Juan Manuel Marquez declared war on Manny Pacquiao Saturday night and Joel Casamayor was the first casualty.
Marquez, the former two-time world champion, was making his first appearance in the lightweight division and he made it a spectacular one, stopping the RING Magazine and linear champion at 135-pounds in the 11th round with two crushing right hands that twice sent the 37-year-old champion sprawling on the canvas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The second time the bloodied and tiring Casamayor folded referee Tony Weeks stepped in immediately to end the night in the way Marquez had hoped. In the days leading up to facing Casamayor, Marquez admitted he'd moved up in weight as much to chase down his nemesis, Pacquiao, as for any other business reasons.
Having fought a draw and a lost a split decision against Pacquiao that he felt he'd won, Marquez intended to keep pressure on Pacquiao for a third fight and to do it he had to move into the lightweight division to follow Pacquiao, who had just won the WBC version of that title after defeating Marquez in their last business meeting..
Casamayor, though showing some age in recent fights, remained seen as the best lightweight in the world until Marquez was finished with him. By then he had a badly cut right eye, a bloody nose and an absence of consciousness. What Marquez had was what he wanted - a loud statement that he remains at 35 one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
"I have made clear I moved up to get to Pacquiao,'' Marquez said. "I am the lightweight champion.''
So, too, is Pacquiao but they seem as tightly bound together today as they have been since they first met several years ago.
The same was not true for Vernon Forrest and Sergio Mora. Mora, the former "Contenders'' series 1 champion, upset Forrest to win the WBC super welterweight title five months ago in a surprising upset. Mora was a 6-1 underdog that night but he outworked Forrest, who had come in over weight and looked every bit of his 37 years.
After the fight, Forrest insisted it was just a bad night at the office and enforced a mandatory rematch clause. He then proved to be a man of his word, overwhelming Mora all night on his way to a dramatic and one-sided decision.
Forrest won every round on one judges card and no less than 10 of the 12 on another and Morta couldn't really quarrel. By the end he had been badly beaten up, cut and bruised and had been forced back into the world of reality TV rather than reality.
"I showed the difference tonight between a champion and a contender,'' Forrest barked. As he did, Sergio Mora stood silently in his corner, feeling the same sad disappoiitment he would soon share with Joel Casamayor.