By Cliff Rold
When 2008 began, 135 lbs. looked like a division building fully to the coronation of a single man in then-undefeated Juan Diaz. As it ends, the pinnacle position in the class is up for debate and Lightweight is better for it. Take some solid young talent like Diaz and Michael Katsidis, veterans with some fight left like Nate Campbell and Joel Casamayor, and mix in two of the game’s best, Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao, from one division below and the results were explosive.
Of the bunch, it was the victor in an early candidate for upset of the year who was most responsible for redefining the division. In doing so, he picked up the biggest win of his entire career and earned the right to call himself…
Lightweight Fighter of the Year: Nate Campbell (32-5-1, 25 KO)
After earning an IBF mandatory shot at WBA/IBF/WBO unified Lightweight titlist Juan Diaz, Campbell figured to join Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz as veteran victims to the rising star. Diaz was being talked about for bigger names and was in his final fight under promoter Don King. Knowing not what wasn’t known then, his eventual signing with Golden Boy Promotions likely nets him a bout with Casamayor instead of the eventual Casamayor-Marquez showdown and he would have been favored to defeat the Cuban.
The 36-year old Galaxxy Warrior had other plans. Taking the fight inside against an aggressive in-fighter, Campbell matched and then exceeded the pace of Diaz. He fired right hands and ripped to the body in a Mexican bull ring, holding the “Baby Bull” at bay down the stretch to earn a split decision which should have been unanimous on March 8th.
It was one of the year’s feel-good stories. Campbell got a late start in Boxing and, after blazing through his early career, had been uneven since a narrow loss to Casamayor in 2003. A pair of stoppage losses to Robbie Peden and decision outs versus Francisco Lorenzo and Issac Hlatshawyo didn’t set the stage for an upset like Diaz. Instead, Campbell constructed his own stage and kept hot debates about whether his belts, or Ring Magazine’s, were what marked the Lightweight Champion of the World.
Campbell’s endured rough strokes through the rest of the year. A bankruptcy proceeding hurt and when undefeated Joan Guzman failed to make weight for a planned September showdown, it all but removed Campbell from contention for 2008’s overall Fighter of the Year. It doesn’t take away from what he did in his division. His one bout of the year changed the face of the 135 lb. class. No matter who claims to be the champ, no one can be the best without facing Campbell for the forseeable future.
Also notable in 2008…Casamayor and Marquez both made big marks in 2008. Coming off of one of the worst decision ‘wins’ in recent memory when he skated past Jose Armando Santa Cruz in November 2007, Casamayor dropped, got dropped and then stopped undefeated Michael Katsidis in March for a likely Hall of Fame-sealing win…in September, he provided Marquez sealant of his own, stopped for the first time in his career by the Mexican in a minor classic far too few saw.
Lightweight Fight of the Year: Joel Casamayor TKO10 Michael Katsidis
It was assumed going in, much as had been the case a couple of weeks earlier for Campbell-Diaz, that age would decide this anticipated battle In a way, age did as Casamayor used all his guile and experience to win a brutal affair. The bout started all wrong for Katsidis as he was dropped twice in the first round and looked to be out of his depth in a first major test. Katsidis planted his feet instead and over a period of rounds seized the initiative back, rifling Casamayor with a body shot and knocking him out of the ring and onto the apron in the sixth.
It appeared the fight had turned permanently, but Casamayor had one more stand. Using Katsidis’ aggression against him, Casamayor began to clip him with counters. It was single shots versus sheer aggression and the last single shot won it. A perfect left hand in the tenth didn’t end the fight, but when Katsidis picked himself up off the floor there were only a few punches to go before “0” had to go. It was a hell of a scrap and the best at 135 lbs. for the year.
Lightweight: The Year in Results
Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes. Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the new year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Lightweight results of 2008.
01/04: #5 Zahir Raheem (29-2, 17 KO) KO1 Ricardo Dominguez (23-3-2, 15 KO)
03/08: #4 Nate Campbell (32-5-1, 25 KO, WBA/IBF/WBO) UD12 #1 Juan Diaz (33-1, 17 KO)
03/15: #2 David Diaz (34-1-1, 17 KO, WBC) MD10 Ramon Montano (15-5-2, 1 KO)
03/22: World Champion Joel Casamayor (36-3-1, 22 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC Interim) TKO10 #6 Michael Katsidis (23-1, 20 KO)
04/04: #7 Yuri Romanov (20-2, 13 KO) TKO6 Jonathan Thaxton (33-8, 18 KO)
04/05: #8 Amir Khan (17-0, 13 KO) TKO7 Martin Kristjansen (19-2-3, 5 KO)
06/21: #8 Amir Khan (18-0, 14 KO) TKO5 Michael Gomez (35-9, 24 KO)
06/25: #4 Julio Diaz (35-4, 26 KO) TKO5 David Torres (20-1, 13 KO)
06/28: World Jr. Lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao (47-3-2, 36 KO, WBC) KO9 #3 David Diaz (34-2-1, 17 KO)
07/05: Ali Funeka (30-1-2, 25 KO) KO4 #5 Zahir Raheem (29-3, 17 KO)
07/23: #10 Jose Armando Santa Cruz (26-3, 15 KO) KO5 Miguel Munguia (16-13-1, 13 KO)
09/06: #3 Juan Diaz (34-1, 17 KO) SD12 #8 Michael Katsidis (23-2, 20 KO)
09/06: Breidis Prescott (20-0, 18 KO) KO1 #6 Amir Khan (18-1, 14 KO)
09/13: New World Champion: Juan Manuel Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KO, Lineal/Ring) TKO11 Joel Casamayor (36-4-1, 22 KO)
09/20: Antonio Pitalua (46-3, 40 KO) TKO6 #10 Jose Armando Santa Cruz (26-4, 15 KO)
No significant Results in the Fourth Quarter
Other divisions in 2008 reviewed:
Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com