The Tale of Juan Manuel Marquez: A Mayweather-Marquez Analysis in a Fight That Some Have Billed a “Mismatch”

marquezBy Samuel Rivera - It is not easy being Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1-37 KO’s), the great Mexican fighter for most part of his career toiled in obscurity, lagging in popularity behind his countrymen Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

There are few reasons for this, first Marquez was a technician while Barrera and Morales (both who had the capabilities to box beautifully) preferred the kind of two fisted mayhem that their Mexican countrymen love. Marquez was more cerebral on his approach to the sweet science which is why both Barrera and Morales are as of today retired and Juan Manuel is a top five pound for pound player at age 36.

The second reason for Marquez’s lack of popularity when compared with Barrera and Morales is the fact that he has only begun in the last few years to secure marquee matchups. Nacho Beristain can be in part blamed for this because after Marquez breakthrough fight against Pacquiao in 2004( a fight in which he would suffer three disastrous knockdowns in the first round only to get up and school the Filipino dynamo en route to a draw)Beristain decided to take the short money and go to Indonesia to face Chris John instead of a proposed rematch with Pacquiao..

Marquez would go on to “lose” a decision to John in a fight in which he nearly won every round and was deducted points for landing good body shots.

The other reason for Marquez’s lack of “big” fights was that he was consistently ducked by the other top featherweights of the era, namely Prince Naseem Hamed.

After the John robbery, Marquez who is perhaps the greatest Mexican fighter since Julio Cesar Chavez, would not stay in the shadows for long and in 2007 after posting two good wins would meet and defeat Barrera and Rocky Juarez on his way to a rematch with Manny Pacquiao in 2008.

The fight would take place for Marquez WBC title belt at super featherweight (130) and Pacquiao was red hot coming off a Barrera victory and two back to back destructions of Erik Morales.

Marquez and Pacquiao would once again fight a magnificent war which produced scintillating see saw action. In the end Pacquiao won a controversial split decision in a fight were Marquez most likely deserved the nod.

Marquez and Pacquiao would never again (and regrettably so) share a ring against one another, but they continued to wage war on a different way. On June 2008 Pacquiao rather than facing Marquez for a third time would move up to 135 to take on David Diaz (the weakest of the champions at the weight) for Diaz’s WBC lightweight strap.

Whether Diaz was the weakest link of all the champions or not wouldn’t matter much on the eyes of most observers after all was said and done. Pacquiao simply looked indestructible at the weight as he handed Diaz a frightening beat down for 9 rounds, most critics were so awed by his performance that the fact that Diaz wasn’t the best lightweight champion was quickly thrown under the rug.

Not to be out done by his arch nemesis, three months after Pacquiao’s conquest of David Diaz Marquez would one up Pacquiao by moving up to light weight and taking on the recognized Ring Magazine champ at the weight in the crafty Joel Casamayor.

In a razor close chess match between two great counterpunchers, a cut on Casamayor’s eye would prompt him to lead against Marquez and Marquez leveled him in the eleventh round, prompting the referee to stop that bout.

Marquez had one upped his arch nemesis and had gained near universal acclaim as the lightweight champ.

Pacquiao however would not rest easy knowing that Marquez had out done him, and he would (in what in retrospective has to be seen as a brilliant move) take on a faded De La Hoya at 147 (feather punching Forbes had roughed up his mug in the previous bout before taking on the Pac monster) however most figured size would matter and in the end it did, come fight night Pacquiao was actually the heavier man in the ring.

Pacquiao forced the De La Hoya to quit in the corner after handing him the biggest beating of his career, in a fight where De La Hoya did not win a single round, and could not even land a significant punch on the Filipino icon. It was shocking and with Mayweather retired, the impressive win pushed Pacquiao past Marquez into the first spot on most pound for pound lists.

In comes 2009 and Marquez of course, still had to keep up with is Filipino nemesis, and because of it he would take on the next best lightweight at the time on Juan Diaz. To be fair Diaz was a much more formidable challenge than Oscar was the night he faced Pacquiao.

Diaz would put up a heck of a fight even putting JMM on queer street in the second round of the bout, Marquez however would not be denied and he kept countering and breaking Diaz down in route to a 9th round TKO victory.

Once again the debate to decide who the better fighter was; Pacquiao or Marquez, heated up across the message boards and the critics were evenly split. Marquez would however take a verbal shot at the Filipino during the Diaz post fight interview with Kellerman, “I want to fight the best pound for pound fighter” Marquez told Max, and of course Kellerman like most of the viewers that night expected Marquez to call out Pacquiao, however to the surprise of many Marquez would call out Mayweather.

