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Quartey vs Forrest: Set to take place tonight at MSG!

Tonight, at the Theater in Madison Square Garden, a showdown between two former Welterweight Champions is set to take place. Ike Quartey, of Accra, Ghana, meets Vernon Forrest, of Atlanta Georgia, in a jr middleweight fight that is set for 12 rounds. Both fighters, in addition to being former welterweight champions, are also well into their mid-thirties.
You might recall that the Theater at Madison Square Garden is the site at which Forrest scored his first professional victory over Sugar Shane Mosley to win the World Welterweight Championship on January 26, 2002.

Since defeating Mosley on that night, and coming back to defeat Mosley once again in a return engagement in July of that year, Forrest relinquished his title in a shocking three round KO loss to Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga on January 25, 2003. Forrest, believing the loss was a fluke, would return for a rematch against Mayorga six months later. The second time around, Mayorga would score a controversial majority decision over the Atlanta native.

After taking a two year hiatus away from the ring, Forrest returned to the ring to score an impressive second round stoppage of Sergio Rios on the undercard of Hopkins vs Taylor I in July of last year. Following the victory over Rios, Forrest posted 10th round TKO victory, this one much less impressive, over relatively unknown Elco Garcia.

Coming back from a variety of surgeries which kept him out of action, Forrest looks to regroup and turn the clock back to that fateful night at the Garden back in January of 2002, in order to defeat Quartey tonight in this significant battle for 154lb contention.

Ike Quartey, who was devastating force in the late 1990s, became the WBA Welterweight Champion with an 11th round stoppage of Crisanto Espana in April 1994. With title defenses against the likes of Vince Phillips (who later became a titlest at 140lbs with his upset victory of Kostya Tszyu) and Oba Carr, Quartey cemented his status as one of the best welterweights in the world.

In October of 1997, Quartey would face off against the Mexican power-punching Jose Luis Lopez. After ten rounds of action, seemingly dominated by the Guanayan champion, Lopez would hurt Quartey and drop and him in the 11th round. Quartey was badly stunned, but got up and continued to the final bell. Quartey had also been dropped in the second round; that knockdown being more of a flash knockdown. That fight ended in a majority draw, but most observers felt as though Quartey deserved the decision.

The draw against Lopez would lead Quartey, 16 months later, to a mega showdown with WBC Welterweight Champion Oscar De la hoya. In a highly competitive fight that saw both of the undefeated contestants kiss the canvas, De la hoya would emerge with a razor-thin split decision that is highly debatable to this very day.

Quartey would take another 14 months off before facing then-undefeated IBF Jr Middleweight Champion Fernando Vargas. Vargas, who was then considered a much younger and fresher champion rising to the top of the boxing world, outworked and outboxed Quartey to a close yet convincing unanimous decision.

The loss to Vargas signaled a five year retirement from the ring for Quartey. Taking a long rest and deciding to return to the ring in 2005, Quartey is 3-0 in his comeback, two of the wins coming against former IBF Jr Middleweight Champion Verno Phillips (considered a quality win for Quartey on his comeback) and Carlos Bojorquez. Quartey looked sharp and impressive in both of those victories.

That leads us to tonight's showdown. Forrest is a tall and ranger boxer who likes to fire combinations, while Quartey possesses a piston-like left jab with power that would constitute a legitimate power punch for most other boxers. Will Forrest's height and reach advantage bother Quartey from the outside? Will Quartey's left jab find its target on Forrest and have an impact on the flow of the fight? Knowing that both boxers are coming back from inactivity, and are in their mid thirties, will there be stamina issues late in the fight? In terms of a prediction, I have gone back and forth on this fight. Don't know who exactly to pick. There are so many intangibles.

Both pugilists are facing each other to earn one more showdown for either a championship, big money, or both, at 154lbs. The Jr Middleweight division, with titlests such as Corey Spinks and Jose Antonio Rivera, and top contenders such as Shane Mosley, Kasim Ouma and Roman Karmazin, is a division that is filled with talent.

Tonight's fight between Quartey and Forrest will be televised live on HBO at 10PM/ET 7PM/PT.