But is this the end of the road for the 40-year-old Marquez?
Marquez didn’t look old against Bradley. Sure, he looked older but not old the way fighters look when they become too long in the tooth to be effective. In fact, on the occasions where each man landed his punch cleanly, it was Marquez who appeared to have the force and velocity of youth on his side.
But Marquez didn’t look his best against Bradley.
And what made Marquez great in his prime seemed to be missing on Saturday night. Marquez’s counterpunches were off their mark, and he was hit cleanly far too many times.
Maybe it was Bradley. The underappreciated welterweight, who won a Fight of the Year candidate against Ruslan Provodnikov in his last bout, was no slugger on this night. Instead, the fleet-footed American decided discretion was the better part of valor. His feet were as fast as ever, and he was moving out of Marquez’s punch paths with powers that suggest premonition.
Or maybe it was just good planning. Whatever it was, lateral movement was the strategy for all 12 rounds, and it worked like a charm.
And whenever Marquez decided to let his hands go, Bradley was either out of harm’s way or beating him to the punch with a disruptive jab.
Moreover, Bradley’s chin held up well to Marquez. Where the narrative of the pre-fight shenanigans debased itself to that of which pre-fight PED drug tests were better: the voluntary program Bradley submitted to under the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency or the advanced Nevada State Athletic Commission program both fighters were subjected to, neither impressively physique man carried absurd power on this night.
Still, one can’t help to notice a bit of sloth to Marquez’s step. Sure, the Mexican was coming off the biggest win of his career, a six-round knockout of rival Manny Pacquiao, but even that shining moment was preceded by a Round 5 knockdown and a bloody nose.
Maybe Marquez has seen his best days. And maybe it’d be best for him to retire.
But fret not, Marquez fans, for this is prizefighting. And prizefighting is done exactly for that: the prize. And the prize of professional boxing is money.
Big-named fighters get the lion’s share of the earnings in our sport, and Marquez still possesses as big a name as anyone in the sport today. While his contemporaries, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, have long since receded into lesser forms (Morales fights on past his best and Barrera is retired), Marquez has remained one of the best pound-for-pounders in the sport.
Any Marquez fight remains lucrative despite his loss to Bradley. In fact, a fifth fight against Pacquiao would garner humongous amounts of hype and attention no matter how the Filipino fairs this November against Brandon Rios.
Marquez would do well to take the money and run. Not to retirement, but to the biggest and most lucrative stage possible. Regardless of his loss to Bradley, Marquez would pull viewers and ticket buyers to any fight he chooses.
Moreover, smart management puts the fantastic counterpuncher in the ring next with a more offense-minded competitor than Bradley, one who will play right to the Mexican’s strengths.
Juan Manuel Marquez isn’t quite yet ready to be put to pasture, but he’d be wise to maximize his earnings while he can still demand top dollar.