October stunk out the joint, basically, like an overripe pumpkin, but November is looking up for fans of the sweet science. TSS-EM is definitely geared up for the young gun versus hardened vet scrap, pitting Juan Manuel Lopez versus Rafael Marquez on November 6th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Bob Arum on a Monday conference call said that he wouldnt be surprised if this one emerges as a favorite for fight of the year.
JuanMa himself seems like hes ready and willing to engage in the sort of back and forth drama which embodies the typical fight of the year tussle.
My expectations are the same, that itll be a fight of the year type candidate, said JuanMa through an interpreter.
JuanMa certainly came off humble and nothing closer to overconfident. He said that both fighters have the power to knock the other out, and he does expect to win by KO , not early, but late. Youll recall he went down in his last bout, against Bernabe Concepcion on July 10, before earning a TKO 2.
Arum said on paper, this one sets up as JuanMas toughest, but the fighter himself reminded us that a fight most figured hed walk through, against Rogers Mtagwa (Oct. 2009, UD12 win), turned out to be a life and death affair. JuanMa impressed me by acknowledging that he needs to beat a Marquez to live up to the acclaim hes received, as a next generation Puerto Rican fight star.
The Mexican Marquez (39-5 with 34 KOs) was on the line in the second half of the call. He said he expects it to be a very tough fight, and that he has trained well for the match. He sees it as maybe the most important fight of his career. He is, however, 35 1/2, and took loads of punishment in his four fights with Israel Vazquez, so how much he has left, who knows.
He maintains that he still has a lot more to give and dismisses talk that hes somewhat shopworn, or stale from relative inactivity. Ive always taken care of myself, Ive taken care of myself physically and mentally, he said. Im one of those guys thats always in the gym, training and running.
Rafa, who said he is fully healed after having this bout reset from Sept. 18 because he hurt his right thumb, was asked if he expects a long fight, as JuanMa does. He said it could end early, or late, he doesnt know how long it will last. His chin is not that good. Its a winnable fight, I can win this fight. I just have to be smart, he said.
Fighting a lefty, Rafa said, wont put him off his game. Southpaw tutor Daniel Zaragoza, he said, will prepare him more than adequately for JuanMa.
At 27, JuanMa (29-0 with 26 KOs) boasts a flawless record, but rare is the bout which he doesnt himself taste the floor. The lefty needs to win this one to truly be able to put himself in the same sentence with fellow Puerto Rican legends like Tito Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.
TSS U, take your pick. Will JuanMa offer the sort of command performance to truly elevate himself in stature to past PR greats, or will Rafa defy the calendar, and give the younger man a rude lesson in pugilism?