Casamayor’s Choice Between Money And Legacy

What decision should a man make when the choice boils down to money vs. legacy? Tomorrow, Joel Casamayor, the Ring magazine lightweight (135 lbs.) champ, must pick whether to battle Nate Campbell, who holds a few title belts himself and is considered by many the best fighter in the division, or Juan Diaz, the man Campbell smoked earlier this year but who happens to share promoters with Casamayor. The decision has ramifications for Casamayor’s esteem and bank account, plus the rest of what is arguably the hottest division in boxing. For the Campbell fight, Casamayor would make $610,000. For the Diaz fight, Casamayor would make — so he says — double that. Casamayor is a borderline Hall of Famer and one of the best Cuban boxers ever, and beating Campbell in a rematch of what many considered an excellent first fight would go a long way toward enhancing his status on both counts. But he’s also a 36-year-old man who would like to cash in toward the end of his career. His decision, once he makes it, will have a ripple effect on other potential bouts in the weight class. Diaz is still a good young talent, but it’s a joke that he would be in line for a meeting with Casamayor over Campbell, considering Campbell beat Diaz down pretty thoroughly. And yet, potentially fighting Diaz is the situation Casamayor finds himself in, through no fault of his own. Skip this part if your eyes glaze over at dumb boxing politics: Because the WBO mandated the fight — ridiculously, they consider Campbell their champ and Casamayor their “interim” champ — and because it went to purse bid, which Campbell promoter Don King Productions won, Casamayor risks losing his “interim” title if he doesn’t accept the Campbell assignment. Separately, Golden Boy has been negotiating its own thang with Casamayor-Diaz, and its offering at the WBO purse bid — $571,000 to DKP’s $1.2 million — very much indicates which fight has drawn its interest, and it doesn’t involve Campbell. The WBO is giving Casamayor until Tuesday to make up his mind. Golden Boy has behaved as though Casamayor has not yet done so. Remarks by Casamayor at BoxingTalk suggest otherwise. He is clearly leaning strongly toward fighting Diaz. Now, it’s hard to begrudge someone too much for wanting to make the most money in their job. It is, after all, called “prizefighting.” But, as a fan, I wish Casamayor would make the best decision for the sport. Diaz does not deserve the fight. Campbell does. The winner of that fight would undoubtedly be “the man” at lightweight. We could forget about all the belts and point to the winner and say, “There’s the real champion of the division.” Besides, beating Diaz does less to enhance Campbell’s Hall of Fame cred. Beating Campbell does. Plus, it’s not like he’d be fighting Campbell for free, right? Long-term, I think you can even make a business case that Casamayor would be better off fighting and beating Campbell. If Casamayor wants a truly big fight, beating Campbell and becoming “the man” is the way to do it, because then Casamayor might be able to goad money machine Manny Pacquiao into a challenge. Paquiao makes his debut at lightweight this month against David Diaz, and Pacquiao’s a proud fighter who might respond to Casamayor yelling that the Pac-Man is ducking the division’s best. Whatever Casamayor decides, it will shape what comes next for the lightweights. If Casamayor picks Diaz, Campbell likely ends up fighting Joan Guzman in a very interesting fight. If Campbell does not pick Diaz, Diaz likely ends up fighting Michael Katsidis — a Fight of the Year candidate should it happen, given both warriors’ come-forward style. That fight would decide who is the third-best boxer in the division, since Katsidis recently lost to Casamayor in a close, see-saw affair. There is an off-chance that Casamayor could go a whole different direction and fight Juan Manuel Marquez in what would be a war between two of the biggest brains in the sport, both of whom have proven of late they can put on a pretty good show, too. Failing a Casmayor-Campbell fight, or a second rematch between Marquez and Pacquiao, that is the fight I would most like to see for both Casamayor and Marquez, and one that offers a balance of both money and legacy. Then, a whole second wave of fights involving all those men and perhaps some of the division’s young guns like budding stars Amir Khan or Anthony Peterson. And for chrissakes, considering how badly Jose Armando Santa Cruz got rooked last year in that decision loss to Casamayor, can somebody find a big fight for him? Maybe, should Casamayor beat Diaz, he can get the best of both worlds and then face Campbell. Of course, he could do it the other way around, too. But Casamayor could well lose against either Diaz or Campbell, and then all hope of taking on the other next evaporates. So, in the short-term, it comes down to choosing one over the other. Money. Or legacy.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.