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20 DECEMBER 2014

 

What does Marquez have left?


Marquez vs Bradley in 2013
Marquez vs Bradley in 2013

After Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao last December, two story lines developed. One, Marquez – haunted by three previous fights against Manny – finally exorcised the demon that was the Pac Man from his life. The other was the ensuing doubt as to whether or not Pacquiao would ever be the same after that brutal one shot knockout loss.

 

One thing lost in the champagne celebratory showers was that Marquez had been in a dogfight against a frighteningly sharp puncher who was beating him up for the last five minutes and fifty-nine seconds of the fight. Even the most ardent Marquez fans would have to admit that it didn’t look good for their man before he dropped the bomb with one second remaining in round six. Just how much did that brutal encounter take out of Marquez?

 

There is every reason to believe, if you contend Pacquiao is done, that Marquez just may be standing on shaky legs himself.

 

Marquez will be forty years old when he enters the ring against Timothy Bradley on October 12. The string of tough fights he’s been in during the latter stages of his career ranks alongside any stellar resume in boxing.

 

As of 2013 Dinamita finally finds the Mexican spotlight shining brightly and directly on him, rather than Erik Morales or Marco Antonio Barrera – the other two Mexican idols who always seemed to overshadow him. Until the night Marquez picked himself up from off the canvas three times in the opening stanza of his first battle with Pacquiao. It was in that round and the eleven that followed that Marquez revealed the warrior spirit long hidden behind his technical brilliance.

 

Not only did Marquez give everything of himself in his fourth fight with his nemesis but the primal scream he let loose after the shot heard round the world may have been symbolic of a long suffering fighter finally purging himself of all his frustrations. Come Saturday he could find his gas tank on empty before the fight even heats up. So consumed with Pacquiao has Marquez been these last several years that his desire may now be tempered.

 

Even after beating Manny he still can’t seem to stop talking about him and how exhilarating it felt when Pacquiao didn’t get up. He’s now become slightly obsessed with the fight itself because, in his mind, it was justice finally served. How can that insatiable hunger remain after such a dramatic event? And, again, age and wear and tear will one day win out.


In an odd twist, his opponent Timothy Bradley still has to talk about his fight with Pacquiao and justify the controversial decision win he was awarded back in June of 2012. That night, at the very least, should have garnered him the respect he so craves. He fought injured and never gave up. Instead, he got a decision that seemed to outrage everyone.

 

Bradley ruminated on this on HBO’s 24/7 series, wryly commenting that had he not gotten the decision he may have been better off, despite believing he won. Hey, what’s he supposed to say? He’s a fighter with a pure heart and he’s sick to death of trying to answer to a public still unsure of him and his abilities. Yet Bradley has fought increasingly tough competition and held his own in every struggle and, to be blunt, he shouldn’t have to qualify his career accomplishments to people who don’t know what it feels like to get whacked in the head or the gut by Manny Pacquiao or Ruslan Provodnikov.

 

Bradley has that frustration boiling in him that Marquez was finally able to rid himself of. He still has to prove himself and he knows it.

 

Marquez doesn’t. His place in the hall of fame is already secure.

 

That’s not to say Marquez will suddenly turn complacent or not give it everything he has left. His honor and integrity can’t be questioned. It’s just that the flame that spurned him on in so many trying times is not burning quite so intensely anymore. It can’t – he won the only fight that really mattered to him.

 

Whichever fighter falls on Saturday night should take a page out of Manny’s playbook. In the aftermath of both losses Pacquiao smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “That’s boxing,” he said both times.

 

Everyone’s prime passes them by. Juan Manuel Marquez may or may not discover that against Timothy Bradley. If he does it shouldn’t come as a surprise to him or anyone else. That’s boxing after all.

Matthew Hurley is a full time member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His first book on boxing, Ringside Reflections, can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com.



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