By Mariano A. Agmi
Photos: Ed Mulholland
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Floyd “Money” Mayweather (39-0, 25 KO’s) and Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KO’s) met at the Empire State Building on Tuesday in the second leg of their three-city tour announcing their July 18, 2009 welterweight mega-fight which will be televised on HBO Pay-Per-View. Each fighter respectfully acknowledged that this will be a hard fought bout between two of the best pugilists in the world. “I know I have a tough fight ahead,” stated Marquez, “but I’m preparing very hard mentally and physically for this fight.” Mayweather, appearing uncharacteristically low-key throughout the event, also stated that Marquez is a formidable opponent: “It’s not gonna be an easy task. He’s a hell of a fighter, a true warrior and he’s a guy who’s been around the sport for a long time, so I don’t have anything bad to say about him. He represents Mexico to the fullest. There’s nothing but respect.”
The bells and whistles that are typical of the “Floyd Mayweather experience” during a promotion may not be necessary in order for this fight to succeed commercially. Why? Because this bout pits Marquez, a soft-spoken but proud and fierce technical fighter who has finally reached the well-deserved acclaim and attention that has eluded him for years against Mayweather, one of the most gifted pure boxers of this generation, who is intent on reasserting his position as the pound for pound champ after a year and a half away from the sport. Besides, Floyd’s uncle Roger will most likely handle the bulk of the trash talking while he prepares his nephew for his latest challenge.
This match-up is another in a series of recent super-bouts between elite fighters from different natural weight classes. In fact, the exact weight for this bout is a particularly intriguing question due to the fact that Mayweather has fought as high as 154lbs while Marquez has engaged in only two Lightweight bouts. “This will be a welterweight fight,” insists Mayweather, accurately stating the weight class but carefully avoiding the contracted weight in one sentence. The answer seems fitting from an exceptional fighter who is simultaneously able to land sharp, accurate punches while evading his opponent’s best flurries. Rumors are that this bout will take place at 144lbs, which does make this a “welterweight” fight, since any fight taking place above 140lbs. is technically in the welterweight division.
The weight issue is expected to affect Marquez more than Mayweather, as this is not only “Dinamita’s” first attempt at the welterweight division, but he is also making the two-division leap against the lineal champion and one of the best fighters in the world: “Mental preparation is key, because not only is this a tough fight, but I also have to prepare for a new weight class,” explained Marquez as he described his efforts to build muscle mass without sacrificing speed.
IS THIS A MISMATCH?
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, stated that the media should not be so quick to judge who will win this contest, citing recent upsets including Pacquiao-De La Hoya, Hopkins-Pavlik and Mosley-Margarito. Indeed, as much as one is inclined on picking Mayweather over Marquez due to the obvious size disparity, it is difficult to dismiss the proud Mexican after reviewing his accomplishments.
Juan Manuel Marquez began his career as a featherweight, fighting at 126lbs for fourteen years and partially unifying the division in wins against Manuel Medina and Derrick “Smoke” Gainer. He fought for years on the undercards of better known Top Rank fighters while waiting for his chance to shine. Marquez finally received that opportunity in the form of two grueling battles with Manny Pacquiao, the man widely regarded as the pound-for-pound champion. In those contests, Marquez engaged Pacquiao at the highest level, first to a draw after being dropped three times in a dramatic performance, and later to a split-decision loss in another highly competitive match-up. Despite coming up short, his brave stand and impressive performances in those bouts elevated his stature in the sport to career heights. “The people saw who won those fights against Manny Pacquiao and I have accomplished a lot in the ring. Floyd chose me because I’ve earned it,” states Marquez.
Indeed, Marquez has been on a tear ever since his first bout with the “Pac-man”: he won a super featherweight title against fellow Mexican great Marco Antonio Barrera and he is the first and only man to knockout both Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz in thrilling bouts while winning a pair of lightweight titles. Marquez is not only considered the best Mexican boxer fighting today, but he is also the last standing of the three Mexican greats that ruled and electrified the lower weight divisions for the last decade (the others being Barrera and Erik Morales).
