Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mark's Top 40 at 40: (15-13)

Mark Lyons is back with the latest installment of his top 40 list. If you're not familiar with Mark's countdown, make sure to check out his previous entries: Intro, 40-36, 35-31, 30-26, 25-21, 20-16.

This week Mark counts down numbers 15, 14 and 13.

15. Rafael Marquez

Career Record: 37-5 (33)

Three Favorite Fights: Israel Vazquez III LSD12, Tim Austin TKO8, Mark Johnson II TKO8

Obviously, I could just put down all three of the fights from one of histories greatest trilogies, but i would be remiss if I failed to mention some of the other wars waged by arguably the preeminent action fighter of his era.

Everything starts behind one of the most knifing and powerful jabs I have ever seen. From there, Marquez unleashes awe inspiring text book power combinations. The man is a precision punching bad ass that can rank with the very best Bantamweights of the last 30 years. Though former Flyweight great, Mark Johnson was far from his best at bantam, he still had plenty left for their 2 encounters, and Tim Austin is an under appreciated, long reigning champion.

He's another one of thoses warriors that some people label "chinny", but I'll always take a fighter that's willing to trade bombs and get clipped a few times in the process, and more often than not, his opponent is the one sniffing smelling salts.

All 3 fights with Izzy, especially the last one - which was right up there with Arguello/Pryor in terms of action and violence - had an intensity rarely seen in a prize ring. I have no idea how much is left in his tank after those 25 unforgettable rounds. But I do know for a fact that when the first bell sounds, Raffy will march out to beat the crap out of the man in front of him, more than willing to go out on his shield if that's where the fight takes him. What's not to like?

14. Wilfredo Gomez

Career Record: 44-3-1 (42)

Three Favorite Fights: Lupe Pintor TKO14, Carlos Zarate TKO5, Derrick Holmes TKO5

Bazooka had trouble getting fights at Bantam, but strapped the young Jr Featherweight division on his back and carried it like a champion. His fights were a staple on the networks since he always brought the pain. He ground guys to bits more than he destroyed them with single shots and he was more capable than great above 122, but it sure was a hell of a ride.

One fight that I had to view years later because it wasn't televised was his demolition of the seemingly invincible Carlos Zarate. That was even more lopsided and destructive than what Salvador Sanchez did to him at Featherweight. The difference 4 lbs can make to such diminutive fighters is quite amazing.

Many younger fans may not have seen the NBC Friday Night Fights debut against Derrick Holmes. It was a true grudge match in which Holmes was able to rock Bazooka on several occasions before taking an ungodly amount of punishment.

He handled the tough Juan Laporte at 126, but fell short against all time greats Sanchez and Nelson. Who knows if the lures of beautiful Puerto Rico shortened his prime, or if that was just all he had to give. It was a lot though in a short period of time.

In all honesty, his all time historical placing is probably a bit high, but I'll never forget watching those little fists flail away on one challenger after another. Wilfredo was exciting and I loved watching him.

13. Felix Trinidad

Career Record: 42-3 (35)

Three favorite Fights: Fernando Vargas TKO12, Maurice Blocker KO2, William Joppy TKO5

"TITO, TITO, TITO".... the atmosphere at his fights was off the charts. It was a celebration! Coming to the ring with a smile on his face that hid his lust to smash his opponent with his destructive fists. Felix had his flaws, and was a bit one dimensional, but oh what a dimension it was.

He burst on to the scene with an absolutely horrific massacre of Maurice Blocker, and from there his stock rocketed. It wasn't the greatest list of victims for a Welterweight Champion, but the way he disposed of them was as memorable as anyone who came before or after him. One challenger after another finished with a brutality and flare that made him must see TV.

"The Fight Of The Millennium" turned out to be a dud, though it wasn't Trinidad's fault. While I must admit that I scored the bout for Oscar, my wallet and my heart
smiled when those tactics weren't rewarded with a victory. William Joppy is an underrated win. While I wouldn't call any of Joppy's title reigns significant, he was a tough and serviceable middleweight that nobody else was able to destroy with the ease and ferocity that Tito closed the show with.

It took a fighter like Trinidad to clue the world into the brilliance that is Bernard Hopkins. There's no shame in losing to a legend, and he made Hopkins work his ass off in a fight that was more tense than it was close. Then after creating a new planet on the face of Hacine Cherifi, the magic was suddenly gone, although he still came back to shut the flapping gums of Ricardo Mayorga.

Not sure what it is about modern Puerto Rican stars, but their flames seem to burn out as quickly as they blaze across the boxing landscape. While Tito has many critics these days, I will forever be a proud fan. The man always went for the kill. He sucked it up and got off to canvas only to continue the hunt for a knockout. And while the days of a prime Felix Trinidad are behind us, I will always have my memories and tapes whenever I feel like watching a master assassin at work.