B/R Boxing Retrospective: Examining the Career of Juan Manuel Marquez

Levi Nile@@levinileContributor IIIApril 21, 2015

B/R Boxing Retrospective: Examining the Career of Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    There is something about Juan Manuel Marquez that reminds me of old photographs; sepia-toned images of strong men in simpler times, willing to roll up their sleeves and go about the work of the day, even if they had to labor well into the night.

    He may not go down in history as the greatest boxer to ever come from Mexico, but he is easily one of the best; a man upholding a proud legacy, willing to go to the wall as often as needed. When you look at the bigger fights of his career and the men he stood against, the need to go to the wall was often and never easy.

    But men like Marquez don’t like it easy and never take the easy way out.

    Some fighters make a lucrative career out of a handful of notable fights with a few notable opponents. Other fighters make a career out of fighting in a notable way against everyone, willing to go deep and get bloody every time they step through the ropes.

    Marquez is one of the latter, and his legacy is aided by the fact that he has fought some excellent fighters. Not only has he fought notables from his own country (Marco Antonio Barrera), but he has also faced Timothy Bradley, Juan Diaz, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and others and finally, he faced Manny Pacquiao on four different occasions, eventually knocking him out cold in their last bout.

    Marquez had to claw his way into contention at a time when promoters and opponents were willing to overlook him in order to go after bigger names; at a time when fighters like Oscar De La Hoya were garnering so much attention, it was hard to stand out. Still, he persevered, kept fighting and eventually became one of the most thrilling fighters of his generation.

    An excellent counterpuncher with the heart of a blood and guts brawler, Marquez is a blending of many of the best traits of the sweet science: skill, determination, discipline, heart and desire. A proud fighter hailing from a country proud of its fighters, Marquez can retire with a smile on his face when that day comes, and none have earned it more.

    This is the career retrospective of Juan Manuel Marquez, one of the greatest fighters of his generation.

1993

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    JOHN SPIVEY/Associated Press

    It may be surprising to some to know that the more accomplished fighters of their time started off their professional careers with a loss, as was the case in the beginning with Marquez.

    His first fight came against Javier Duran in Mexico City, Mexico, on May 29 of the year 1993. Marquez lost via disqualification in Round 1, due to a head-butt. What must have made it all the more painful for Marquez was that he had knocked Duran down twice before the clash of heads.

    While this loss was obviously not due to deficiencies in skill or talent, in some fighters a loss so early on tends to make them tentative or gun shy, especially when they find out that there is a chance the doctor on hand has a stake in the other fighter. More than once has a promising fighter seen their enthusiasm for fighting diminish when they see their own blood, or learn that fortunes inside the ring can quickly turn and not always for the better.

    Thus, while many would consider this a bad omen for any professional fighter, Marquez hopped right back on the horse and entered the ring again in Mexico City against Javier Quiroz on June 26. This time Marquez would not be denied, winning the bout via TKO in Round 3.

    Just under three months later, Marquez defeated Israel Flores in Round 2, once again by TKO.

    Riding a two-fight win streak, Marquez stepped into the ring for the final time during 1993 against Isaac Cortes. Marquez notched his third victory via TKO, stopping Cortez in the fifth frame and bringing his professional record to 4-1.

    Thus saw the start of the career of the man that would go on to eventually knock out Manny Pacquiao, some 19 years later—humble beginnings in Mexico City.

1994

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    JOE CAVARETTA/Associated Press

    With a respectable head of steam behind him, Marquez pushed forward into 1994, facing Roman Poblano. Marquez was taken to the distance and won a unanimous decision after six rounds.

    On August 27, Marquez defeated Gregorio Silva, returning to his TKO-winning ways by stopping Silva in Round 2.

    As with most fighters early in their career, Marquez looked to be more active in his sophomore year as a professional, thus fighting again in October, November and December.

    Marquez won all said bouts, including a KO victory over Jose Luis Montes in Round 2 and a TKO victory over Israel Gonzalez in his first-ever bout outside of Mexico, which took place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

    Marquez had fought five times in 1994 and won all five bouts, bringing his career record to 8-1 with six victories coming by way of stoppage.

    It was a good year for the 21-year-old from Mexico City and his introduction to American audiences had seen him defeat his opponent via TKO in the fourth frame.