These facts are not lost on Mayweather, who has also experienced the highs and lows of a sport that is often equates success with popularity: “I feel that Marquez has been kept in the dark for a long time and someone has to give him that opportunity, so why not it be me?”
While Marquez was busy building on his legacy, Mayweather took a badly needed break from the sport that he once dominated. Nagging hand and shoulder injuries, years of sacrifice, and perhaps complacency after reaching the pinnacle of the sport convinced Floyd to temporarily walk away: “I needed a break. I needed a break as a human being after doing this from ’87 all the way to 2007. I needed a break, and that’s it.” Floyd shared that the time off gave his body a chance to recover from years of wear and tear. “Everyone I fought, from Oscar de la Hoya all the way down, I was never 100%.” Some believe that inactivity will be a major factor in why this bout will be more competitive than it may seem on paper. “Money” Mayweather discourages those notions: “I was able to recharge and let my body recuperate.”
Both Mayweather and Marquez believe that this bout is going to come down to which of the fighters has the higher ring IQ and the stronger will to win. To cope with the speed and size disadvantages Marquez will face against Mayweather, Marquez and trainer Nacho Beristain are crafting a game plan geared towards emphasizing Dinamita’s excellent technique and sharp counterpunching skills: “This battle will simultaneously be about aggression and strategy,” states the lightweight champion. “I can either lead if he runs or box if he stands with me. Either way, it will take intelligence, speed, and technique to win this fight.”
While Marquez employs his impeccable technique to break down opponents and make them wilt under pressure, Mayweather is a master boxer who is no stranger to waging mental warfare before the physical war begins: “I beat fighters mentally. And once I beat them mentally, I beat them physically so they’re never the same. Look at what happened to DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, how many losses he had after that [fight], look at what happened to Zab Judah, Angel Manfredy, Diego Corrales, may he rest in peace. Look at what happened to De La Hoya, even in the Stevie Forbes fight, he wasn’t the same.”
In assessing Juan Manuel, Mayweather notes that “Marquez is a warrior, but when I look at him, I see a lot of scar tissue.” That analysis leads Floyd to conclude that “[Marquez is] offensive-minded, he’s got to become a bit more defensive-minded to fight me.”
Floyd shared that during his time away from the ring, he was able to find time to work on a few new moves that Marquez will have to prepare for in addition to the physical disadvantages: “I’ve been working on a lot of different things that I know other fighter’s ain’t working on. Like, you see how all fighters want to use the slick jab to the body now? You see how all fighters try to roll their shoulder? I have nothing but respect for fighters. I’m not knocking them, but I set the pattern.” These words seem to indicate that sooner or later, the flashy and flamboyant Floyd will emerge, setting this quieter version aside while Mayweather goes on an all out verbal assault. “I didn’t have to come back. But when you talk boxing, you’re talking Floyd Mayweather. I am boxing.”
One thing is for sure – while respectful of Floyd’s accomplishments and talent, Marquez will not be daunted by the task at hand nor will he be intimidated by his opponent’s taunts: “He seems like a nice guy, but every once in a while, his ego comes out,” stated Juan Manuel. “I’ve always said that where there’s no risk, there’s no reward, so when Golden Boy asked me ‘Juan, do you want to fight Floyd?’ I immediately said ‘yes, let’s do it, no problem.’ I don’t like easy fights, and this means too much for my career and my life for me to turn it down.”
Then, with a final resolute look, Marquez concluded: “I don’t like to talk much outside the ring; I’d rather talk in the ring with my fists. I always prepare myself for victory – he’s not a machine, he’s a human being and we’re coming to win on July 18th.”
“Number One / Numero Uno” is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Mayweather Promotions and Marquez Promotions. The fight can be seen live on HBO Pay-Per-View on Saturday, July 18 at 9pm ET / 6PM PT.