Obviously Marquez had come to a sensible conclusion, he was 35 soon to turn 36, it was clear Pacquiao would never enter the ring again to face him when there were far easier and bigger money making challenges out there like Hatton.

The only way he could defeat Pacquiao and cement his legacy in the process without actually having to face Pacquiao was to face the guy who was considered by many the best boxer of the generation in the undefeated Mayweather.

Many of you might be wondering why I have bothered to recount the history between Marquez and Pacquiao in a Mayweather-Marquez article, and the reason behind that is that I think that for both Mayweather and especially for Marquez this fight is all about Manny Pacquiao.

If Marquez were to pull off the upset against Mayweather, there would be no way that Pacquiao could ever match the feat (save for taking on a ridiculous challenge like Paul Williams but that will not happen),Pacquiao quite simply would be forced to face Marquez for a third time or forever remain number two behind his Mexican arch nemesis.

Of course for Mayweather there is plenty at stake in the fight too. He wants Pacquiao because a Mayweather-Pacquiao match up after the drubbing that Pacquiao administered to Hatton, and if he were to beat Marquez, while Pacquiao were to knock Cotto out, would be the biggest fight that can be made in boxing since De La Hoya-Trinidad.

In the end everything is about Pacquiao and Pacquiao is the primordial reason why Marquez- Mayweather is happening. Consider this; Pacquiao’s recent exploits are the basis for most critics thinking that Marquez actually has a chance against Money Mayweather.

If you remove Pacquiao from the equation, Marquez accomplishments on his own do not really grant him much of chance against the larger Mayweather (though on the flipside, who has Mayweather beaten lately that was as good as Marquez?), Marquez is a natural featherweight who is so good at fist fighting that he is the best lightweight on the planet today.

However it has been Pacquiao’s destruction of De La Hoya and the near killing of Ricky Hatton that has given fans hope that the Mexican warrior will finally end Floyd’s undefeated run. The reasoning behind this is that De La Hoya came “this” close to beating Floyd in a split decision loss, and it took Floyd “that” many more rounds to ice Hatton, while Pacquiao made Oscar look like a gun shy amateur and made Hatton look like he had no business in a professional boxing ring as he rendered him unconscious.

In some people’s eyes that makes Pacquiao a better fighter than Pretty Boy Floyd, and it is this logic that makes Marquez-Mayweather such an interesting bout, Marquez is at Pacquiao’s level, and therefore he can beat Floyd.

However nothing in boxing is that easy and simple to figure out, Pacquiao has excelled at the higher weights, but has yet to fight a true welterweight that is a very good fighter. The version of De La Hoya that Pacquiao faced was several leagues away from what he once was as a fighter (Even then De La Hoya in his prime wasn’t as good as Marquez), and Hatton has been the beneficiary of smart match making for the most part of his career and his face first brawling style played right into the powerful and fast hands of the Filipino icon.

Manny Pacquiao’s hour of truth at welter weight will arrive when he faces Miguel Cotto, Miguel is the greatest and most formidable fighter he has faced since Marquez. But Marquez’s test at welter unfortunately will come much sooner against Mayweather.

Marquez’s Legacy defining fight will come against a Natural Junior Welter ( to me that is Mayweather’s natural weight), it will not be easy, he couldn’t have it any tougher, but that’s why he is Juan Manuel Marquez and because he is Juan Manuel Marquez, I doubt he will go down without making a fight out of it.

Floyd Mayweather (39-0-25 KO’s) VS Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1-37 KO’s)

Fight Analysis

Age advantage: Mayweather.

At 31, and the fact that he has absorbed almost no punishment through his career, Floyd has the definite edge here. Mayweather might be a little a ring rusty come September 19, however it is widely believed he has been training even while retired so technically Mayweather will enter the ring that night in his or very close to his prime.

Sadly the same cannot be said for Juan Manuel who at 36 has been in countless of wars, wars that have come as a consequence of aging, because as Marquez has slowed down he has been forced to stand his ground, this has given him a reputation of a power puncher of sorts lately, but this will also be his biggest liability when he has Mayweather across the ring in a few weeks.

Quite simply age and boxing mileage benefit Mayweather greatly, Mayweather will be at his best when his faces Marquez and Marquez will be a few years removed from his prime.

Size advantage: Mayweather.

Mayweather is a natural junior welter weight that fights at welter, Marquez is a natural featherweight who campaignas at Lighterweight, you do the math.