    If you’re going to make an impression, that’s the way to do it.

1995

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    In 1995, Marquez would fight five times in America, at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. The GWF had seen other great Mexican fighters, such as Marco Antonio Barrera, and it was now seeing another star in Marquez, although the audiences in attendance in 1995 might not have known it.

    Marquez found 1995 to be a year of firsts.

    He fought and won his first 10-round fight (against Julio Sanchez Leon), earned his first-ever Round 1 stoppage (against Martin Ochoa) and faced fighters from Puerto Rico and America for the first time, stopping both (in Round 1 and Round 10, respectively).

    His fight with American Olympian Julian Wheeler, who carried a record of 11-1 at the time, was also noteworthy as it was his first-ever bout to be broadcast in the UK. Even as a young professional, Marquez fought with poise and threw hard punches with precision and confidence.

    Marquez had to use all of those tools to win the bout; many felt Wheeler was outpointing Marquez through most of the fight, but the Mexico City fighter stormed back to stop Wheeler late in the final round, by TKO. While some felt the bout shouldn’t have been stopped, Marquez showed that he knew how to fight with urgency, fully understanding that every fight was important and he marshaled his skills with the energy due the moment.

    Marquez ended the year with a record of 13-1, with 10 stoppages, looking like an innocent young man but fighting like a serious student of the game.

1996

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    On March 4, Marquez faced Hector Ulises Chong in his 15th pro fight, winning by KO in Round 4. His skills were growing sharply and he was finding his punching power from more and more angles, and it was impressive to see.

    Then, in April, he defeated the Dominican Republic’s Julio Gervacio via KO in Round 8 in his first appearance at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. Marquez was in fine form that night, and his stoppage of Gervacio was as emphatic as they come.

    His last three fights of the year saw him win two unanimous decisions and another bout via another Round 8 knockout, leaving Rodrigo Valenzuela looking for a way out after the eighth frame and finding it on the stool.

    However, perhaps his biggest hurdle of the year came in his second-to-last fight of 1996, against Darryl Pinckney at Caesars Tahoe in Nevada.

    Pinckney had a journeyman’s record of 22 wins against 21 defeats with two draws. He had acceptable power in his hands, with 15 of his victories coming by way of KO or TKO, but it seemed clear that he was brought in as “the opponent.” With a shot at a vacant belt, Pinckney, at 29 years of age, was up for anything, against anybody, something he had proven when he knocked out Junior Jones.

    When the mismanaged Pinckney started his career, he only saw victory one time in his first 10 professional bouts, yet instead of calling it quits, he kept going forward, a trait that would be on full display against the younger, longer Marquez.

    After taking a shellacking in the first half of the fight, Pinckney would pull himself off the canvas after being knocked down by a triple left hook in Round 5, finally catching Marquez in Round 7. Marquez had enjoyed a brilliant Round 6, landing at will, but in Round 7, he lashed out and in doing so, overextended himself and was caught flush with a counter left by Pinckney.

    For the first time in his professional career, Marquez had tasted the canvas.

    Marquez went on to win the fight in dominant fashion, but he now knew what it was like to be knocked down, and it didn’t seem to bother him in the least.

    In just four years as a pro, Marquez was 18-1 with 13 wins via stoppage and was quickly outgrowing his current level of competition, yet he was still struggling to find willing opposition of larger stature.

    Thus he continued on under the tutelage of Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, fighting more and more, developing his skills and having faith that elusive recognition would yield to hard work and hard fighting.

    While the latter would eventually prove true, it had to be a long, hard wait.

1997

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    In his first fight of the year, Marquez was given the chance to fight for the vacant WBO NABO Featherweight title on February 3 at the Arrowhead Pond in California. His opponent for the night was American Cedric Mingosey, a rangy southpaw with the reach advantage coming into the bout.

    Marquez won the bout thanks to his sharp right hand (especially behind his jab) and his overall accuracy. After 10 hard rounds, Mingosey quit on his stool, his nose badly damaged as Marquez was crowned the new WBO NABO Featherweight champion, finally winning some praise from his trainer, Beristain.

