Thursday, January 30, 2003
Max: Forrest now a question after Mayorga loss
By Max Kellerman
Special to ESPN.com
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
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.