|Juan Manuel Marquez Turns the Page
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 9, 2013)
Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank
Juan Manuel Marquez will be paired up with Tim Bradley for the latter’s WBO welterweight title at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas this Saturday night. Marquez will forever be linked to one Manny Pacquiao, with whom he engaged in a historic four-fight rivalry. Their most recent meeting took place in December, ending with Marquez exorcising the demons of the past by leaving the fabled “Pac-Man” face-down and lifeless on the canvas with a perfectly timed counter right hand.
It was as brilliant as it was shocking.
And for Marquez, who had come excruciatingly close to toppling the Filipino icon in three previous meetings, it was also cathartic. Most observers believed this would invariably lead to a fifth meeting between the two. After all, their last meeting was an exciting, dramatic back-and-forth affair and it would be the most lucrative bout for either man.
So why is Marquez now facing Bradley in the fall?
According to him, it's very simple, “I closed the chapter, yeah, that fifth fight for Pacquiao. I like new challenges. It's a new challenge.”
It's hard to believe that in a sport in which the bottom line nearly always wins out, Marquez was willing to walk away and leave money on the table. There's a reason it’s called “prizefighting.” Still, he stands steadfast in his decision. “I wasn't interested in that at all,” he insisted to reporters at a media gathering at the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel in mid-June to announce this bout with Bradley. “Why take Bradley on? He has something I want. That [WBO] belt belonged to me. They should've gave it to me after the third Pacquiao fight and now it's out there again. So I came to get my belt.”
In fact, both Bradley (who was the recipient of a very unpopular split decision win against Pacquiao last year) and Marquez turned down more lucrative rematches against Pacquiao. Promoter Bob Arum, who represents this trio, was surprised by their decisions to take less money to face each other. To him, it was unprecedented for boxers to turn away deals that represented much more money. They are each literally taking half of what they would have received to face Pacquiao again to face each other in the fall.
Money, it seems, doesn't always talk the loudest.
“Because they're fighters, they have a high degree of professionalism and pride in what they do,” rationalized Arum (who, by the way, hasn't given up hope of Marquez-Pacquiao V), in trying to explain their decisions. “No, that's for today; things can change. But I must say, he was offered a lot of money to fight Pacquiao and turned it down and took a lot less to fight Bradley.”
According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Marquez has a guaranteed purse of $6 million for this fight while Bradley gets $4 million.
Perhaps it's personal pride or just plain stubbornness that has lead Marquez to this decision. But you could argue these very same traits will one day see his fist encased in Canastota, New York, when he gets his rightful place among the game’s other Hall-of-Famers.
It's why a fighter who actually lost his pro debut (in a dubious disqualification against Javier Duran on May 29th, 1993), played third banana for much of his prime to the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales for years, dropped a disappointing fight to Freddie Norwood in his first title opportunity and was sent to the floor three times in the first round against Pacquiao in 2004 in their first outing has been able to craft his résumé.
This isn't the first questionable financial decision he's made with his career. In the immediate aftermath of his first encounter with Pacquiao (a hotly contested draw), he eschewed a rematch, not believing the $750,000 he would have received (the same as Pacquiao) was a worthy offer. After a couple of title defenses against Orlando Salido and Victor Polo - as his manager/trainer Nacho Beristain battled Arum - Marquez was forced to take his IBF and WBA featherweight belts to Indonesia in 2006 to face Chris John. He was beaten in a fight many observers believed he won. But the worst insult was that his payday for that excursion was in the neighborhood of a paltry $30,000.
But even after that setback, Marquez persevered and eventually resumed his rivalry with Pacquiao. Many believed he did enough to defeat him in their second and third encounters in 2008 and 2011 before finally putting things in his own right hand last year. However, to just define Marquez by his fights with Pacquiao would be shortchanging his career as a whole.
There was a time when Marquez was derided as being a rather safe and cautious counterpuncher. This was a large reason why he was overshadowed by his countrymen, Barrera and Morales (who never dared face him during their best earning years as fighters) for years. By the same token, as he has gotten older and his reflexes got a shade slower, while he has retained much of his boxing acumen, we found out Marquez is as tough as he is stylish.
Past the ripe old age of 35, he took on the likes of Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis - two young and passionate prizefighters in their primes - and after hitting rough waters early on, was able to right the ship and halt them both in memorable fashion. He had enough hubris to believe he could actually trouble Floyd Mayweather as a welterweight and was then shut out over 12 rounds.
Now post-Pacquiao, Marquez challenges an undefeated fighter nearly 10 years his junior.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” said the 39-year-old Marquez, who now speaks English as fluently as he throws a left hook. “As always, I think if I want to be the best, I need to win [against] the best. The best is the champion. Bradley is a champion and I'm ready for that fight. The people will see on October 12th another great fight because his style and my style make a great fight. I'm training very hard. I feel very focused for this fight and I'm ready for October 12.”
It isn't so much that Marquez wants to beat Bradley but that the “Desert Storm” is in possession of a title he thinks should be his. “Everyone remembers what happened November 2011 [versus Pacquiao]. This belt should be mine but on October 12th, I'll be back for the belt. This is my motivation and I feel very happy for this opportunity.”
If he comes out victorious, Marquez will be the first Mexican boxer to win major titles in five separate weight classes. And it's at that point where he’ll make his case to be the best ever from this country, which has a storied boxing history.
Arum says, “Juan Manuel knows years from now when people ask, ‘Who was the greatest Mexican fighter of all time?’ If he wins this fifth world title, many people will say the name ‘Juan Manuel Marquez’ as will they say ‘Julio Cesar Chavez.’”
Bradley, who comes in with a record of 30-0 (12), is very respectful of Marquez and his skills. At the same time, he also believes he's facing someone on the precipice of defeat in his last outing.
“I've never seen Marquez get hit that much,” he said to a group of reporters. “Pacquiao was catching him with some great punches before Marquez knocked him out. Honestly, if he didn't knock him out, he would've been knocked out in the next couple of rounds but Pacquiao was going for the kill and he got killed. So that's the bottom line in boxing - one punch can change anything.” He added, “[Pacquiao] was hitting [Marquez] with everything. I saw a little vulnerability in Marquez during that fight and I was like, ‘Huh. Maybe I have a shot.’”
Bradley has a point. After scoring his first knockdown of Pacquiao in the third from a thunderous overhand right, Marquez himself was sent to the canvas in the fourth and was shellacked for much of the fifth and six rounds. He was bruised and bloodied and things only seemed to be getting worse before he landed his perfect punch.
This figures to be an intriguing and fun fight. Bradley is coming off a back-and-forth slugfest with the rugged Ruslan Provodnikov in March, when he struggled to stay upright in the final seconds of that grueling contest. Beristain says of this upcoming bout, “It's an interesting fight for us. We recognize the quality of the champion and we recognize the way his trainer handles him. I think it's going to be a complicated fight but I think we have the right to think we're going to win this fight.”
One aspect of this fight that is refreshing is that it's a new match-up. Yes, Marquez-Pacquiao is a historic pairing but the public had seen it before. Perhaps a fifth go-round is too much of a good thing.
Arum says, “We all envision how something will unfold. If the fighters have fought before, that surprise is gone. We've seen it unfold. I think he's looking to establish his legacy, Bradley, which means he's going to fight a balls-ass fight and Marquez is going to answer back. I think you're going to see a very entertaining fight.”
Yes, it's a new chapter for Marquez, who has seemingly closed the book on Pacquiao. You'd think walking away now would have been the fairy tale ending. But boxing doesn't have many of those, unfortunately. And it's Marquez…remember: he's stubborn.
“Because you know why? I get motivated by the fifth title,” Marquez explained. “I think it's important – historic - to get five titles. No Mexican has ever done that.”
I really don't know what more needs to be said about the tripleheader on HBO this past weekend that hasn't already been uttered. The 12-round clinch-fest between heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin might have been the most boring program ever on HBO since “Joe Buck Live” (the Artie Lange episode notwithstanding). There's no denying Klitschko's effectiveness but the fact he has been the victim of a certain double-standard (unlike other boxers who hit and don't get hit) resulted in dull and unexciting labels (instead of being referred to as “skilled”). He hasn’t been duly given the benefit of the doubt that the name of the game (ultimately) is winning.
But this fight hit new depths and it has to be asked: When is the sport going to start placing the onus on referees like Luis Pabon to start enforcing the rules and not just stand around as bystanders while excessive clinching and mauling take place time and time again. Klitschko, who used his advantage in size all night long versus Povetkin, was allowed to get away with basically draping himself all over Povetkin, leaning on him throughout this dreary affair. He was penalized just once but you could make an argument that he should have been docked points almost every round.
Meanwhile in Orlando at the Amway Center, lightweight Terence Crawford boxed his way to an easy 10-round decision over the passionless Andrey Klimov. Crawford did many of us a favor as this fight gave us an excuse to change channels to see what was going on with the Ohio State-Northwestern game. Crawford is talented but moving forward, it's paramount that Top Rank Promotions and HBO match him up with fighters who are consistently aggressive against him.
But Miguel Cotto gave the audience something to be excited about as he blasted out Delvin Rodriguez in three rounds. Yeah, I get it; there's a reason Rodriguez was chosen for this assignment but it was good to see Cotto coming forward and understanding that cranking up left hooks is what he does best.
Now, as for what's next, there's a lot of conjecture as to who he's actually promotionally aligned with and if he's a free agent but there's no doubt that given the crowd he drew this past weekend, Cotto is still one of the most important boxers in the sport.
One with a storied past and as it turns out, a bright future.
So how will Showtime end its 2013? This article sheds some light:
And it does look like an all-Brooklyn battle between Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah will headline at the Barclays Center on December 7th.
As for November 30th, BoxingScene.com reported that Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime could be headed to St. Louis for a Devon Alexander fight.
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