Requiem for a Flyweight

There comes a time in every fighter’s career when he looks up and sees boots, tastes copper. The only ones to avoid this ignominy are the ones who call time on their careers before that day comes.

Flyweight warmonger Hernan Marquez, out of Sonora, Mexico, apparently reached and breached that point in November of 2013, the night of his outrageous ebb and flow battle with the once brutal Giovanni Segura. Forced by his marauding countryman to repeatedly give ground and re-group, he fought a stirring punching retreat, landing short, crisp blows as Segura tried to muscle his way to the inside. Marquez was brave and game but Segura’s snarl won out, sending the heroic Marquez spinning to the canvas in the twelfth and final round with a winging left-hand. The best fight of the decade so far for me, Marquez and Segura both emerged from it changed.

Segura only fought on two more occasions, first dominating an out-matched Felipe Salguero (3-3 in his last six) by tenth round stoppage, and then stepping up to match the lethal Juan Francisco Estrada. Estrada is deadly. Big, young, fast, hard-hitting and clever, he is the type of fighter most veterans go out of their way to avoid. Segura jumped right in at the deep end and tried to hunt the beast down but he was finished at this kind of level. Estrada found him easily with punches while Segura seemed unable to pull the trigger, a disaster for a pressure-fighter of his aggression. The ending was harrowing and took eleven long rounds; Segura hasn’t appeared in a ring since.

Hernan Marquez meanwhile, has attempted to nurse himself back to health. John Mark Apolinario was his opening gambit, a fighter to have failed three times at a WBA strap of one denomination or another and Marquez out-pointed him with reasonable ease but none of the harrowing menace that defined his early work. Seven months after his thrilling dig with Segura, he took a tilt at the coming Junior Bantamweight McJoe Arroyo and came up short, stopped once more in the late rounds. Marquez fought with all the heart of the Segura match, even firing back after a brutal body attack to drop his savage adversary with a counter-punch but he was hurt often and badly by a rampant Arroyo who exalted in an eleventh round stoppage. Worse was to follow as Marquez was lucky, by my card and that of broadcaster Box Azteca, to emerge with a split draw from his desperate encounter with journeyman Ricardo Roman. Nobody was fooled when he dispatched Roberto Lopez in three (32-36-1, victorious in one of his last six prior to meeting Marquez) or Jose Tirado in eight (27-15, Tirado was victorious in one of his last four).

Despite this, Marquez will meet pound-for-pound wrecking machine Juan Francisco Estrada in their shared home state of Senora, Mexico this weekend; the same Estrada who destroyed Giovani Segura, conqueror Marquez; the same Estrada who dragged the world’s best fighter Roman Gonzalez into deep water before succumbing in 2012.

To be frank, it should, could, likely will be, a humiliating slaughter. Segura is taller, has a reach advantage measured at six inches, a difference which is absolutely prohibitive at flyweight, is the faster, hits harder, is stronger, has a better chin and would hold all these advantages even had Marquez been at his absolute best.

And yet – while Estrada has proven heart and may show more, Marquez is the rarest of rough gems, a fighter that just doesn’t know when he is beaten. I have a horrible feeling that should Estrada fail to knock Marquez unconscious he might be the man to break him and that watching it will feel akin to watching a child torture an insect…but even so I can’t let this one pass by without a quick word to Sweet Science’s readership. You see, should Marquez manage to shuffle the clock back just a bit he is going to provide a sturdy challenge and make this fight a barn-burner.

The result will never be in doubt – Estrada is a stuck on winner. But somewhere in Mexico a man named Hernan “Tyson” Marquez is preparing himself to take the pain. And in doing so he just might force his deadly opponent to render a miniature masterpiece while enduring his fistic destruction the only way he knows how:

Punching, punching, punching back.

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