Castillo-Casamayor, Lacy-Sheika: Two Champs Hang In There

7.12.04 - By Wray Edwards: Deep in the bizarre world of a Las Vegas casino lies the Mandalay Bay Event Center ring-side seating. From that vantage this night, we saw a million-dollar purse split between a champion and a former champion in a contest to determine the WBC lightweight Championship of the World. Jose Louis Castillo and Joel Casamayor faced each other in a miss-match of styles. Jose, a flat-footed advancer, dogged Joel around the ring for a full twelve rounds attempting to bring his mugger-slugger approach close enough to drop “El Cepillo” to the canvass. Casamayor, on the other hand, danced for distance and demonstrated his graceful, rolling rhythm which was truly wonderful to watch.

Throughout the fight Joel got off first a slight majority of the time, while sometimes delivering timely counters when “El Terrible” lashed out. There was a lot of clinching, holding and awkward tangling as Castillo constantly dove head-first at Casamayor’s mid-section with his head. Sitting quietly near us was Corey Spinks, who had eased into his seat to do a little low-profile scouting, while managing to avoid being announced along with Diego Corrales, Winkey Wright and others who obviously sought recognition. More about that later.

The keys to the outcome of this battle were what each judge considered to be appropriate actions by the fighters to demonstrate boxing superiority. Some prefer to see talented exhibitions of rhythm, accuracy and points-scoring contacts. Other judges are impressed by sheer, determined forward movement in an attempt to press the issue at close quarters. This idiosyncratic dichotomy would prove to be the deciding factor.

Living up to pre-fight speculation, Joel attempted to hit, which he did quite a bit of, while not being hit, at which he was a bit less successful. Predictions that Castillo would brutally KO Joel did not come true. Joel was gracefully elusive (when not trapped by the ropes) and often made Castillo look slower (which he was) and awkward. To compensate, Jose generally increased his work rate throughout the fight, showing some frustration at being clipped when Joel was at his favorite tagging distance.

This writer found himself wishing to see Jose stay at boxing distance more often, as it was really a marvel to watch Joel box. Alas, the feisty Mexican would have little of that and bored in to strike and grab, or be grabbed. About four times during the bout, the two really got after it, and blazed away at each other, leaving one worried that a random connect would end the fun. One of these pier six moments came at the end of the eleventh round as the two ignored the bell and made it a threesome with referee Vic trying to wrestle them apart.

The corners charged, everybody was hopping mad and the boxers ironically threatened each other, considering the nature of their current activities; Pretty humorous seeing them threatening to punch each other out right in the middle of a boxing match. I was pretty surprised to see Joel frustrate Jose to such a degree. The vaunted ability of Castillo to KO his foes was completely missing in this bout. Joel was just too crafty. In fact it appeared that Casamayor delivered the more crisp scores and combinations.

After the exciting eleventh and twelfth rounds in which both finished strong, with Castillo the rougher of the two, the final bell sounded and the dreaded score-card monster reared its ugly head again in the long career of “El Cepillo”. Corey offered that the Judges would give the nod to the brawler over the boxer. After an ominous wait, the split decision left Castillo in possession of the title belt, and validated Mr. Spinks call. There was local surprise on the part of those who thought Joel had won the Boxing match (including the broadcast elite who had called it for Joel), while those who favored the slugging in-fighter were pleased. Yet again Casamayor and his people were fated to proclaim at the news conference that they thought they had won.

As usual, there was considerable merit to their objections and the opinion of one judge. The other two judges, one of whom (Moretti) awarded Jose a whopping 117-111 edge, obviously disagreed, and that’s what counts in the end. Team Freedom’s Louis De Cubas looked toward Bob Arum once or twice with rematch proposals. Mr. Arum did not hide a less than enthusiastic and dour response. After all, Chico was in the room. There was good sportsmanship with hugs and hand-shakes between the two boxers and their significant others.

I had the boxing match six rounds to five for Joel, and the move forward slug-fest six rounds to five for Jose, with one round even. A final thought on this and the previous bout: The challenger has to take it away Convincingly; neither Omar or Joel accomplished this. They did, however, hold their own to a surprising degree considering the dire predictions.


The IBF Championship prelim between title-holder “Left Hook” Lacy and Omar Sheika was a pleasant surprise, and an almost perfect style miss-match preview of the main event. In this fight also, an outside boxer, this time, throwing lickety-split, De La Hoya style combos, was confronted by a move ahead, close-quarters brawler, with a land-mine left hook hidden in the chaos of his own flurries.

As ref Toby Gibson brought them out for a tactical, feeling out FIRST ROUND, it was quickly evident that Sheika was in good form and was not about to allow Jeff to lure him into trouble. Lacy got my vote in round one, on general principle, and the must rule, closely. With entertaining energy, Sheika garnered rounds two through six, with Lacy coming back effectively in the last thirty seconds of number seven to capture that frame.

The EIGHTH ROUND had Lacy warned for low blows and Sheika as the winner. NINE through TWELVE went to the more powerful Lacy even though Sheika showed real heart and managed a few counter flurries. It was a pretty good fight (nothing like Pemberton of course) and Lacy rated a 115 to 113 victory on this guy’s card, matching two of the judges, leaving the last jurist pre-emulating Moretti’s Main Event generosity with a zesty 117-111 for Jeff. Again, you gotta take it away, not milk it away. A championship should be ripped away, not pilfered.

Mandalay Bay runs a tight ship and there were plenty of ushers and guards to maximally control the half-filled house. The Magna Media credential personnel were generous and helpful, and Showtime found three of the most beautiful card girls in the universe to announce the frames. The National Anthem was beautifully sung by Jean DeCato (an employee of the BAY) without resort to obtrusive soul warbles.

All-in-all it was a really good night of Boxing. A considerable exclamation point was provided by NABF Champ Samuel Peter, as he knocked the soft-looking Jeremy Williams so far out with a thermonuclear left in the second round, that it took about five people to guide him back to Planet Earth from somewhere around the orbit of Jupiter. Very large projections were made at the press conference regarding the undefeated Peter’s unification plans. The most personable boxer/public speaker award of the evening goes to Jeff Lacy who made kind remarks about Sheika and thanked his camp.

Much of Vegas is smoke and mirrors, but the solid reality of these hard-working young men gave us all a demonstration of going and doing. Come back soon guys.

Article posted on 07.12.2004

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