There is a 10-15 pound gap of natural weight that gives Mayweather a decidedly strength advantage, couple that with the fact that Mayweather is taller (5’8” to Marquez’s 5’7”) , has a five inch reach advantage and it is easy to see why Marquez might be biting more than he can chew when he takes on the elusive undefeated pug.

Speed: Mayweather*

Mayweather is the obvious choice here but note the asterisk, Marquez is no slouch in what speed is concerned mainly because of his excellent timing. Manny Pacquiao who might be the fastest fighter on the planet was countered repeatedly by Marquez.

Because of his experience against smaller fighters, Marquez is used to facing fast handed fighters, in contrast Mayweather is not. Mayweather was put on Queer Street by a counter from Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, and have we forgotten how fast handed but undisciplined and erratic Zab Judah was giving him hell for about 4 rounds before the usual Judah meltdown occurred?

You can add to Mayweather’s list of question marks the fact that in the few instances in which De La Hoya flickered out his left jab against him, Floyd seem puzzled and had seemly no answer for it. Perhaps come fight night it will be Floyd Mayweather who will have trouble with Marquez’s speed rather than the other way around.

However, even at light weight Marquez seemed to have lost some of his speed and reflexes. After the rough Diaz fight, one has to wonder how much he has left and more importantly how much speed he has lost as he has bulked up from 135 to 140 plus pounds.

The bulking up intangible aside, Marquez is the fastest fighter Mayweather has been in the ring with since Judah, and unlike Judah, Marquez is a master counter puncher. If Marquez’s timing has not eroded, Mayweather is in for rude awakening when Marquez begins to launch punches at him. This does not however give Marquez the advantage in the speed department as Mayweather will be the faster fighter come fight night, which is fine for Marquez because he has been in with faster opponents before, Marquez expects as much. However the problem for him might come in the form of Mayweather’s elusiveness.

Power Advantage: Marquez*

Pound for Pound Marquez is clearly the more powerful puncher. One only needs to look at the way he finished Casamayor and Diaz two natural lightweights who were known for their durability. Perhaps most telling is the fact that Pacquiao showed Ricky Hatton (a fairly strong Junior Welter) no respect, but had to think twice before lunging in at Marquez because Marquez was stopping him on his tracks.

Mayweather however is a Welterweight and that might play a significant part in the bout, while in clinches Mayweather will certainly be the stronger man, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for Marquez as Mayweather isn’t a huge puncher at the weight.

Mayweather’s only high profile KO (at welter) has been that of Hatton (A blown up Junior Welter) who took a beating before that check hook forced him into a face first encounter with the ring post.

Mayweather avoided the big welters of his era, so as a puncher he is average at best, even as a junior welter weight. Unfortunately for Marquez, Juan Diaz wasn’t a big puncher either and he had him on Queer Street.

Mayweather as of late isn’t much of a combination puncher, he pot shots and counters usually one shot at a time and at most two. I don’t think he can hurt Marquez by throwing one shot at a time.

Marquez on the other hand can sting you with his precise and accurate counter punches and if he catches you right he can end the night (Just ask Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor). Marquez should enter the ring as the bigger more precise puncher, but the big question here is whether his punch will have the same effect on Floyd that it had against the two lightweight fighters he faced.

Chin Advantage: Even

Marquez has been down before, but he was down against Pacquiao, the very same Pacquiao that left Ricky Hatton in a five minute coma on the canvas. Marquez got hit by the very same punches as the Brit and he either took the shots well or went down only to get up and deliver punishment of his own.

Mayweather is bigger than Pacquiao, but he doesn’t hit nearly as hard, and with the big gloves he usually wears in to the ring it is very unlikely he can take Marquez out with one punch. Unless Mayweather can catch Marquez with something he doesn’t see coming (Unlikely though this is Juan Manuel Marquez we are talking about here) I don’t see Marquez’s chin failing him here.

Mayweather has never been down in his career (against Famoso Hernandez he took a knee because his hand got hurt), but Zab Judah did take him down with a clean punch though Nady didn’t see it (or ignored it as it happened pretty fast). However the general consensus is that Floyd has a pretty good chin.

General public opinion aside, no one really knows if Floyd has a good chin or not. Quite frankly in 39 fights he has very rarely taken a hard punch in the kisser. However he was put on Queer Street for a bit in his fight against Corley the result of a counter punch. Corley is not a huge puncher but to Mayweather’s credit, Corley did pull off the same stunt against Miguel Cotto, so no shame there.

So both can be hurt given the right circumstances, but both can defend very well, a one punch knockout loss for either fighter is highly improbable.

