Double the stakes, double the initiative. That statement holds true for top lightweight contender and champion Juan Manuel Marquez (50-5-1 37KO prior to the bout), who successfully defended both of his WBA and WBO world titles in a complete 12-rounder against a younger and high motor Juan Diaz (35-3-0 17KO prior to the bout) last Saturday evening at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This contest served as a fitting sequel to Marquez's first convincing victory over Diaz back in February of 2009, wherein the official was forced to stop the fight after Diaz hit the deck twice in the ninth round, earning Marquez the win by way of technical knock out.
Despite the direct statement Marquez made in the previous meeting, critics believed the factors of age and athleticism could sway the rematch into the opposite direction this time around. Uncertainty was in the air knowing that the 36-year-old Marquez was coming off an unanimous-decision defeat to the No. 2 pound-for-pound contender Floyd Mayweather Jr., not to mention the 10-year age gap separating him from Diaz, 26.
The then potential winner of the bout would not only receive two different world titles; for Diaz, this was an opportunity to have himself hailed as the world's best lightweight whilst Marquez could finally re-establish himself in the scene to go up against pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.
On the first bell, Diaz came out of his corner and into the fight looking steady and aggressive, coming onto Marquez with multiple combinations that appeared bent on trying to set the tone of the fight in his favor early. Marquez didn't want to have any of that going on and brought his steadfast defense to neutralize each of Diaz's unwanted advances.
Much of the same carried on into the next several rounds, putting Marquez's mastery and craftsmanship on display as he connected on precise opportunities and counter-punches and made the most out of Diaz's energetic assault. It was like watching the typical class nerd go to work on those algebraic equations, Marquez had an answer for everything Diaz's arsenal had to offer him.
Without a doubt it was as one sided as a contest could get―Marquez even seemed to have been able to visibly stun Diaz thrice throughout the course of the night. In round six specifically, Marquez's persistent and accurate targeting of Diaz's head noticeably took a toll on the young Diaz, forcing him to clinch and run down the final 10 seconds avoiding any contact with Marquez whatsoever.
Surprisingly, Marquez did not go for an all out brawl on the height of these opportunities but rather picked his punches and applied only the necessary ones. The scoring was perfect, the effectiveness was perfect. Marquez was conducting a classic case of taking the younger guy to school. It reminded me a bit of how as a child, I used to put up a futile effort in sparring against my trainer; no matter how much I tried, I couldn't hurt him and nothing I knew he didn't already know.
Upon reaching the eighth and ninth rounds, you didn't have to be an expert to know that the only way for Diaz to steal the victory away from Marquez was by knocking him out. Maybe if the adversary were different, I would've given Diaz the benefit of belief, but with arguably the sturdiest fighter in all of boxing standing across him (might I remind you neither Floyd Mayweather nor Manny Pacquiao possessed or utilized the capability to finish Marquez), instincts told me that this man deserved all the doubt I had.
Diaz did find another strand of hope though; that hope came in the form of Marquez's right eye, which was swollen almost completely shut due to the abuse it was taking from Diaz's sneaky left hooks.
Like a race horse strapped with a pair of leather blinkers, Diaz and his leather gloves desperately went for that damaged eye with creative combinations led by doubling up on his jabs. Finally, Marquez began to show his fallible human capacity―Juan Manuel Marquez, was hurt.
The remainder of the time given was spent by Diaz earning about two rounds in his favor, namely the 10th and 11th, wherein he pursued what looked to be an already easy going Marquez and his swollen right eye. Not that it mattered in the scorecards of course, even if Marquez lost five rounds in a row, it wouldn't be enough to patch up the deficit.
The 12th and final round was concluded in an unexpected manner as the seemingly relaxed Marquez became even more active and alert than his opposing competitor, Marquez utterly solidified his dominance stripping himself of all defensive measures and even had enough battery left in his system to meet Diaz's explosion in the last 10 seconds.
Truly, Juan Manuel Marquez has earned my sincerest admiration for breaking past all expectations and not only matching, but rather topping his opponent's physical advantages, looking like an impenetrable fort against the relentless bombardment of the energized Juan Diaz.
It wasn't much of a mystery when the judges panel sent up their scorecard to reveal a win via unanimous decision all in varying favor (Jerry Roth scored it 116-112, while Glenn Trowbridge calculated 118-110 and Patricia Morse Jarman had it 117-111) of the No. 3 pound-for-pound contender and WBA and WBO lightweight champion of the world, Juan Manuel "Dynamita" Marquez.
Neither fighter showed any lack of determination and preparedness, and both deserve to hold their heads up high. Fights such as these are a rare breed in today's make up of the sport, but when they do take place, it is a beautiful sight to see.
By winning this bout, Marquez is left to contemplate the possibilities on whom his next opponent will be, the pool includes titleholders such as Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander and his publicized target, Manny Pacquiao.
As for Diaz, he is reportedly thinking about pursuing careers in law and politics but has stated in an interview that he honestly is not sure about what to do after losing to Marquez.
Marquez: | 10 | 10 | 10 | 10 | 10 | 10 | 10 | 10 | 10 | 09 | 09 | 10 || 118
Diaz: | 09 | 09 | 10 | 09 | 09 | 09 | 09 | 09 | 09 | 10 | 10 | 09 || 111
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