Derek Bonnett analyses the career of Juan Manuel Marquez, who finally beat Manny Pacquiao and now joins the International Boxing Hall of Fame
It took Juan Manuel Marquez eight years to get it right, officially. Between 2004 and 2012, Mexico’s Marquez fought Manny Pacquiao four times and had to lift himself from the canvas five times in total. Marquez may not have needed the victory to join the Class of 2020 for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but the win sure sealed the deal and exorcised a mighty Filipino demon that had been haunting him. Marquez joins contemporary greats Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley as first-ballot entries come June 2020.
Marquez, like Hopkins, lost his first professional bout. Marquez was welcomed to the professional ranks with a first-round disqualification in 1993 at the age of 19. He would go on to become only the third Mexican boxer to win world championships in four divisions, picking up titles at featherweight, super-featherweight, lightweight and super-lightweight.
Marquez, however, did not enjoy the same fanfare or network support as his contemporary countrymen Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales. Like them, Marquez came up the hard way, fighting often in The Great Western Forum against the likes of Julian Wheeler, Freddy Cruz and Agapito Sanchez. He built a six-year win-streak headed into his first world championship bout against Freddie Norwood in 1999. Marquez exchanged knockdowns with the champion in a fight with low punch connects and lost a split decision some still debate.
Marquez’s arrival to the world stage provided a rebirth. By 2002, Marquez had grown into a more technical fighter, but one who still had strong Mexican roots in the pocket. He just didn’t eat more leather than needed to get there. Against Australia’s Robbie Peden, a boxer who would still go on to do his best work, Marquez looked virtuoso. Peden was so battered to the body in their title eliminator that he vomited blood during the fight and had to be rescued. Marquez then met fellow Mexican Manuel Medina for a vacant version of the featherweight title. Medina was on the heels of a controversial decision loss to Johnny Tapia and had already held featherweight belts on four occasions. Nevertheless, Marquez broke Medina down easily and finished him off in the seventh.
Marquez would score impressive victories over Derrick Gainer, to unify two titles, and a young Orlando Salido to defend them. However, in 2004, he battled Manny Pacquiao to a 12-round draw after three trips to the canvas in the opening frame. This verdict has maintained consistent discourse over the years in regard to who truly won. Marquez held out on a rematch for more money than the $750,000 on the table. He also passed on an Erik Morales showdown due to the $1.5m purse being too small. Marquez would add one more defense before losing, disputedly, to Chris John on the road in 2006. He earned less than $32,000.
Marquez rebuilt with four impressive victories which included decisions over a faded Barrera and Rocky Juarez in 2007 to make him a champion at 130lbs. This arguably marked the height of Marquez’s prime as he again rose from the canvas to lose a disputed decision in his rematch with Pacquiao. He then stopped Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz in back-to-back contests as a lightweight by 2009. The Diaz win brought him lightweight championship status. This led to one of the least anticipated mega-fights in history as Marquez was dropped once before being helplessly outboxed by a comebacking Floyd Mayweather Jr in a welterweight bout more memorable for the Mexican’s admission of drinking his own urine in preparation. As expected, Marquez dropped back down to lightweight and won a decision over Diaz in a return bout.
Marquez, never a stranger to the canvas, began to look vulnerable in lightweight bouts, getting dropped badly by Michael Katsidis before stopping him in nine. One more tune-up victory led to the third and most controversial Pacquiao bout which also went the distance and saw Marquez losing by majority decision in a bid for a welterweight belt. Marquez dropped back to 140lbs to pick up an interim strap against Serhii Fedchenko in a near shutout and was soon upgraded to full champion status for a title in his fourth weight class.
In the high point of an amazing career, Marquez finally landed his shot heard around the boxing world. In his fourth bout with Pacquiao, he again rose from the canvas, but dropped the Filipino twice. The second time, a big right hand left Pacquiao cold, facedown on the canvas in a heap. It would have been the perfect end to his career, but boxing is rarely perfect and next time out Marquez lost a close, but just decision to Timothy Bradley. In his final appearance in the ring, Marquez swapped knockdowns with Mike Alvarado before winning a wide decision.
Marquez compiled a quality dossier of 56-7-1 (40) before retiring in 2017. His career was full of scoring controversy, odd managerial decisions and bizarre training habits. Against past, present, and future champions, he finished 14-6-1. Yet, there are some who would overturn four or five of those losses if given the authority. He finished 9-5-1 in world title bouts and won belts in four divisions. He also makes up one half of one of the most talented brother combinations to hold world titles along with his younger sibling Rafael. He rates among the very best Mexican fighters of all time.
Marquez fits right in with his countrymen Julio Cesar Chavez, Ricardo Lopez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales as inductees to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.