By Cliff Rold
The first time, it was a great fight. The second time, it was a great highlight. Put them together and WBA flyweight titlist Hernan “Tyson” Marquez (32-2, 25 KO) has had one heck of a breakout year. His two wins over Luis Concepcion (23-3, 18 KO) have made him a new darling amongst hardcore fight fans. Thousands of them have been on YouTube looking for it if they missed it Saturday.
The ‘it’ of course was a first round stoppage to settle matters with his rival in April’s stellar Fight of the Year contender. Anytime a Tyson scores a stop in one, fight fans have something to smile about.
Let’s got to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Marquez B; Concepcion B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Marquez B; Concepcion B+/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Marquez B; Concepcion C-/Post: B; F
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Marquez A; Concepcion A/Post: A; B
Concepcion is a thrilling fighter but Saturday his limits were fully exposed. Marquez beat him the first time because he was able to land his southpaw left often and hard. Concepcion, who came out looking to land bombs from the start in the rematch, was undone by the same shot again.
Concepcion doesn’t tuck his chin, doesn’t get his right hand up to defend, and he got cold cocked halfway through the first with a blind shot. He was dropped twice more by the same shot, just as clean. The former titlist had six months to adjust. He couldn’t.
Marquez is the clearly superior man.
How good is Marquez in comparison to the entirety of the flyweight field? Only 23, he deserves a chance to find out. Someone, somewhere, needs to do something about that. In the last few years, fight fans have seen unification matches at 108, 115, and 118 lbs.
It’s time 112 got into the mix.
Marquez was not the only division player in action recently. South African Moruti Mthalane (28-2, 19 KO) stopped veteran contender Andrea Sarritzu on Friday to defend his IBF belt. One week prior, lineal champion and WBC titlist Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (83-3-1, 45 KO) defended against tough former Jr. Flyweight titlist Edgar Sosa.
Former U.S. Olympian Brian Viloria (29-3, 16 KO) has the WBO belt and an empty dance card for the moment. Lineal 108 lb. champion Giovanni Segura (28-1-1, 19 KO) is already at flyweight and not going anywhere. The core of the class is strong.
There are good fights, real fights, to be made. Geography and market protection are inevitable in lighter classes, more endemic than similar constraints higher on the scale. Total unification in unrealistic. However, it would be a shame if, one year from now, fans are looking at a landscape where the only clash they’ve seen going forward is the whispered about, but as yet unsigned, Viloria-Segura.
The fighters, as much as the fans, deserve better. It is sad to think of fighters who are among the best in the world, limited by borders, timing, and size from living up to their fullest potential. Marquez has shown fans what is possible when matched well. Segura is as exciting as any fighter on the planet. Wonjongkam is someone referred to as a likely future Hall of Famer, without many who affix the label thinking about how tough the voting will go without at least one appearance seen in (if not occurring in) the U.S.
Flyweight has good fighters. If some more of its better battlers are not matched together, it can never really be a good division.
The first Marquez-Concepcion bout, regardless of the quick end to the rematch, remains the best fight of 2011. What if that fight was only scratching the surface?
Report Card Picks 2011: 37-12
Flyweight: Mthalane remains a slot ahead of Marquez. Their best wins are comparable; Mthalane was much better against mutual conqueror Nonito Donaire. Concepcion, who simply must learn to duck, loses a few slots.
Jr. Flyweight: Ivan Calderon exits. So does Carlos Tamara, who has been competing at flyweight for a while and does not appear to be returning. New names fill out the 9 and 10.
Strawweight: Calderon’s exit at 108 is predicated on a return to his original class. According to reports, Calderon was sluggish but it’s enough to slide him back into the top ten.
The weekend results and more are reflected a page away.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]