Juan Manuel Marquez: Is the Mexican Warrior a Hall of Famer?
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There probably wasn't much legitimate debate over whether Juan Manuel Marquez would end up in the boxing Hall of Fame before he scored one of the most stunning knockouts in boxing history.
But after finally breaking through and defeating his longtime rival Manny Pacquiao—by landing one of the most brutal right hands in the history of the sport—there should be no doubt and no debate.
Juan Manuel Marquez is not just a surefire Hall of Famer—he's one of the best fighters to ever come out of Mexico, and that might be even more impressive.
For much of his career, the man they call "Dinamita" certainly lived up to the nickname while operating off the so-called main stage in boxing.
He was simply too good, difficult and high risk for most of the top-tier fighters to desire facing him in the ring. Marquez had a style that at the very least would make any opponent look bad and more than likely lose, and the list of people willing to step in the ring with him was notoriously short for much of his career.
The most egregious example might come in the form of "Prince" Naseem Hamed. He held the WBO featherweight title with Marquez as his mandatory for nearly two years without a fight ever coming off. Granted, the sanctioning body deserves much of the blame, but that doesn't change the fact that he was avoided.
His contemporaries and countrymen—Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales—also seemed to want no part of him in their primes.
He became just the third Mexican fighter, after Morales and Jorge Arce, to capture world titles in four separate weight divisions and on seven different occasions. In the process, he earned victories over many notable fighters including Pacquiao, Orlando Salido, Joel Casamayor and Barrera, whom he finally got in the ring in 2007 and beat by a wide unanimous decision.
You can even look at most of Marquez's losses in a positive light, as most of them were considered controversial by observers.
His first world title challenge, against WBA featherweight champion Freddie Norwood, was full of all sorts of controversy. Marquez was unfairly denied credit for a knockdown in the eighth round when Norwood's glove touched the mat after an exchange.
When the scores were read, Marquez was on the wrong end of a close decision despite throwing more punches, landing more punches and knocking down his opponent once, if not twice.
This would become a trend in his career.
In his four-fight, and possibly counting, series with Manny Pacquiao, you could argue that each and every one of the fights that lasted the distance could have been scored for either man.
Their first bout, in 2004, is notable for a number of reasons, and not the least of those is the amount of heart shown by the Mexican warrior after an early blitz from his Filipino foe.
Marquez was knocked down three times in the first round, appeared on the verge of being stopped and was insurmountably behind on the scorecards, before rallying to dominate the rest of the fight to earn a draw.
A good number of people felt that a draw was a gift for Pacquiao, who lost the majority of the remaining rounds and would have lost the fight if not for his huge early lead.
Their second bout was just as close, as was their third. Heading into the third bout in November 2011, virtually nobody gave Marquez a chance. To most eyes, he was on the downslope of his career, while Pacquiao was continuing to buzz saw his way through elite fighter after elite fighter with ease.
But to many of those same observers, yours truly included, Marquez was the better man on that night, regardless of the official scorecards.
The culmination of the rivalry came in the final seconds of the sixth round on Dec. 9, 2012. It was then that Marquez closed not only the show but the book on any questions about his legitimacy.
Of his six losses, you can cast legitimate doubt on three of them, with the fourth coming by disqualification in just his first professional fight. The only men to defeat him with absolutely zero doubt were Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a fight that he never should have taken and Chris John, who did it all the way in Indonesia.
Marquez, who had been fighting at lightweight, had to come up two weight divisions and was woefully undersized against Mayweather, who came in overweight and had to pay a hefty fine to his opponent as a result.
It was a terrible, terrible fight that Mayweather dominated from start to finish. But again it was a fight that neither man should have pursued.
The same could be said for the fight against longtime WBA featherweight champion John in his home nation of Indonesia. While most observers felt that John justly received the decision, it was a close fight, contested in the home of the champion and far away from much scrutiny.
But taken in their totality, the losses do not define the career of Juan Manuel Marquez.
His career is a story of hard work, determination and never quitting, despite being passed over for opportunities on countless occasions.
And it's a story of finally making right and cashing in on those chances when they did come his way.
Even before he ever beat a man by the name of Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez deserved his spot in the Hall of Fame.
That win, while certainly personally fulfilling, doesn't tell the whole story of his career. But it definitely puts an exclamation point on it.
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