    His next fight, on April 21 against Agapito Sanchez, saw Marquez taken the distance in a unanimous-decision victory over 12 rounds; the scorecards reading 117-110, 119-108 and 120-107. Although he had not won the fight by stoppage, he had shown he was constantly improving and his first defense of his title had been done with authority and conviction.

    Next on deck for Marquez was Catalino Becerra, once again at the Great Western Forum, on July 14.

    Marquez got off to a good start, knocking his challenger down late in Round 1 and from there proceeded to batter Becerra over the coming rounds before finally stopping him midway through Round 7, catching him with a hard left uppercut-straight right combination.

    Marquez now had his second successful title defense and saw his record grow to 21-1 with 15 wins via stoppage.

    In September, the champion stepped into the ring once again to defend his title against Vincent Howard of Guyana. Marquez dominated the fight, showing us that he was a two-handed fighter that wasn’t limited to just scoring with counters.

    In the later rounds, as Howard kept coming forward, Marquez let loose with excellent combinations, both fists flying freely and landing well. It was also interesting to see Marquez ending more than a few of his combinations with a left hook to the body.

    Howard turned up the aggression in the championship rounds—especially Round 10—but the champion was just too much for him. Marquez finally prompted Mills Lane to stop the bout in Round 12 when a stiff left-right combination sent Howard stumbling back to the ropes.

    Then, in his fifth and final fight of the year, Marquez faced Alfred Kotey of Ghana at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Marquez and Kotey fought for 12 full rounds before judges rendered Marquez the winner via unanimous decision.

    Marquez finished the year with a record of 23-1 and four defenses of his NABO featherweight title.

1998

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    Looking every bit like a fighter polishing his game while making his name, Marquez fought four times in 1998 and won all four bouts via TKO.

    His first fight of the year saw his return to the GWF to face Luis Samudio. Although his title was not on the line, Marquez took his time in the ring, negating the reach advantage of his opponent before finally stopping Samudio in Round 9 courtesy of a hard right hand.

    Next up was Juan Gerardo Cabrera, who went almost as quietly as he came as he was stopped in Round 4.

    Following Cabrera was Enrique Jupiter, who saw his bid for the WBO belt vanish in Round 8 due to a TKO thanks to a flurry against the ropes. This was really just the coup de grace to the work started by a knockdown in Round 7 off a hard left hook that had Jupiter stumbling before falling.

    Finally, Marquez defending his title for the third time in 1998 by defeating Francisco Arreola in just three short rounds. Arreola tasted Marquez’s power in the second fame and turned into a runner until the bell, but in Round 3 began to fight more, which turned out to be a big mistake.

    Marquez caught Arreola stepping in with a short but devastating right hand that saw him fall like a puppet with its strings cut. After that, the referee wisely stopped the bout and to be honest, if he hadn’t, odds are Marquez would have done some serious damage.

    Watching Arreola fight Marquez is actually mystifying and sad; clearly he wasn’t on the same level and didn’t even deserve to be in the same ring as the Marquez of three years prior, let alone this version of the champion, fighting to keep his title.

    Thus came an end to 1998. Marquez saw his record grow to 27-1, and it was starting to look like he might be too dangerous for any name fighter to take a chance on.

1999

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    Forging forward, Marquez was back in the ring in 1999 to face Jose de Jesus Garcia, who was clearly outmatched. Garcia was quickly dispatched via KO in under two minutes of Round 1—another victim of the precision and passion of a consistent fighter who was powered by youth and disciplined.

    His next fight ended in similar fashion; he stopped Wilfredo Vargas via KO in a little over two minutes in Round 2, making a triumphant return to the Great Western Forum and running his record up to 29-1 with 22 wins via KO/TKO.

    Then, things changed.

    On September 11, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Marquez faced off against Freddie Norwood of St. Louis, Missouri for the latter’s WBA Featherweight title. The bout with Norwood seemed almost a hand-me-down, given that the real bout people wanted to see was Marquez versus Prince Naseem Hamed, although Hamed seemed interested in fighting everyone else but Marquez.

    Anyone doubting Norwood seemed to have their gaze too fixed on the rising star that was Marquez. Norwood had spent four days in a wheelchair after absorbing countless low blows in his successful bid to reclaim a title that had been stripped in Tokyo after he had failed to make weight for a previous bout. He was many things, some good and some bad, but he did have speed and he was disciplined, as Marquez was about to learn.

