'03 Title Fights
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Saturday, November 1
Updated: November 9, 12:50 AM ET
Pound-for-pound contest heats up

By Thomas Gerbasi

With the two best fighters in the world battling it out on successive weeks, lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. fired the opening salvo in the pound-for-pound wars at Roy Jones Jr. with a dazzling and devastating seventh round stoppage of Phillip Ndou on Saturday night at the Van Andel Arena in Mayweather's hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.

The victory was not just impressive because of the quality of Ndou's fight (31-2, 20 KOs), but for the way Mayweather did it -- with a mixture of speed, defense, and crisp punching, mostly done at dangerously close quarters.

Next week Jones gets his chance to answer against another quality champion, Antonio Tarver. The result and the way it is achieved will go a long way in determining who is the mythical pound-for-pound best in the sport.

But tonight, it was all about Mayweather.

If there were any questions about the 26-year-old champion's pedigree as a fighter, they were put to rest in the first round as "Pretty Boy" put on an offensive clinic, using stiff jabs, quick left hooks and solid rights to dazzle Ndou, who took the barrage but did little else.

Both fighters settled in a bit more in the second, with Ndou still eating quick rights, but sending enough return fire of his own to make things interesting for Mayweather -- a guy who rarely gets caught cleanly. Suddenly the underdog looked like he had a chance. Briefly.

Fighting practically cheek-to-cheek in the third, both fighters had their moments. Mayweather, though, finished the round strong, ripping hooks to Ndou's head and body followed by a straight right that sung to the hometown crowd.

Round four was the type of Mayweather performance you put in a time capsule -- quick combos early, a defensive show as he let Ndou tire himself out with punches, and then a final minute of body shots and hooks to the head, all punctuated with a smile.

Ndou refused to go away, though, and his ability to hang in with Mayweather justified the insiders' praise heaped upon him before the fight.

The fifth showed the South African's courage to the nth degree, as he looked on the verge of being stopped before a spirited return barrage (100 punches thrown in the round) kept him in the fight. But truth be told, Ndou must have missed 90 percent of the punches he threw as the champion bobbed and weaved on the ropes.

By the sixth round, Mayweather was potshotting Ndou, even landing a stiff right hand that (with the aid of a push), put the "Time Bomb" on the canvas. Referee Frank Garza did not rule a knockdown, but the point was made.

In the seventh, Mayweather put Ndou down for real with a series of right hands, and though Ndou protested "no" to towel-waving trainer Nick Durandt as he rose from the knockdown, Frank Garza wisely halted the bout at the 1:50 mark.

With the victory, Mayweather lifts his unbeaten record to 31-0 with 21 KOs.

And he did it with fur-lined trunks.

In the HBO World Championship Boxing co-feature, the clash of heads between Juan Manuel Marquez and Derrick Gainer that opened a gash on the forehead of "Smoke" may have been the most welcome butt in boxing: seven dreary rounds of marathon running ended in the hands of the judges, who gave Marquez a deserved unanimous decision.

Scores were not surprising -- 70-63 twice, and 69-64 -- with the only question being what round Gainer was given. With the victory, Marquez unified the IBF and WBA featherweight belts.

Gainer (39-6-1 29 KOs), who was credited by CompuBox with only 16 landed punches out of 156 thrown (to Marquez' 51 of 209), showed from the opening bell why he had twice pulled out of bouts with the Mexico City native, choosing only to backpedal and sporadically fire at his opponent.

To his credit, Marquez (42-2, 33 KOs) tried to fight, but as the old adage goes, it takes two.

Neither fighter went out of his way to engage in the opening frame, with Marquez' forward motion and a couple of solid shots taking the round from the inactive Gainer. It was more of the same in the second, with Marquez throwing more and "Smoke" running more, taking time to stop only to complain about borderline low blows.

The track meet continued in the third, and when Gainer finally started to throw some punches at Marquez, the Mexican warrior made him pay with a couple of stiff right hands. By the end of the fourth, even referee Luis Pabon got into the act, imploring Gainer to start fighting.

The boos, slow in coming, finally made their appearance in the fifth, about four rounds too late. Marquez went on the offensive early in the sixth, apparently tired of the dance. Gainer coolly kept to his game plan though -- covering up, bouncing off the ropes and running.

With six rounds already in the bank, Marquez again tried to entice Gainer into a fight with some of his best scoring blows of the bout. Then, in the only excitement of the bout, a clash of heads opened a nasty tear over Gainer's left eye, forcing the doctor up to the ring apron, where the fight was stopped with little protest from the Pensacola native.

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