In the end, the extra five pounds Juan Manuel Marquez was carrying might have been his best friend.
The Mexican star, who was making his first attempt fighting at 135 pounds, had enough strength left to drop 37-year-old Joel Casamayor twice in a 22-second span late in the 11th round to score a technical-knockout victory Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden before an announced crowd of 7,882.
With the victory, Marquez (49-4-1, 36 knockouts) captured the Ring Magazine lightweight title. More important, he proved to himself he can compete effectively at a higher weight class.
"It was a great fight," Marquez said. "We were prepared and did what we had to do to win. We moved up in weight, and I’ll fight anyone my promoters want."
In the main undercard fight, Vernon Forrest got the redemption he was seeking, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision over Sergio Mora to regain the WBC super welterweight title. Forrest, 37, had dropped a 12-round majority decision to Mora June 7.
Marquez, who had been as much as a 4-1 betting favorite, was a 3-1 choice at the MGM Mirage properties. He started slowly but got stronger as the fight went on.
He began to dominate Casamayor and took control of the fight. The Cuban veteran tried to answer but was starting to absorb a lot of punishment.
With 30 seconds left in the 11th round, Marquez knocked down Casamayor with a big right hand to the head. Casamayor got up, but Marquez swarmed, mauling him with a flurry until Casamayor hit the canvas again with eight seconds left. Referee Tony Weeks stopped it a couple of seconds later, the end officially coming at 2:55.
"I was the more intelligent fighter," Marquez said. "I was watching out for myself. I knew to neutralize his left hand. I threw a lot of combinations because I knew I couldn’t win with just one punch."
Casamayor, who fell to 36-4-1 with the loss, said he wants another shot at Marquez.
"I fought as a champion, but Marquez was the best this night," Casamayor said. "He knew how to control my punches, and I had a bad night.
"I’m very emotional right now. I want a rematch."
He might have a case. Going into the 11th round, judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Paul Smith had the fight even, and Marquez was up 97-73 on Glenn Feldman’s scorecard.
Mora also might want a rematch after his lackluster performance. Mora struggled to get down to the 154-pound limit, needing an additional 75 minutes Friday to make weight after initially weighing in at 156. Forrest closed a minus-130 betting favorite.
But unlike their first meeting, Forrest (41-3) started quickly and stayed on the attack. He used both hands effectively and built a big lead.
He had Mora in trouble late in the fifth round and again in the seventh and ninth. Each time, the bell sounded, saving him from further punishment.
By the time Mora got going, he was well behind, and it was tough for him to play catch-up. Forrest never gave him an opening where Mora seriously could hurt him. In two rounds, Mora connected on just 83 punches, and that wasn’t close to being enough to beat Forrest
Judge Dick Houck had it 119-108, Burt Clements scored it 117-110, and Alan Rubenstein scored it 118-109, all for Forrest.
"Now you see the difference between a contender and a real champion," Forrest said. "Tonight, it was basic Boxing 101 — jab, jab, jab."
Mora admitted his condition cost him his belt.
"My legs weren’t there, and my weight didn’t come out the way it usually does," said Mora, who dropped to 21-1-1. "I only had six weeks to train, and I usually train 10.
"It was too short a camp, and I worked too hard."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.ON THE WEB Slideshow