    The bad news started early for Marquez, who ran into a hard left hand that dropped him to the canvas early in Round 2. As the rounds ticked on, the offensive accuracy of both fighters was limited, making the rounds terribly hard to score.

    Then, in Round 8, Marquez landed a short left hand in close quarters that dropped Norwood, but the referee declared it a slip. Marquez managed to score an official knockdown thanks to a stinging right-left combination that caught Norwood off balance in Round 9 and suddenly the champion seemed to be in serious jeopardy of losing his title.

    After the closing of the final bell, no finality could really be had for either man; Norwood was able to dodge many blows, but he never really made Marquez pay. Marquez was the busier fighter, but not so much as to get the judges to lift the title from the champion as Norwood won a unanimous decision.

    Marquez was handed just the second loss of his career in a less-than-exciting fight, and it was at a time when boxing was enjoying more exposure due to the upcoming superfight between pay-per-view sensations Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad.

    Now 29-2, Marquez came back to the ring on November 20 to face Remigio Molina at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Marquez won the bout via TKO in Round 8, closing out the year with a record of 30-2 with 23 victories by way of KO or TKO.

2000

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    In his first fight of 2000, Marquez aimed to get back the belt he abandoned in 1999: the WBO NABO Featherweight title, but first he had to best Roque Cassiani.

    Marquez won the bout by unanimous decision, getting his belt back and building up a new winning streak.

    His next two fights of the year saw him defeat Daniel Jimenez, who retired from the bout after seven rounds of punishment from a far superior fighter.

    Finally, he stopped Reynante Jamili via KO early in Round 3.

    Marquez was becoming a regular in Las Vegas, but his bouts were on the smaller stages, going basically unnoticed amid the bigger names of the sport.

    His record at the end of the year was 33-2.

2001

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    Still trying to carve a space for his name in the minds of pay-per-view friendly boxing fans, Marquez continued his busy schedule, facing Sean Fletcher on February 11 at the Peppermill Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.

    Sporting a new look with blond hair, Marquez brought the same skills, poise and desire in the ring as always. Fletcher seemed like a man waiting for opportunities to land as if they would be handed to him, while Marquez attacked at will, dominating the fight with relative ease.

    The knockdown parade began in Round 6, when Marquez dropped Fletcher once upon a triple left uppercut then again with another uppercut after catching him stiff with a hard right hand that had him ready to be tipped over. Fletcher made it to the bell, but it seemed clear that the end was near.

    Then, in Round 7, Marquez caught Fletcher circling the wrong way and landed an easy right hand on the jaw that dropped him to the floor, hurt far more than before. Fletcher took the eight count and went back into the gears of the machine only to fall to his knees for the second time in the round after being caught with a painful combination with his back against the ropes.

    Fletcher beat the count again but quickly thereafter was caught in the corner, absorbing needless punishment. After four knockdowns, the referee had seen enough and stepped in, giving Marquez the victory via TKO in Round 7.

    Next on his plate was Baby Lorona Jr., a fighter who seemed to have little interest in actually putting up a fight in the face of such a superior opponent. Marquez had ditched the blond hair and was back in black trunks, serious and eager.

    This was a terrible mismatch, but given that not many fighters out there were willing to face Marquez, he had to take what he could. You could see the utter lack of concern when Marquez was on his stool between rounds, and his trainer was silent, as if the fight was nothing more than a sparring session.

    Lorona didn’t seem up to the task at hand at any time in the bout, and thus, Marquez scored his second TKO of the year early, stopping Lorona in Round 2 with little effort.

    On August 19, Marquez faced a game Julio Gamboa at the Stateline Casino in Wendover, Utah. Gamboa fought with greater purpose than previous opponents, but by Round 6, the southpaw was walking into punches and didn’t seem to know how to deal with the range, footwork or ring generalship of Marquez.

    Marquez gave Gamboa a thorough thumping in the sixth frame, and Gamboa retired on his stool before Round 7 could begin.

    In his final bout of the year, Marquez fought Johnny Walker, who was 18-3 with 12 wins via KO/TKO.

    Like his previous fights, Marquez was clearly superior in experience, skill, power and poise—a combination that Walker had no hope against. Marquez blew Walker out of the water in Round 1 via a left-right combination that knocked Walker down early and then a brutal right hand that sent him to the canvas again, this time for the long count of 10.

