Juan Manuel Marquez is a great fighter. Ask anyone who’s ever faced him and they’ll tell you the same. Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) can box like few can.
The 38 year olds’ counter punching skills have been referred to as brilliant by more than one ringside boxing analyst. He’s won world titles in three different divisions and many believe he’s the only man with the style to defeat Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Yet for some reason, his native country of Mexico hasn’t quite embraced him like they have Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales or even Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
The fact that Mexican fans fawn over a relative newcomer like Alvarez must be especially infuriating for Marquez. “What has he done?” Marquez reportedly said of 21 year old Alvarez when he first heard the Guadalajara based red-head was getting a world title shot. “Nothing at all, he’s not even a decent fighter.”
It’s amazing that after fifty nine fights and some mesmerizing performances against the best in the business, Marquez still finds himself defending his career.
It became obvious during one of our conversations that his questionable loss to Chris John in March of 2006 still smarts. John, an Indonesian fighter, was gifted a decision over Marquez in front of his hometown fans and important local politicians. A close look at the video showed Marquez out-boxing and out-working his opponent over twelve rounds. But he couldn‘t escape the heaps of “home cooking” that was dished out “buffet-style” in favor of John. “I clearly won the fight. Chris John didn’t win more than three rounds,” remembers Marquez.
“It was a terrible night for the sport,” said Marquez’s hall of fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain. “The evidence is on video. It will always be there. The truth doesn’t hide. Juan Manuel was robbed.”
“It was a huge lesson learned and a setback but my career recovered well,” Marquez said. “Now it’s time to handle this unfinished business with Pacquiao. I have to beat him decisively.”
After twenty four action filled rounds against the man sometimes referred to as “The Mexicutioner”, questions remain as to which fighter is truly superior. There are those who say Pacquiao holds the advantage after having floored Marquez a total of four times in their two fights.
But winning in boxing isn’t just about scoring knockdowns. It’s also about getting up, fighting the smarter fight and finding a way to win. After two thrilling encounters with one draw and one win for Pacquiao, only one point separated the two on the judges' scorecards. Marquez quickly disagreed with the past punctuations. “You saw the fights? Who do you think won?” he asked. I told him I felt he won at least one of the encounters. “I won both fights especially the second one,” Marquez said. “But this time I can‘t leave any questions unanswered. No way.”
Getting superstar status in the world of boxing is rarely achieved.
Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali achieved it. Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KO’s) has reached such stature. The once dirt-poor kid out of Manila deserves the adulation. His career is filled with wins over opponents who were supposed to be too big or too strong for him.
He destroyed them all.
Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito, and Miguel Cotto just to name a few. All were physically bigger, former world champions who couldn’t deal with his speed and stinging accuracy. He’s a future hall of famer, a hero to millions and exactly the person Juan Manuel Marquez needs in his life.
For Marquez, beating the Filipino boxing icon would mean finally joining the ranks of the highest regarded warriors in the boxing rich country of Mexico. “I know Mexican fans are tough to please,“ Marquez said. “This is the fight that will take me over the top. Beating Pacquiao will finally get me the respect I deserve.”
Some Mexican fans aren’t so sure Marquez can pull off the feat. “Pacquiao is a monster at this point in his career,” said Miguel Jimenez, a casual follower of boxing from Tijuana. “He’s obliterated everyone in his path. He‘s too fast.”
It’s not an uncommon view among some fans in Mexico who probably know Pacquiao more than their own countryman. The fact that names like “Canelo” Alvarez and the son of Julio Cesar Chavez, Chavez Jr, resonates more than Juan Manuel Marquez to the average Mexican boxing fan is astounding. “I didn’t realize he won three world titles,” stated Jimenez when informed of some of Marquez‘s achievements. “If he wins it would be a great feat and it would get him a lot of respect. I still think Pacquiao will win.”
The significance of the bout isn‘t lost on Marquez. “This fight means everything to me. The money is great but creating a legacy is important. I want the people of Mexico to speak of me with pride,” Marquez reiterated. “It’s been a long road. I’ve been at this all my life and finally I get my chance to prove to the world that I’m one of the all time greats. I still have that need in me to win. I can’t stand losing. It feels ugly when you lose and I hate the feeling. I never want to experience it again. I‘ll make sure it doesn‘t happen on Saturday.”
Pacquiao vs. Marquez III takes place this Saturday November 12 at the M.G.M. Grand in Las Vegas. It will be available on H.B.O. Pay Per View.
Espinoza Boxing Club signs Daniel Ponce De Leon
Former WBO Junior Featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon (41-4, 34 KO’s) signed on as part of Frank Espinoza’s well regarded management stable. Espinoza currently manages the career of I.B.F. Bantamweight champion Abner Mares. He’s best known for running the successful career of world titlist Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez. “I feel excited and more motivated than ever,” said Ponce De Leon. “I plan to be a world champion again and Frank’s support will be a huge advantage.”
Espinoza believes De Leon has a strong future ahead of him. “Not only is Ponce championship material, he’s an exciting fighter with punching power. He’s the kind of fighter that fans want to watch. We‘re very happy to have signed Ponce.”
Kirkland vs. Angulo re-match?
If you saw the recent war between James Kirkland and Alfredo “Perro” Angulo on HBO then you would agree it was one of the most exciting and dramatic fights of the year. After being dropped in the opening round, Kirkland rose from the canvas, regained his composure and eventually scored a thrilling stoppage over Angulo.
I say, let Angulo recuperate and regroup for a few months, he fights once more and let’s see a re-match. These are exactly the kind of fights boxing needs in order to gain more fans.
For questions or comments for the author:
Who Should Floyd Mayweather fight next: