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Juan Manuel Marquez: The Defining Moment in a Champion’s Career
Juan Angel Zurita (April 2, 2004) 
Juan Manuel Marquez
Some fighters have to persevere and work much harder than others to accomplish their goals, and IBF/WBA Featherweight Champion, Juan Manuel Marquez is the perfect example. Throughout his career he’s had to overcome several setbacks and show great patience and determination along the way. While title shots were constantly falling on the laps of less talented fighters, Marquez quietly continued his ascension to the top of the featherweight division. In 2003, he finally seized the opportunity and showed the boxing world what he’s capable of when he picked up the IBF and WBA Featherweight Titles by defeating respectable former champions, Manuel Medina and Derrick Gainer.

Though it appeared Marquez was headed towards an all-Mexico showdown with fellow countryman Marco Antonio Barrera for the right to claim featherweight supremacy, Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino bomber, derailed those plans when he shockingly dismantled Barrera in November of 2003. The unexpected turn of events led Marquez to believe that he’d once again have to wait before being presented with the opportunity to prove that he is the King of the Featherweights. After all, in the past, Prince Naseem Hamed avoided him, Derrick Gainer postponed their bout several times, and Marco Antonio Barrera rarely uttered his name. Why would Pacquiao be any different?

Marquez didn’t have to wait too long to get his answer.

On May 8th, 2004, Marquez will meet Pacquiao in the defining fight of his career. At 30 years of age, it’s now or never for Marquez. With a win, he catapults himself to superstardom and on to much bigger fights that could potentially make him a great fighter. With a loss, he joins the long list of talented fighters who weren’t able to perform at the “Big Show”. The pressure couldn’t be more intensified for the fighter known as “Dinamita”. But Marquez wouldn’t have it any other way. The situation he finds himself in at the moment is one he’s been seeking his entire career. More inspiring is the fact that it appears his younger opponent is overlooking him, his sights set on a July blockbuster matchup with superstar Erik “El Terrible” Morales.

"I know this is going to be a difficult fight, not only for me, but for Pacquiao too. If he's already thinking about a bigger fight with Erik Morales he is going to pay for it on May 8th. I feel I should get some respect from him since I'm the champion. If he is going to underestimate me, that will be his downfall. Believe me, I'm more ready for this fight because I know it is the most important of my career,” Marquez told Bernardo Osuna of Telefutura in a recent interview.

Apparently, Pacquiao and many of his supporters seem to believe that Marquez is stylistically similar to Barrera and expect him to wilt in the same manner. However, anyone who is genuinely familiar with Marquez would know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, acknowledged that Marquez is a much more complex challenge. “Tougher, fresher, and different,” were the words he used to describe him.

Marquez isn’t the least bit content with the thought of being perceived as a meager stepping stone for HBO’s newly contracted fighter. Seeking respect he vehemently vows to capture it come fight night.

“Believe me, I’m more ready for this fight because I know it is the most important of my career. As a Mexican, I felt bad for Marco Antonio Barrera, but I am not seeking revenge for him. What I want is for all of Mexico to be proud of me and to give them victory on May 8,” said Marquez.

It’s been a frustrating journey for the power-punching technician, a journey that will soon take a more prosperous path or come to an abrupt ending. A difficult task lies ahead, but Marquez promises to be up for the challenge. Salivating at the thought of a career defining victory, he knows that only a handful of fighters have ever found themselves in a fight as significant as this one. The long, arduous, road finally leads to May 8, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the defining moment of his career. For Marquez, it truly is now or never.
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