    Marquez went 4-0 for the year, winning all bouts by TKO and closed the year with a record of 37-2 with 29 wins via KO/TKO.

2002

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    After an impressive (yet somewhat uninspired) campaign in 2001, Marquez climbed into the ring to face Robbie Peden for not only the NABF and USBA Featherweight titles, but also the right to claim the No. 1 contender spot for the IBF title.

    For the fight against Peden, Marquez was firing on all cylinders, moving well and fighting aggressively without giving up his counterpunching advantage. Peden was a terribly game fighter when it came to spirit, but he was just outmatched in the bout as Marquez was firing more, landing more and was also better defensively.

    Going into Round 10, Marquez looked to be ahead six rounds to three when he began to catch Peden early in Round 10, knocking his head back with hard lefts and rights and hammering him to the body. It was the power of those early blows that told the tale as Peden retired on his stool between Rounds 10 and 11, puking up blood into the bucket.

    His next and final bout of the year was against Hector Javier Marquez at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Marquez won the bout via TKO in Round 10 when he caught Hector standing too upright and landed a stinging right uppercut that saw Hector stumble before drifting face-first to the floor, out cold.

    For a man with the skills and experience of Marquez, it seemed as if he should have defeated Hector in an earlier round, given that the latter seemed open for counters all night long. Marquez was landing good shots but seemed a little off the mark.

    Against a higher caliber of fighter, that could have made for an interesting bout, but Hector was pushing forward on heart, roughhousing and the idea that ignorance is bliss. It seemed like no one had told him just how good Marquez was, and thus he stayed in the fight up until the end.

    At the close of 2002, Marquez stood at 39-2.

2003

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    To open 2003, Marquez faced Manuel Medina on February 1 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. On the line was the vacant IBF Featherweight title, and with that could come inroads to better bouts in the higher divisions.

    Medina came into the bout with a record of 60-12 with 27 wins by knockout. Part journeyman and part fringe contender, Medina was the best opposition available at the time: predictable on one hand and savvy on the other.

    The action began early as Marquez caught Medina with a nasty left-right-left combination that saw Medina fall like a puppet with its strings cut.

    The domination continued as Marquez happily allowed Medina to follow him, hurting him with counterpunches nearly at will. By the time Medina finally succumbed to punishment in Round 7, it seemed long overdue.

    Marcos Licona (20-3-1 with just seven stoppages) was next on his plate, and once again Marquez was dealing with an inferior opponent. Licona tried to keep up, but all too often he was stung in hard exchanges, falling off balance while trying to counter an opponent who had already left.

    After suffering a cut under his left eye, Licona found the reason he was looking for to call it an evening, and honestly, few could blame him.

    In his final bout of the year, Marquez stepped up again Roy Jones Jr.'s protege, Derrick “Smoke” Gainer, on November 1 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The fight was a tight affair that saw both men struggle to be effective, but Marquez was the man who fought like he wanted it more.

    The fight was decided after a clash of heads in Round 7, and Marquez was awarded the victory. With that saw his record rise to 42-2.

2004

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    Coming off a good 2003, Marquez faced a surprising challenge on May 8 in the form of Manny Pacquiao, who came into the fight with a record of 38-2-1, which was very close to his own record entering the bout of 42-2.

    Clearly, this was a big step up in competition for Pacquiao, but as we would quickly learn, he was not a fighter unwilling to seize any moment before him.

    He had blitzed through Marco Antonio Barrera and looked to make the most of his newfound momentum, no matter the risk. If he could defeat Marquez, Erik Morales would be next, and a victory over “El Terrible” would see his star fixed high in the featherweight sky, all within nine months of time.

    The fight started off in nightmare fashion for Marquez; he was blasted off his feet three times in Round 1 thanks to the powerful straight left hand of his southpaw opponent, who darted in and out quickly, confident in his every move.

    Each time he fell, Marquez pulled himself to his feet, but the third time he was dropped he seemed to linger on the canvas, as if trying to deal with the anguish of having such a harsh hand dealt to him so early.