Heart Advantage: Marquez

It is difficult for any fighter to have an advantage in this category when the man they are facing is Juan Manuel. Marquez is not easily discouraged, there isn’t a fighter alive today who would have fought Pacquiao to an official draw ( I saw Marquez win it) after taking the kind of blitzing Marquez took in that first round.

Mayweather has never been put into a position where his heart has been tested, and the fact that he seems to prefer safety first over winning in spectacular fashion doesn’t bode well for him if he finds himself at the wrong end of bad knockdown against Marquez.

Quite simply put if the fight comes down to grit and determination, Marquez would be in a more comfortable position because he has been in hopeless spots before and where others would have given up, he found a way to win.

Mayweather remains an enigma in this category because his heart has yet to be called into duty.

Skill Advantage: Marquez*

I will get a lot of the negative comments for picking Marquez here, but people usually think speed and reflexes are all there is to skill. Technique and Ring smarts are just as important, and Marquez it’s flawless when he throws punches, his balance and his technique are damn near impeccable.

Mayweather is a defensive wizard, BUT… he has yet to fight a very good welterweight, and he seemed rather confused at times in the De La Hoya fight especially when Oscar was pumping his jab. One would think that if was as good making at adjustments as he is given credit for, he would have mopped the floor with Oscar as the flashy defensive fighter had all the tools to do so.

Up to this point Mayweather has fought and won against 38 (fought Castillo twice) opponents who were less gifted than him (with the exception of Judah). Mayweather is undefeated today, because of his skills but mostly because of his natural gifts. Marquez on the other hand has beaten younger, stronger, and faster opponents before. Marquez is gifted, but against Pacquiao for example he didn’t win the mayority of the 24 rounds because he was more athletically endowed, he won those rounds because of his skill and his boxing IQ.

Intangibles, strategy and prediction

Fights are not won based on statistic analysis; intangibles (which in our case are questions that we can speculate about but we can’t really answer for sure, until the fight is over)sometimes can play the most important role, especially in a fight like this where pretty much everything is based on speculation.

Question mark #1: How will Marquez handle 140 plus pounds against a fighter that has won titles at welter weight?

Marquez has had plenty of time to gain the weight and he seems in to be in good shape, whether he lost speed or not, is something that will only become apparent once the leather begins to fly. It could be that Marquez is slow and sluggish come fight night, but he has weighted close to 140 pounds before on past fights. It could be that Mayweather wears down Marquez based on his strength but that it’s unlikely because, in between fights I hear that Marquez weighs in the 150’s, so it could be that it won’t be too much of a deal because of the answer to the second question mark…

Question mark #2: Is Mayweather really a Welterweight? And where does he really rank at 147?

If you weigh 147 at the weigh in then you are a welterweight! However in an era where the Miguel Cottos, Margaritos and Clotteys of the world enter the ring on fight night weighing over 160 pounds, Mayweather is truly an average sized Junior Welterweight. That in itself is bright spot for Marquez.

Add in, the fact that Mayweather never faced much less defeated any of the three guys I mentioned above and the sun really begins to shine brightly for Marquez in this one.

Where Mayweather ranks as a welterweight is a mystery that has never been solved . Mayweather built his legend at 147 with victories of over Carlos Baldomir, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya (154) and Ricky Hatton.

Carlos Baldomir held a title from a title lineage that got “messed up” somewhere in between Mayorga and Corey Spinks. Baldomir if we can remember won the title from Zab Judah in a miracle fight. Judah should have never lost to Carlos Baldomr, which is why Mayweather’s subsequent victory over Judah himself was rather meaningless.

Carlos Baldomir was probably the worst Welterweight title holder in recent memory, as he had no particular talent, save for a world class chin. Baldomir’s biggest liability? Lack of Punching Power and the speed of a sea turtle. Floyd knew this when he took on him and won a rather easy boring UD over the Argentinean.

Zab Judah was just as talented as Mayweather but we can all agree that he doesn’t have the IQ or the focus to make most out of it, and because of this he has lost all of his major fights save for the second bout with Spinks. Floyd beat Judah, but so does every other elite fighter.

Moving on to Oscar De La Hoya, by the time Floyd got to him, Oscar was over the hill. Think about this; Oscar in the late part of his career was pretty much a part time fighter, and his skills eroded terribly because of it. It doesn’t bode well for Mayweather then, that he won a SPLIT decision, in another boring contest.

After that, he fought Ricky Hatton, same Hatton who went life and death with Collazo, he fought Hatton away from Hatton’s best fighting weight, and did knock Ricky Hatton out, but the point is Marquez probably would have beaten the four fighters Floyd beat.

