There are few men in boxing as explosive and exciting as Mexico City’s Rafael Marquez.
Currently the IBF bantamweight champion, Marquez (36-3, 33 KO’s) is pound-for-pound one of the top three punchers in the game. Having defended his title seven times, he’s now looking to add one of the super bantamweight titles that currently belong to three highly regarded champions in Israel Vazquez, Ponce De Leon and Celestino Caballero. “We’re working on getting a title shot against either of them. I should know more about who we’ll be fighting in the next couple of weeks,” Marquez said from his home in Mexico City.
According to Marquez, 31, the only opponent that’s come close to beating him is the 118-pound limit. “Making 118 pounds has been very difficult and my body has matured past the point to where I can no longer feel confident that I can be in 100% physical shape,” Marquez said. “I’m making the move to 122 and eventually I hope to fight at 126.”
Panama’s Celestino Caballero, who holds the WBA title, has been very vocal in his desire to fight the Mexico City native. Marquez was unaware that Caballero had recently released statements in the press specifically targeting him. Marquez welcomes such talk. “I would consider fighting Caballero a great opportunity. He’s a tall, difficult fighter and beating him would be a great accomplishment. I would be more than happy to fight him,” Marquez said. Caballero is an impressive specimen considering he stands 5’11” and fights at 122 pounds. He’s the only man to defeat the current WBO champion, Daniel Ponce De Leon. He recently scored an impressive knockout victory over Somsak Sithchatchawal on the Thai fighter’s home turf. Marquez stands 5’5” and would be at quite a disadvantage in height isn’t one to back down from Caballero’s challenge. “If he wants the fight so badly I’m more then ready. His promoter can contact mine and I’m sure something can be worked out,” Marquez said. Marquez is currently being promoted by Gary Shaw Promotions. Caballero is promoted by Sycuan Ringside and Warrior’s Boxing.
The WBC champ, Israel Vazquez, is also promoted by Sycuan Ringside in conjunction with Golden Boy Promotions. A Vazquez vs. Marquez clash would be a true “battle of little giants” in the spirit of Wilfredo Gomez vs. Salvador Sanchez or Carlos Zarate vs. Alfonso Zamora. Vazquez is a proven champion who’s currently considered the top man in the division. WBO champion, Daniel Ponce De Leon, is also with Golden Boy Promotions and an encounter with the extremely aggressive, wild-swinging Tarahumara Indian from Chihuahua would be a sure recipe for a painful, bloody war. In other words, Marquez would be a welcomed entrant into the super bantamweight mix by the boxing public.
Being trained by the legendary Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain afforded a young Rafael the opportunity to watch a master at work who influenced him greatly. “The fighter who really inspired me was Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. Nacho was his trainer so I watched him in the gym all the time and he’s one of the reasons I’m a champion today,” Marquez said. “I’d watch him train and think to myself: someday I’m going to work just as hard as he does to become champion. Watching him succeed and the fact that he was such a great champion motivated me throughout my career.”
His older brother, Juan Manuel, also trained with Beristain as a kid. Juan Manuel went on to become, and still is, a champion and top player in the featherweight division. The brothers would often mix it up as kids in typical brotherly fashion. “Of course we got into it every once in a while as most brothers do. We’d start out playing around and then it would turn into a fight. We were just kids. We’re family and we always had fun like that. That’s how brothers get along,” Marquez said.
Beristain, a hall of fame trainer, is considered part of Marquez’s extended family. “He’s been with us since we were amateurs and we’re one big family. He’ll always be part of our team,” Marquez said. “Without a doubt, Nacho should be considered one of the greatest trainers of all time.”
It was under the tutelage of Beristain that Marquez went on to win the bantamweight title from the undefeated and seemingly unstoppable Tim Austin with an eighth round TKO. “My toughest fight up to now was against Austin. He hit me with some very hard shots that had me in a bit of trouble. Fortunately, my training was superb and I was able to recover quickly,” Marquez said.
One of his most notable wins came against Heriberto Ruiz who was devastated in three rounds in a knockout that was highlight reel material. Mauricio Pastrana was next as he was stopped in eight rounds. Ricardo “Chapo” Vargas held tough in a twelve-round unanimous decision. “Chapo is a tremendous and tricky fighter but we were well prepared for his style,” Marquez said of the win. Silence Mabuza was also a tough opponent that Marquez twice annihilated. “Mabuza hits very hard and was a warrior. I had a particularly great camp for the first fight. In the second fight is when the weight became an issue but I was still able to perform,” Marquez said. Mabuza was stopped in the fourth round in their first fight and then in the ninth the second time around.
Marquez is not only seeking a second world title but a defining fight as well. Having conquered the bantamweights, a move up to the 122-pound division is the only logical move for a fighter that is constantly trying to achieve greatness. “That’s why I’m in the sport. To achieve greatness like my idol “Finito” Lopez,” Marquez said. “If you’re not going to try and be great at something then why do it at all?”
To watch Rafael Marquez vs. Silence Mabuza click on http://www.sho.com/site/boxing/video_archive.do then go to the Rafael Marquez vs. Silence Mabuza thumbnail.