    Down by four points after suffering a 10-6 round by the conventional rules of professional boxing, Marquez went back to work in Round 2, acting as if the first disastrous frame had never happened, and in retrospect, that was exactly what he needed to do. Round 1 saw him blasted by one straight left after another, and he showed nearly no head movement, making him more hittable than ever; after three minutes of that, he could only do better.

    After having the blood wiped from his nose, he came out in Round 2 and did what he does: counterpunch with accuracy and conviction, bold and skilled. Pacquiao had wounded his pride, and he came back into the fray with a torch, intent on going hard or going home.

    Most people watching thought the storm that was Pacquiao was simply going to consume Marquez with little effort in the following rounds. Instead, Marquez stood his ground, eating the straight lefts of Pacquiao then countering with hard shots at the end of exchanges, when Pacquiao was in transition between offense and defense.

    When Pacquiao would storm forward with his blows, Marquez would land his counters as Pacquiao tried to jump back out of range, and suddenly, fans were watching not a blowout, but a fight.

    After two rounds, we were seeing another thing; the grit and poise and counterpunching skill—most of which was timing by this point—were slowing Pacquiao down just enough to enable Marquez to ply his style better than the fast pace of Round 1.

    Coming into Round 3, Marquez seemed to be behind two rounds to none, 20-15, but oddly enough, his cause did not seem hopeless even to uneducated eyes. In the previous frame, he looked to have finally found his range and his method, and suddenly it appeared as if the rest of the fight could be very different indeed.

    Through the third frame, Pacquiao tried to recapture the success of Round 1, but Marquez was having none of it. He had adjusted to the speed and timing of Pacquiao, and he also seemed to be able to read his opponent's body language, enabling his counterpunching arsenal. He was catching Pacquiao with his own left hand now, in addition to his right, and hard shots to the body.

    And he was also winning his first round of the bout in the eyes of many. The pro-Marquez crowd, which had been rendered silent and submissive during the typhoon of violence in Round 1, found its voice again, chanting, “Marquez! Marquez!” nearing the end of the third frame.

    Marquez had finally adjusted to the style of Pacquiao enough to employ his counterpunching style, and he would remain there for the rest of the fight, winning Rounds 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 11 off the strength of his left jab, long right hand (which rocked Pacquiao in Round 6), sweeping left hook and precision counterpunching.

    Pacquiao was still landing and landing well, but the defense of Marquez had limited his offense to one- and two-punch bursts, allowing Marquez to outwork him in addition to putting together his own punch combinations when Pacquiao was looking to spring out of range.

    When the final bell sounded, what had looked to be a hopeless cause for Marquez after Round 1 honestly seemed like a probable decision victory by perhaps one or two points. Both men had pulled the crowd to its feet midway through the bout, hurting each other in furious action in Rounds 5, 7, 9 and 10, and many frames could have gone to either man.

    After the dust settled, the judges scored the bout a draw (115-110 for Pacquiao, 115-110 for Marquez and 113-113 even), and both men (and the fans) were left wanting more.

    Now that Marquez had made a new name for himself in the wake of the Pacquiao bout, he continued on to his next bout against Orlando Salido, once again at the MGM Grand, on September 18. Marquez won the bout via unanimous decision, bringing his career record to 43-2-1.

    It was a good year for Marquez, especially given that Pacquiao had defeated Fahsan Por Thawatchai via TKO to close out his own year in 2004. After such an exciting first bout, it seemed clear that the fight to make for both men was a rematch and the sooner the better.

    Thus began the relationship between Marquez and Pacquiao, which would see both their names elevated by way of comparison, which is ongoing, even today as Pacquiao gears up to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. 

2005

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    Given that fighters seem to fight less and less as they get older, we expect some of them to have slow years, but for a man like Marquez, who only fought once in 2005, it seemed like a bit of a disappointment. His bout with Pacquiao was a name-maker, and it would have been nice to see him in the ring more in 2005.

    On May 7, he fought and defeated the 34-4-3 Victor Polo via unanimous decision at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It wasn’t a bad fight for Marquez, but it still wasn’t the caliber of fight we were hoping to see from such a skilled warrior.

    Once again facing a southpaw, Marquez ate more left hands before knocking Polo down in Round 7 courtesy of a sharp straight right hand. The action continued to favor Marquez and his right hand as the bout went long. But the Mexico City fighter couldn’t finish Polo and had to be content with a clear-cut decision victory in his only outing of the year.

