By Derek Bonnett: Marco Antonio Rubio or "El Veneno", as he is known in Mexico, seemed disinterested in moving his career forward during his lackluster ninth round knockout loss to Kelly Pavlik in February 2009. He appeared to have stalled and to be without the "venom" his nickname suggests. He couldn’t let his hands go and he couldn’t compete with a champion, who himself was not in peak form. This loss stung the Rubio camp because things did not go according to the plan.
Five victories later, Rubio, 48-5-1 (41), is back in middleweight title contention and the only stinging feeling remaining comes via his potent right hand. It hasn’t all been easy, but Rubio has been able to endure and grind down his toughest challenges in Rigoberto Alvarez and Jose Luis Zertuche.
The Zertuche rematch on August 21 was his latest effort and should be a strong candidate for fight of the year. The only detractor marring this bout was that Zertuche retired before Rubio could finish him off externally, since the fighter was clearly broken down internally. Zertuche actually quit twice. The second time stuck.
"We knew his game plan was to come out strong and try to knock me out," Rubio stated. So our plan was to let him do his thing for a couple of rounds and tire out. I knew I would be able to knock him out based on our last fight. I was shocked though at how it ended. I knew I had hurt him a couple of times during the fight and it was going to end somewhat early. When he first spit out his mouth piece I thought the fight was over, but they let it go on. I could feel that he was hurt and tired and I would finish him soon. I at no time was in danger or really hurt. He connected well twice during the fight, but other than that our plan worked perfectly."
Secondout’s sixth ranked middleweight is currently ranked fourth by the WBC and IBO. While WBC boss Sergio Martinez is surely looking for a bigger name, Rubio wants him. IBO champion Peter Manfredo Jr. is far more attainable as an opponent, but after seeing the Zertuche II fight, the Pride of Providence, also a come forward brawler, may opt to look elsewhere even though a Rubio-Manfredo Jr. bout would sizzle in New England. WBA titlist Felix Sturm has not escaped Rubio’s attention either.
"Right now, I feel I can fight anyone," Rubio expressed. "But I am at a point in my career, that I need and want another title shot. I will fight Sergio Martinez or Felix Sturm. If they’re ready, then let’s go. I need to get rid of my habit of moving backwards and fighting that way, but it works for me to time a step forward and land the right as you saw. My power speaks for itself."
Forty-one knockout victims all agree, but what was the plan that led to Rubio’s recent resurgence?
"The team wanted to get Marco Back in the ring as soon as possible after the Pavlik loss," Rubio’s manager, Julio Gudino, stated. "As you know in this sport, it’s as much a mental sport as much as it is a physical sport. The Pavlik fight was a huge disappointment for Marco. It was a fight that he should have won. There were a lot of things going on internally with the team that unfortunately had an effect on the fighter. But having said that, Pavlik fought his fight and was the better man and fighter that night. As a team, we know Marco’s strengths and weaknesses. [We wanted to get him] into fights that will build his confidence and allow him to remember why he was at this level. Zertuche just happened to be a fighter that never got over his loss to Marco and always wanted a rematch. So, in the absence of an available fight, we took it."
Gudino and company have done a fine job keeping Rubio busy and challenged. Four bouts in 2010 have kept Rubio in excellent shape, the kind of shape necessary to withstand Zertuche’s commendable offensive for a second time. Yet, his team has kept him in Mexico where his wins have not received the recognition they deserve, particularly his recent contemporary middleweight classic.
"We are currently looking at a possible title fight before the end of the year," Gudino revealed. "We are talking about a few opportunities and hopefully you will see him by the year’s end. We are very anxious to fight outside of Mexico, even though this is Marco’s home country. We need to get him out of Mexico to where the big name fights and money will be."
After ten years and fifty-four professional bouts, the chances of this seem quite likely. Rubio has a good name in the division and a solid resume. He has performed with a high level of excitement consistently enough to warrant one more title opportunity regardless of who it comes against.
"I will be world champion very soon," Rubio promised. "Thank God I am in great shape and have had a long career. I still feel great and have a number of years left to fight. I haven’t been injured which is odd in this sport."
It’s been said that "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry", but here’s to hoping Team Rubio’s recent strategy materializes into something big, or at least, bigger. Every boxing era boasts a number of high caliber world class fighters who never captured a major title. Rubio’s intent is to avoid this fate.
At age 30, time is running out for ’El Veneno’, but his ability, sturdiness, and power are still there. His venom, it seems, has not left him.
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August 30, 2010