By Francisco Salazar
Photo: Big Joe Miranda
It has been an amazing and successful career for Juan Manuel Marquez throughout his 17 years as a professional prizefighter. A world title in three different weight classes, victories over future hall of fame fighters, and the respect of adoring fight fans are some of the accomplishments Marquez has achieved. Just last year, Marquez added more fans and respect in landing a picture perfect punch to Juan Diaz’ chin, dropping the young warrior and winning by a dramatic ninth round stoppage just 17 months ago.
While Marquez gets ready for his rematch against Diaz tomorrow night, the 36 year old fighter admitted that an injury as a teenager almost kept him out of the ring altogether. What could this injury have been that would jeopardize Marquez from becoming a household name in Mexico and to fight fans across the world? An eye injury during sparring? Tearing ligaments in his legs while running?
Although those would be plausible guesses to the aforementioned questions above, it is far away from the actual actions that resulted in the injury Marquez suffered. “I fell from a tree and because of it I was inactive for two years.”
Off a tree? Never heard of that as part of a regimen for boxers. Until one would hear the rest of the story.
“I was playing American football when I was 16 years old,” said Marquez, who lost by disqualification in his first professional fight, before reeling off 29 straight victories. “I found myself in a tree and was horsing around when I fell from the tree, injuring my back.”
An injury, no less to the back of the human body, could cause permanent damage. Broken bones and bruises is one thing , but constant tightness in the back could have a negative effect on athletes. Even walking could become a chore itself.
So how did Marquez get himself back in a ring after two years?
“With the help of a good doctor and vitamins being injected into my bones helped a lot. I would get an injection once a day.”
So, there it is. Vitamins and doctors assisted Marquez in returning to the ring. The rest is history, from winning his first world title in 2003 to his memorable draw against Manny Pacquiao in 2004, where he came off the canvas three times in the first round and mostly outboxed Pacquiao the rest of the way.
Aside from his fluid and beautiful boxing skills, Marquez (50-5-1, 37 KO’s) has earned the respect of his opponents and fight fans for his quiet demeanor. He is never one to trash-talk and always gives his opponent their due.
“I hope that Juan (Diaz) trained very hard for this fight. That said, I wish him the best of luck for this fight.”
Talk about an athlete and a gentleman all in one. When Marquez says something, one realizes that it is a genuine statement. How could one not cheer for an athlete who is a gentleman in and out of the ring? You could put your hands down, Diaz fans.
Despite the decision loss Marquez suffered to Floyd Mayweather last September in his first attempt in the welterweight division, Marquez understands the stakes in this fight. A loss would seriously hamper any attempt he would have of trying to make a third Mayweather fight. While this is something that he hopes for, he knows that will not happen unless he is victorious tomorrow night.
“Well, I learned a great deal in the Mayweather fight. I think fighting at 147 pounds was too much because Mayweather is a bigger fighter. However, in coming down in weight, I have had no problems making the 135-pound limit. I feel lighter and faster at this weight.”
“I know that this will be a tougher fight. Juan has the motivation of beating me in this fight since I beat him in the first fight. I think that this fight will be better than the first fight.”
A victory over the talented Diaz could possibly allow Marquez to throw his hat in the ring as a possible candidate to fight Pacquiao. Marquez wants the fight, as he is still smarting from the close split-decision loss to Pacquiao in March of 2008, a bout that many ringside media thought Marquez won.
“I hope that Pacquiao accepts a third fight against me. I do not understand why they do not want to accept a third fight. I don’t know.”
Instead, Pacquiao will more likely face Antonio Margarito in November, a fight that has brought groans and frustration from the media and fight fans across the world. Fight fans were hoping for a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, but that will not happen as Mayweather has now backed away from the fight. Boxing insiders think that Mayweather backed away because of legal matters his uncle, Roger, would be facing in the coming months.
Since Marquez has stepped inside the ring with both, he analyzed both fighters’ strengths if they were to ever do battle.
“Pacquiao hits harder than Mayweather and I think he has a slight advantage in speed. However, Mayweather’s defense is unbelievable. It is very sound.”
Marquez admits that he has about three or four bouts left in him before calling it a career. He could retire now and be a shoe-in to be admitted in the hall of fame on the first ballot. However, he feels that there is more that he has to do before lacing up his gloves a final time.
Marquez holds out to win a fourth title in a different weight class, becoming the first Mexican-born fighter to do so. Marquez would be a solid contender at 140 pounds, which he is also keeping his eye on.
As if one could not guess, he wants to be remembered as a fighter who gave it his all. A warrior who never backed down from a challenge and made the most of the opportunities that he was given.
“I would like to be remembered as a great warrior by the fans. That people would remember me. It serves as a motivation for me. To get opportunities for a title and beating them.”
Spoken like a true champion. Not one who 20 years ago almost walked away from the sport. Hard to comprehend, right?