One of the greatest Mexican fighters ever, former multi-weight world champion Juan Manuel Marquez today celebrates his 50th birthday. A superb fighting technician who combined ring IQ with fierceness and ferocity, “Dinamita” thrilled the world with some truly epic fights. It was of course THAT series, and THAT knockout that sealed Marquez’s popularity along with his greatness, Marquez going to war with fellow all-timer Manny Pacquiao four times.
The two intense rivals ended up at 2-1-1 in favour of Pac-Man, but the explosion of a devastating KO scored by Marquez in the fourth and final fight gave/gives him the edge in the opinion of many. And the previous battles were nip/tuck affairs that really could have gone either way. These two brought out the greatness in each other.
But there was more to Marquez’ career than just this fantastic rivalry. Much more.
After a good amateur career during which he went 82-4(72) Marquez went pro, this in May of 1993. Marquez lost his pro debut, being DQ’d in the opening round of his fight with Javier Duran. In doing so, Marquez unwittingly put his name alongside the likes of Henry Armstrong, and his own brother, Rafael Marquez, as one of the greatest fighters to have lost their first paid fight.
Because how Marquez regrouped! During his long career, Marquez would win world titles at featherweight, super-featherweight, lightweight, and light-welterweight. Marquez, however, did not win his first world title shot, with him instead being beaten on points by Freddie Norwood in 1999. That loss, for the WBA featherweight title, was followed in 2003 by a stoppage win over Manuel Medina, Marquez winning the vacant IBF belt at 126.
It would be three years before Marquez lost again, this to the underrated and clever Chris John. But by then Marquez had started his rivalry with Pacquiao, the two having warred to a draw in May of 2004. Marquez somehow survived a torrid opening round that night, when he was decked multiple times. Had Pacquiao scored the first round win that he came so dangerously close to scoring, there would have been no beautiful and brutal four-fight rivalry. And how fight fans all over the globe would have lost out.
Wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz followed, but it was the rivalry with Pacquiao that the world was interested in. Marquez did land a fight with another superstar, this being Floyd Mayweather, but Mayweather was too big, too good, and too clever (in more ways than one) for him.
Let’s get back to the Pacquiao wars:
Fights two and three saw Manny win via razor-thin decision, and then, in December of 2012, Marquez scored THE win of his career, this a 6th round KO of Pacquiao. The world went nuts, seeing Pacquiao laid out, flat on his face. This would perhaps have been the perfect ending to Marquez” career. Marquez refused any and all offers for a fifth fight, instead boxing just twice more, with Marquez, now past his best, losing to Tim Bradley but going out a winner with a victory over Mike Alvarado.
Marquez exited with a fine 56-7-1(40) record. He must be ranked amongst the ten greatest Mexican fighters ever.
Marquez really was special.