The Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali? No. The Spinks brothers, Michael and Leon? No. When it comes to who the two finest ever boxing brothers are, the proud fighting country of Mexico picks up yet another boxing accolade. Rafael Marquez, Juan Manuel Marquez: six world titles at different weights between them, 113 pro fights between them, at least half a dozen Fight of the Year awards between them.
There is no doubt (here at least) that the distinction goes to the two men who between them set the lower weight divisions on fire. Yet the two share something else – quite amazingly, both brothers lost their very first pro fight. Juan Manuel, who went pro in May of 1993, was disqualified in his fight with Javier Duran (also Mexican), while Rafael, boxing his debut in September of 1995, was stopped by Victor Rabanales (also Mexican).
Juan Manuel was beaten inside a round, Rafael was stopped in the eighth. But though Rafael was beaten fair and square – by a man who was already a seasoned former world champion, this really is a case of crazy match-making if ever there was one – Juan Manuel is widely accepted as being robbed. The butt that caused the stoppage-enforced ending of the Duran fight was ruled intentional by the referee; a man Marquez later found out “had a piece of Duran.”
But no matter, both brothers would soon regroup and come back stronger, better and more determined than ever. And, boy, did the two siblings achieve greatness. Rafael, a ruler at bantamweight and super-bantamweight, defeated such fine fighters as Mark Johnson, Tim Austin, Mauricio Pastrana, Silence Mabuza and Israel Vazquez. It is the fiercer than fierce four-fight rivalry Rafael had with Vazquez (yet another superb fighter out of Mexico) that Rafael is best known and celebrated for.
Truly one of the most special and breath-taking rivalries in all of modern-day boxing, the first of these three fights anyway (forget fight-four, both were past their best by then; Vazquez especially) Marquez Vs. Vazquez is for many THE greatest lower-weight rivalry ever captured on film. Yes, all three fights are THAT good, that great.
And the same level of praise is placed on Juan Manuel’s shoulders due to another, even more, celebrated (if not necessarily greater) four-fight rivalry. Juan Manuel, who ruled at featherweight, super-featherweight, lightweight and light-welterweight, defeated such fine fighters as Agapito Sanchez, Alfred Kotey, Daniel Jimenez, Julio Gamboa, Robbie Peden, Manuel Medina, Derrick Gainer, Manny Pacquiao, Orlando Salido, Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis, and Mike Alvarado (phew!).
It is, though, the rivalry with Pacquiao that most fans talk about ….and talk and talk about. Three incredibly close 12-round decision wars, followed, significantly and devastatingly by a sixth-round KO scored by Marquez. Two all-time greats bringing the absolute best out of each other. Juan Manuel tops his brother in terms of fame and celebrity due to these four fights, no doubt.
As to who is the greater fighter, Juan Manuel or Rafael, that’s up to the fans to decide. Both men have a very special place in boxing history.
Rafael went out with a 41-9(37) ledger. Juan Manuel went out with a 56-7-1(40) record.
Both brothers gave their all during the truly incredible years they spent in the ring: 21 long years for Juan Manuel, a still incredible 18 years by Rafael.