“We know Juan Manuel Marquez was not at fault, but the champion has the responsibility to defend. What are we supposed to do? We expect the champion to do his mandatory and would expect his promoter to do the fight.” – Lindsey Tucker/IBF championship committee chairman

The on-again, off-again battle between Chris John (#7 – The Ring magazine) and Juan Manuel Marquez (#1 – The Ring magazine) has finally been confirmed and will take place in Indonesia on March 4th. The fight, which is the fifth defense of John’s WBA featherweight title, was previously postponed on two occasions because of a ligament injury to John’s right foot. Hopefully the Indonesian will be completely recovered by fight night.

Although sans title, Marquez is considered by most in boxing to be at the top of the featherweight division and among the top-ten pound-for-pound fighters. The bout comes as a welcome relief to the division, which in the last two years has seen Manny Pacquiao, Erik Morales, and Marco Antonio Barrera all pull a George Jefferson – movin’ on up – to the super featherweight division.

The fight won’t be televised on HBO or Showtime, and it won’t be pay-per-view; it won’t be under the glaring lights of Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or even Madison Square Garden. There won’t be any multi-million dollar purses either.

Instead, two topnotch professionals will ply their trade in the Borneo jungle.

In August of last year, Juan Manuel Marquez was stripped of his IBF and WBA champion stature and henceforth became the “challenger.”

For some reason, the money-sucking vacuum cleaner also known as the IBF silently slipped in Phafrakorb Rakkietgym as the mandatory challenger for Marquez’s title. Never mind that Rakkietgym had been knocked senseless in one round by Manny Pacquiao, the first and only top-ten fighter he had faced. Never mind that he simply was not worthy of being a mandatory challenger. Is it any surprise that not a single, solitary soul dared put up the $50,000 to win the purse bid?

Marquez, one of the best fighters in boxing, gets left high and dry by his own promoter and couldn’t give away his services. If you believe the IBF (I don’t), they’ll have you believe it was a truly sad situation which unfortunately could not be rectified. Rubbish – no one bettered Juan Manuel Marquez in the ring and he wasn’t to blame for the situation, the IBF was.

Maybe if the IBF had installed a legitimate mandatory challenger, the proud champion from Mexico wouldn’t have a problem finding someone willing to pay for his fight. The IBF could easily have given some latitude in the matter but instead decided to demonstrate strict adherence to their rules – a first.

Maybe Marian Muhammad of the IBF can explain how Rakkietgym magically appeared as the mandatory, but magicians don’t normally give away their secrets.

Of course, it gets better. Once the IBF had worked their magic and stripped Marquez of his title, the WBA felt inclined to join the party. Since Marquez was the WBA’s Supa-dupa champion, and a Supa-dupa champion needs to be the champion of two or more organizations simultaneously, it was bye-bye to the Supa-dupa belt. Adios.

You still with me? It’s one-potato, two-potato, abracadabra, alakazam – voila; it’s the illogical logic of the alphabet soup of boxing.

Since the WBA chose not to completely shaft their ex-Supa-dupa champion, they made him the mandatory challenger for the regular title. This is where the regular champion, Chris John, comes in and this brings this game of musical chairs to a temporary stop. Once the winner is declared, a new game begins.

For whatever reason, Marquez and Nacho Biristain had earlier rejected a $750,000 payday to fight Manny Pacquiao and $1.5 million to fight Erik Morales. Marquez now finds himself fighting for the whopping sum of (Austin Powers moment, pinky finger to the mouth) —– $31,250. Marquez is fighting for chickenfeed.

The Indonesian Thin Man faces the most difficult challenge of his career in Marquez. While John has beaten B-level fighters Derrick Gainer, Ratanachai Sor Vorapin and Oscar Leon, he has yet to fight a fighter as technically proficient and well-rounded as Marquez. John is undefeated, though, and has the home field advantage, but he doesn’t have the big-fight experience or the infighting skills of Marquez.

The shortlist of fighters on the resume of Marquez is almost as long as it is impressive: Alfred Kotey, Freddie Norwood, Daniel Jiminez, Julio Gamboa, Robbie Peden, Manuel Medina, Derrick Gainer, Victor Polo and, of course, the draw with Manny Pacquiao.

By the time the bell rings, Marquez will have been out of combat for ten, event-filled months. He’ll be walking into the lion’s den. He’ll be fighting in front an island full of Chris John fans for next to nothing. And none of it will matter. Consummate professional that he is, Marquez will focus on the only thing that matters – winning.

And to the victor goes the spoils…

Fight Results

January 28th, 2006 – Cancun, Mexico
Rodel Mayol TKO4 Lorenzo Trejo

January 30th, 2006 – Taladthai, Rangsit, Thailand
Saenghiran Lookbanyai TKO5 Roberto Dalisay
Sairung Suwanasil UD Ray Orais

January 31st, 2006 – Chumphon, Thailand
Sod Looknongyangtoy UD12 Reynald Tribo
Kaichon Sor Vorapin UD12 Rocky Fuentes
Terdsak Jandaeng KO2 Orlando Sitohang

Upcoming fights

February 3rd, 2006 – Las Vegas, Nevada
Z Gorres vs. Jose Alfredo Tirado

February 5th, 2006 – Nagoya, Japan
Randy Suico vs. Ryuhei Sugita
Malcolm Tunacao vs. Kohei Obha

February 6th, 2006 – Minburi, Thailand
Pornsawat Kratingdaenggym (Porpramook) vs. TBA

February 14, 2006 – Thailand
Sataporn Singwancha vs. TBA
Sirimongkol Singwancha vs. Hayato Takabayashi
Wandee Singwancha vs. Kenichi Onishi

Feb. 16th, 2006 – Sannburi Stadium, Chainart, Thailand
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (#1 – The Ring) vs. Gilberto Keb Bass

Feb. 17th, 2006 – Nonthaburi Pier, Nonthaburi, Thailand
Veeraphol Sahaprom (#3 – The Ring) vs Scari Korori
Devid Lookmahanak vs. Satoshi Usui
Napapol Kiatisakchokchai vs. Issa Sewe
Thong Por Chokchai vs. Noriyuki Nakata

Feb. 27th, 2006 – Osaka, Japan
Masomori Tokuyama (#2 – The Ring) vs. Jose Navarro (#7 – The Ring)

March 4th, 2006 – Golden Gate Arena, Tenggarong City, Borneo, Indonesia
Chris John (# 7 – The Ring) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (# 1 – The Ring)

April 4th, 2006 – Las Vegas, Nevada
Jorge Arce (# 6 – The Ring) vs. Rosendo Alvarez (# 7 – The Ring)

One Last Thing

A big thank you goes out to Jeffrey Pamungkas in Indonesia for all his help and information in preparing me for the trip to Borneo to cover the John-Juan Manuel Marquez fight.