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Thursday, January 30, 2003
Max: Forrest now a question after Mayorga loss

By Max Kellerman
Special to

We knew Ricardo Mayorga could take a punch. Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis has never been accused of being a soft hitter, and Mayorga took his best shots. We also knew Mayorga could bomb. Going into his fight with welterweight champ Vernon Forrest, Mayorga had knocked out 23 of the 25 men he had beaten as a professional, including "Six Heads" in his most recent fight.

As for Vernon Forrest, we knew he could fight. Going into his tussle with Mayorga, "The Viper" had beaten every one of the 35 professional fighters he had faced, including Ray Oliviera, Vince Phillips and even Shane Mosley -- twice! We also knew that while Forrest was not a one-punch, lights-out guy, he did have good power in both hands. We thought Vernon could take a good shot too.

We had all the answers. Now we are left with questions.

You had to figure that 36 rounds without so much as a wobble against Phillips and Sugar Shane meant that Forrest had a good set of whiskers. Right? Well, Phillips was a very good puncher at 140 but had solid, unspectacular power at 147, and in their fight Vince barely touched Vernon. Mosley looked as though he was developing a welterweight punch by the time he fought Forrest, but Mosley is the kind of fighter who knocks opponents out by wearing them down with an accumulation of blows, not with one single shot. And, like Phillips, Mosley rarely made solid contact against Vernon Forrest.

Ricardo Mayorga did not make that much solid contact against Vernon either. Didn't need to. One right hand, which did not even land directly on the chin, was all he needed. Wasn't it?

A wild Mayorga hook in the third round landed on the back of Vernon's head and knocked him off balance. Vernon countered with a wild right hand that missed so badly he stumbled after throwing it. Mayorga landed a big right to the side of Vernon's head, and then added a forearm mush for good measure. Vernon got up, but was still badly dazed. The fight was stopped.

How much was Vernon hurt by that first back-of-the head hook and the forearm finale? Were they fluke starting and finishing touches that compounded the damage of the big right hand? If not, is Mayorga so devastating a puncher that he does not need to land full-force, or in the perfect place, in order to knock out a top fighter with a world-class chin?

Or is Vernon Forrest's chin suspect?

Maybe the now-former welter kingpin does not take a great punch. Maybe he has masked this deficiency by taking his respected (perhaps underrated) defense in against opponents who were not big punchers to begin with.

Or maybe Vernon just fought a sloppy fight and paid for it. That is the danger Ricardo Mayorga presents. With his ability to absorb punishment and keep fighting, and his one-punch knockout power, all he needs is for his opponent to have one sloppy moment.

Can't wait for the rematch.


On the undercard of Forrest-Mayorga, Nate Campbell essentially fought Joel Casamayor to a draw. The fight could have been scored 6-4 either way. I had it 5-5. The judges' official scores were suspiciously wide in favor of Casamayor, who won the unanimous decision.

Campbell won the first three rounds before seeming to fade. By late in the fourth, it looked as though Casamayor would come on and stop him. But that knockout never came. In fact, Campbell stole at least a round or two before the final bell.

Even though Campbell suffered his first official professional loss, it was just the kind of battle that will likely improve him as a fighter. Casamayor is the most experienced -- and arguably the best -- boxer in the 130-pound division. Campbell proved that he is already just about as good as the best. If he gets a little better, the junior lightweight division is his.

Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's Friday Night Fights and the host of the show Around The Horn.