Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez won his lightweight debut, stopping linear champion Joel Casamayor for the first time in the Cuban's career with a dynamic flurry late in the 11th round.
| Juan Manuel Marquez clinches his maiden lightweight bout in the 11th round [GALLO/GETTY]
Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KOs) moved up to lightweight in hopes of landing a third bout with Manny Pacquiao after going 0-1-1 against the Filipino pound-for-pound king.
Marquez proved the extra weight didn't bother him in a comprehensive win over Casamayor (36-4-1), the 37-year-old champion who has unofficially ruled the division since beating Diego Corrales two years ago.
Marquez was slow and tentative in the first three rounds, allowing Casamayor to take charge.
When Marquez finally got aggressive, Casamayor wasn't able to keep up.
"I figured this would be a tough fight until the end, but I was a more intelligent fighter,'' Marquez said.
"I was watching out for myself, and I knew how to neutralize his left hand. I threw all my combinations, because I knew I couldn't win with just my right hand.''
Marquez left nothing to the scorecards in the final minute of the 11th when he floored Casamayor with a right hand that spun the Cuban's chin.
The finishing touches
Marquez then showed impeccable finishing skills, landing several big blows before a glassy-eyed Casamayor went down for good on consecutive right hands with about 7 seconds left.
"I fought as a champion, but Marquez was the best this night,'' Casamayor said.
"I deserve a rematch. Marquez knew how to control my punches. I had a bad night. I'm very emotional right now, but I honestly need the rematch.''
Among boxing's top talents, but the 34-year-old is running out of time to join the sport's elite stars, and he was surpassed in the hearts of many Mexican fans by welterweight Antonio Margarito, who stopped Miguel Cotto in July to become the boxing-mad nation's highest-profile champion.
|Joel Casamayor, left, is stung by Marquez [GALLO/GETTY]
This TKO should be a big step in getting Marquez back to the top, particularly if a certain Filipino phenomenon happened to be watching.
Pacquiao, who made his own lightweight debut in June, is expected to move back to 135 pounds after his big-money welterweight bout against Oscar De La Hoya, Marquez's promoter.
"We moved up in weight, and we will fight anyone that our promoter wants,'' Marquez said.
"He was the best lightweight in the world, and he has strong counterpunches.''
Casamayor's decline continues
Casamayor holds none of the major title belts, but has beaten both the late Corrales and Nate Campbell, who holds the other three 135-pound title belts after upsetting Juan Diaz last March.
Casamayor appeared to be in decline in recent fights, winning a questionable decision over Jose Armando Santa Cruz and struggling in a win over Michael Katsidis last spring.
He still presented a stiff challenge for Marquez in his first lightweight bout.
Few fighters have ever looked good against Casamayor's array of head butts, elbow blows and generally awkward left-handedness, but Marquez managed to do it.
Marquez began the fight cautiously, showing none of the cavalier showmanship of his two lively fights with Pacquiao. Casamayor was happy to pick away with left-handed shots while controlling the first three rounds.
But Marquez opened a cut above Casamayor's right eye in the fourth round, and he turned the physical tide with a persistent jab and a higher work rate.
Mexican fans dominated the MGM Grand crowd, booing Casamayor heartily, but Casamayor has loved being the villain since winning his gold medal at the Barcelona Games 16 years ago.