The pressure is on for Marquez-Diaz
By Brandon Estrict, (Feb 5, 2009)  
For Juan Manuel Marquez, the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Although he put on a masterful performance in his lightweight debut against the division’s recognized champion in becoming the first man to stop Cuban great Joel Casamayor, he isn’t getting any younger, or faster for that matter. And his upcoming encore to that bout proves the old theory, “no rest for the weary” as he takes on the man formerly considered by many to be the class of the division in “The Baby Bull” Juan Diaz.

To a fighter of his ilk, the fear for Marquez isn’t so much suffering a let-down in this bout as it is the viability of the man that will stand opposite him on that Saturday evening, February 28th in Houston, Texas. While Houston is also home to Diaz, I wouldn’t expect the usual overwhelming crowd support in his favor as both fighters have a large and loyal Mexican fan-base.

The Baby Bull meanwhile is in a similar position, though not as dire because at age 25 you would suspect that his career still may not have hit its peak. Nevertheless, he would surely love to reclaim his title and reign over the lightweight division once again and would assuredly love to erase his bruising, lone professional defeat to perennial contender Nate “The Galaxxy Warrior” Campbell last March, just as much if not more. He got off to a good start last summer when he outclassed the all-action Australian brawler Michael Katsidis by putting his underrated boxing skills on display. But as we all know, Katsidis is no Juan Manuel Marquez.

Marquez, or JMM for short, is on a mission that will consist of running through top competition in impressive fashion, in the hope of tracking down and securing a third fight with Filipino idol and current pound-for-pound champion Manny Pacquiao. Their first epic encounter took place in 2004 and as is widely known to boxing fans, resulted in a controversial draw that saw Marquez rally from three 1st round knockdowns to outbox the Pac-Man throughout the majority of the remaining rounds. Their second clash ended in more controversy last year, as Pacquiao escaped with a razor-thin split decision that some ringside observers felt could have gone to either man. With Pacquiao now catapulted to megastar status by moving all the way up to the welterweight division to destroy an old Oscar De La Hoya, JMM has his work cut out for him in his pursuit. Pacquiao will next square off against another of boxing's international stars, Ricky Hatton, a mega-fight finally set to take place in May after several lulls in the negotiation process. Marquez cannot afford to take a low-profile fight in the interim or least of all lose if he has a prayer of getting another crack at the southpaw Pacquiao.

This match-up is both a very interesting and relevant one that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten even more of the attention that it deserves. While I personally believe JMM to be the more seasoned, better all-around fighter, I feel that Diaz style presents a big problem to him. While not in possession of the customary punching power normally associated with his aggressive, come-forward fighting approach, Diaz is a big, physically strong natural lightweight, while Marquez as documented, is only in his 2nd bout at the 135 lb. limit. They are near equals in terms of speed so you have to wonder, will Marquez be able to keep Diaz at range where he operates best, or will the strength and size of The Baby Bull be enough to set the tempo and force JMM to fight his fight on the inside? And if the latter turns out to be the case, can Marquez win a fight contested at close quarters against a Juan Diaz who is all but certain to be the bigger man? Both men are even in reach at 67 inches and only an inch separate them in height so there are no advantages there.

There is no clear-cut winner in this one folks. Betting odds have yet to be released, but Marquez is expected to start off as a slight favorite, which I’m sure will motivate Diaz to be on his A-plus game as he’s never been the underdog in his hometown, or in his career for that matter. Much is at stake for both men in this clash, ultimately for lightweight supremacy and though both have something to prove, I suspect Marquez will want to be a little more emphatic in driving the point home as he fights toward the biggest payday of his career with his legacy at stake in a potential trilogy bout with the Pacquiao. If I was forced to make my pick now, I would go out on a limb and predict that Marquez will put it all together for this one and become the first man to STOP Juan Diaz via an accumulation of punches, but don’t quote me as I may not feel that way one month from today as the fight draws near. There will most definitely be a large divide in popular opinion for what is sure to be an amazing fight but we can all agree on one thing, hardcore boxing fans and casual fans alike are in for a real treat with this bout. This is the type of fight that gains boxing new fans and I applaud Golden Boy for an outstanding match-up. Everyone make sure you’re tuned in to HBO on Saturday, February 28th, you won’t want to miss this one!

Questions/Comments, e-mail Brandon at:

© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing Inc. 1998-2009