Floyd is what he is; an average sized Junior Welterweight, who picked the right opponents at 147 (and Oscar at 154).

Question mark #3: Is this fight a mismatch in the making?

A lot of people see it that way, but considering Floyd is a Junior welterweight, who even at Junior welter did nothing special, while adding the fact that Marquez handled Pacquiao so well, and I do not see this fight as a mismatch. In fact Marquez is by far the best fighter Floyd has fought since Castillo, and before that his only signature win had come at the Late Diego Corrales’ expense.

Marquez even at 36 is the best fighter Floyd has ever fought, so how is this fight a mismatch? If Mayweather had faced the likes of Cotto, Mosley, and Clottey at welter, then it would be a different story. If Floyd would have still kept his “0” after fighting that trio, there would have been evidence that he had beaten very good big welterweights and therefore Marquez size would have come into play. But Floyd never met those guys in the ring, probably because they were very good and they were too big for him.

Size won’t be the deciding factor in this bout. To beat Marquez, Mayweather will have to be better than him.

Question mark #3: So if Marquez is the best fighter Floyd has ever faced, why did he pick a fight with him?

Number one, His ego! Marquez publicly called him out. Number two, Marquez looked very vulnerable against Juan Diaz, and number three, MONEY, he will make 8 figures against Marquez and if he wins he sets up a super fight with Manny Pacquiao (If Pacquiao gets by Cotto which is no easy task).

In the end Pretty boy Floyd thinks he can beat Marquez easy.

Question mark #4: Why did Marquez call out Floyd when he could have stayed at Lightweight defending his title?

He is thinking in his legacy, and in order to be great you have to take risks. A fight against Floyd gives him the chance to prove his greatness and also secures him a third match with Pacman if he were to win.

Marquez has nothing to lose, if he loses people will say “hey he was old and outsized” if he wins he is the greatest PFP fighter of our generation. Finally and perhaps most importantly; Marquez thinks he can win.

Oh yeah, Mayweather’s 39 previous opponents (well 38) thought the same thing, but they really only had a plan A, Floyd never fought a fighter with a plan B or C. If he did, none of the previous 38 fighters had the combination of skill and ring smarts that Marquez possesses.

Question mark #5: So who wins the fight already?

Marquez is a great counter puncher with pop in his hands, Floyd is a great counter puncher with quickness, this could turn in a into ‘boring’ tactical match, with both guys picking spots and trying to make the least mistakes.

Marquez wants Mayweather to lead and Mayweather wants Marquez to lead, not the recipe for a war. However someone will have to lead and considering Marquez lack of reach against Floyd, he will have to get inside in order counter Floyd’s counters and to deliver body shots early. Marquez’s will try to get Floyd on the ropes, which won’t be hard considering Floyd as of late likes to do that in order to counter you coming in.

If Marquez can establish his Jab and while timing Floyd’s shots he can win it, Floyd is not as of late a combination fighter, he showed too much respect to Oscar, and once he feels Juan Manuel’s shots he will do the same. Oscar wasn’t that good at countering but Marquez is, for Floyd to win this fight he will have to box Marquez from angles while keeping the shorter man in the middle of the ring. Floyd can win it if he picks and pecks through the fight.

But I don’t think Floyd can do that all night, and Juan Manuel Marquez is used to being in close fights and against faster guys. Marquez is a great boxer himself and he won’t let Floyd get away with the hit and run strategy.

Floyd is great, but Marquez body of work throughout his career proves that he will be in the fight and he won’t be discouraged. In the end Marquez body shots, jab and combination punching will do Floyd Mayweather in. Perhaps the biggest shocker of all will be that Mayweather will encounter trouble with Marquez’s speed and timing, rather than the other way around.

Marquez stood for 24 rounds in front of Manny Pacquaio and for the most part countered him over and over again. Pacquiao while wild, is much more unpredictable than Floyd because you are never sure from what angle the punch is going to come from, not only that, the punch usually comes in with knockout power which is something Marquez won’t have to worry about when he is trying to counter Floyd’s pot shots. Marquez wins a UD against Mayweather in close strategically contested fight.

It won’t be easy for either fighter, but Marquez is used to winning uneasy fights and in the end that will prove to be the difference. Those who think Mayweather will win by a blow out need to rethink their position as THIS IS JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ we are talking about here. If by some chance Mayweather does blow him out, then he was right all along about being the greatest fighter or our time.

Samuel Rivera can be reached at:

Article posted on 06.09.2009

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