by Cliff Rold
It remains, almost seven months later, the legitimate leader for 2011 Fight of the Year. Opinions may differ on that point. Far too many likely have no opinion at all.
They didn’t see it.
They missed, and are still missing, Hernan Marquez vs. Luis Concepcion.
It shouldn’t be the case in the digital age, but it’s also not hard to understand. The match flew under the radar before its opening bell. Bouts at 112 lb. often do. It’s worth noting, April 2, 2011, was an eventful day around the world as far as boxing went. Distractions were plenty.
Heavyweight Robert Helenius made a big statement, and entered serious title contention, with a knockout of former titlist Samuel Peter in Germany. France had top ten action for a Middleweight belt; Poland a similar quality match at Cruiserweight. Finally, in Puerto Rico, Jr. Flyweight Champion Giovanni Segura bested Ivan Calderon for the second time, a rematch of the BoxingScene and Ring Magazine Fight of the Year for 2010.
Who could have known it would be Marquez’s upset of Concepcion for the WBA flyweight honors, featuring four knockdowns and two round of the year candidates (the 1st and 3rd), blowing them all away? This Saturday, they meet for the second time. There’s no reason to miss it again.
Of all the conflicting contests Marquez-Concepcion I shared 4/2/11 with, it is the Segura-Calderon rematch that bears closer scrutiny heading into this Saturday. ‘Fight of the Year’ level action has a way of generating demand for a rematch. Recent history suggests doing it again almost immediately is a mixed bag.
There were ingredients in Marquez-Concepcion I indicating boxing fans might have their expectations exceeded this time. For those who still haven’t gotten around to it, the first fight is easy to find on YouTube and a must see before any end of the year debating goes down.
For those who find the process of typing “Marquez” and “Concepcion,” after the grueling entry of the YouTube address, too much to bear, the fight night coverage at BoxingScene from Miguel Rivera is recalled:
Concepcion came out with furious assault. He was taking the fight to Marquez within seconds and had the Mexican fighter on the run. In the second minute, Concepcion caught Marquez with a very big counter hook to put him down. Marquez beat the count and made a decision to stand and trade punches. Concepcion appeared to be much bigger and stronger than his opponent. Concepcion was laying the punches on Marquez against the ropes when the Mexican boxer landed a counter hook of his own and put the champion down at the bell. Concepcion quickly jumped up as the ref began a count.
The second round started with more trading by both boxers. Concepcion was more selective with his punches. He was landing the straight right hand often, and the uppercut up the middle. In the final minute they both stood their ground and were trading power shots at close range. There was no defense by either boxer. They were taking heavy blows. Marquez was taking more damage and almost went down for a second time as Concepcion started doubling up on the combinations.
At the start of the third, Marquez scored another quick knockdown on Concepcion. They continued to trade punches, shot for shot, as a packed house was standing on their feet. Concepcion got rocked again in the final minute of the round with a heavy combination of punches. This time Marquez was pressing the action and landing huge punches on the champion. Concepcion was somehow able to stay off the canvas and even traded punches in return.
Concepcion came out pressing in the fourth. Marquez was more confident in his ability to hurt the champion and stood his ground to trade punches instead of running from the exchanges. Marquez was rocking Concepcion with punches from both hands. The champion's face began to swell up.
A loud "Nica" chant began in the fifth round. The crowd was trying to lift the champion. Marquez was getting the better of the champion during their exchanges and his punches were doing more damage in the ring.
Concepcion could not switch up his plan of attack. He only knows how to fight, by coming forward and trading big punches. Marquez was staying on his toes and catching Concepcion with counters coming inside. In the final minute he started attacking Concepcion with counters, but then the champion started landing big straight punches and then Marquez came back to hurt the champion with combinations.
The action slowed down in the seventh round for the first two minutes. They started trading again when the final minute of the round hit. Marquez was still landing better and picking off the champion.
The eight round was the slowest in the fight. They again waited until the final minute to start trading. Concepcion tried to jump on Marquez, who kept his distance and did well to pick his punches.
The champion was looking for one big shot to end the fight in the ninth. Marquez was not going down without a fight. He was outboxing Concepcion and landing heavy blows to score points.
Marquez started pressing the action in the tenth and taking the fight to the champion. Marquez wanted to close strong in the championship rounds. Concepcion was still looking for one big shot and once again he was knocked down by a counter shot from Marquez. Concepcion went after Marquez and they were trading furious exchanges. The entire arena was once again on their feet as Marquez was hurt by a right hand as they traded punches.
Before the start of the eleventh round, the ringside doctor took a look the badly swollen eyes of Concepcion and stopped the fight. He felt Concepcion's face had taken too much damage.
It is the conclusion, as it happened and as Rivera reported it, which gives room for optimism. Marquez was badly hurt by the final assault of the hammer fisted Concepcion. There were six minutes left on the clock. Concepcion might have pulled it off.
He might not have.
There was reason to believe the fight was stopped before it had truly ended. One way or another, this weekend holds the promise of resolution.
The same could have been said other contemporary cases of quick rematches. Segura-Calderon II, referenced earlier, resolved what the first fight strongly suggested. The fleet footed Calderon’s best days had passed him by.
In May 2005, the late Diego Corrales won the ’Fight of the Decade.’ Corrales got off the floor twice, and bought time by spitting the bit, before stopping Jose Luis Castillo on his feet to win the Lightweight crown. When they faced off again in October of the year, weight issues (like Castillo coming in heavy) and the toll of the first contest were too much. Corrales was overwhelmed and run over in round four.
In 2002, Mickey Ward and the late Arturo Gatti went ten unforgettable rounds in May 2002, licked their wounds, and picked right back up again in November of the same year. They would deliver thrills again but couldn’t reach the same level of glorious sadism they had the first time. The first time had built like some form of savage rock opera to a crescendo in round nine before going the route. The second bout was all but over when Ward was floored in the third round. They went ten again, but the verdict was never genuinely in doubt even if there were thrills along the way.
It’s tough to catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row. It would be the third Gatti-Ward meeting, in June 2003, returning them to the back and forth drama of their first encounter. All together, their rivalry was concluded in just over a year, two great fights with a good one squeezed in between.
The mother of all recent rivalries, and arguably one of the top five action trilogies of all-time, saw Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez go to scratch against each other three times in a row between March 2007 and March 2008. It is one of the rare times a pairing topped themselves once, and then again. Like Marquez-Concepcion I, they ended on an unsatisfying note the first time, Vazquez forced to surrender with a badly shattered nose. Their rematch ended up the ‘Fight of the Year.’
So did the rematch of the rematch and, if not for Corrales-Castillo I, might well have taken the honors as best fight of the 00’s.
So, yes, doing it again right away is a mixed bag. Sometimes, disappointment is unavoidable.
But, sometimes, they get it right all over again. If, come Sunday morning, boxing fan’s e-mail inboxes are overflowing with messages reading, “it’s on YouTube if you missed it last night,” it will be a strong sign Marquez and Concepcion did just that.
The Weekly Ledger
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Cliff’s Notes… Seriously, if anyone reading missed Marquez-Concepcion I and hasn’t clicked off and gone to watch it, for shame. Go. Okay, finish reading first and then go…Does anyone wonder if Omar Narvaez still has his hands up, waiting for an opening. What a shame last Saturday. Narvaez has had a fine career with some solid fights. Much of the world will unfortunately remember him as less than he was if this is the one broader stage he gets. The same thing happened to Lightweight Artur Grigorian when he traveled to face Acelino Freitas years back. The lesson is in the downside of waiting for a perfect time to travel. A prime is a terrible thing to waste…Anyone else enamored with the Canelo Alvarez-Ulises Solis story? Here’s a laugh: Solis’s nickname is Archie. Alvarez looks like the fistic Richie Cunningham. Happy Days wins. Eehhhhhhh…Mikkel Kessler-Robert Steiglitz is rescheduled. For Kessler’s sake, he’d better hope a Steiglitz type still is a foregone conclusion. If it’s not, the Great Dane’s fine career will have jumped the shark…That’s right; two Happy Days references. The remote got stuck on Hub TV not too long ago...Go.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org