    Marquez saw his record grow to 44-2-1.

2006

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    With a new year ahead of boxing fans, many of us were hoping to see the rematch between Marquez and Pacquiao, but instead we saw the former put his WBA title on the line against Chris John, who came into the fight with an undefeated record of 21-0-1.

    John had spent the bulk of his career fighting in Indonesia, and few thought he had a chance against the Marquez, who seemed to hold nearly every favorable advantage.

    The fight turned out to be much closer than anyone would have thought possible. Many people (who probably didn’t watch the bout) called it a disgrace, but the fact is that sometimes even great fighters like Marquez square off against an opponent who is just a good foil for them.

    I felt Marquez won Rounds 1, 2, 5, 7 through 9. The rounds Marquez won, he won big, especially since he is the only one who did any real damage. But he lost a debatable point for low blows, and John did seem to outbox him in more than a few rounds, although he never seemed to hurt Marquez at all.

    In the end, all three judges awarded the decision to John, and Marquez, the man who had battled back against Pacquiao, was suddenly hit with a loss on his record—his first since he dropped a decision to Freddie Norwood in 1999.

    Marquez came back on August 5 to defeat Terdsak Kokietgym via TKO in Round 7 and followed that up with a KO victory over Jimrex Jaca in Round 9. He closed out the year with a record of 46-3-1, and the spotlight that seemed to be just around the corner after his fight with Pacquiao looked like it might be long gone.

2007

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    After a disappointing 2006, Marquez got a chance to face another fighting legend out of Mexico—Marco Antonio Barrera—and with that came a return to the big stage in Las Vegas.

    It was the perfect time and the perfect opponent for Marquez; Barrera was a beloved fighter in Mexico, not to mention in the boxing public in general. He was a true warrior, and the bout was for the WBC Super Featherweight title at 130 pounds. And a victory over Barrera would help his name grow in a very big way.

    But first he had to defeat Barrera, which would be no small thing. Barrera had won two of three fights with Erik Morales, and their first bout was not only The Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year for 2001, but it was also one of the greatest fights ever seen in the last 20 plus years if not in the history of the sport.

    It was an incredible opportunity for Marquez, and if he wanted bigger things in such a rough and fickle sport, he needed to win.

    Many people may have been expecting Marquez to have a sizable advantage given how many wars Barrera had been in; he had suffered two hard losses to Junior Jones, his damaging trilogy with Morales, the shellacking at the hands of Pacquiao and God knows how much wear and tear in the gym.

    Those people (of whom I was one) were shocked and delighted as the fight unfolded; it might not have been as great as Barrera-Morales I or Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I, but it was very exciting and even.

    The action through the first three rounds was scintillating; Barrera was proving to be the faster fighter with his punches, landing his left hook to the body and head, slipping punches, landing his jab and letting both fists go in extended exchanges.

    It was a technical fight with bursts of furious action, and even though Marquez was giving as good as he got, he was simply being outlanded by the faster Barrera, who looked to be ahead in the bout three rounds to none, 30-27, but just barely.

    Marquez turned it up in Rounds 4 and 5, winning off the strength of his movement and sharp right hand. But once again, it was terribly close, and Barrera wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

    In Round 6, both men let their hands go, slipping and searching for openings. It was a good round that turned into a great one as they decided to fight it out during the last 30 seconds, bringing the crowd to its feet once again while making it terribly clear that the judges were going to have a very hard time scoring each round with clarity.

    Round 7 saw Marquez hurt Barrera with a bevy of hard right hands followed by combinations of hooks and uppercuts that looked close to putting him away. But then, late in the round, Barrera caught Marquez coming in with his guard low and dropped him with a sharp right hand with just seconds remaining, stealing the frame in dramatic fashion.

    Then, if that was not enough, the referee, Jay Nady, deducted a point from Barrera for hitting Marquez while he was down.

    As the minute break between rounds continued, it was learned that Nady had somehow missed the fact that Barrera had knocked down Marquez cleanly, and thus more confusion was added to the scoring total. Thus, what should have been a 9-9 round for both (after the penalty) became a 10-8 round for Marquez.

    The fight continued as it had before, with both men landing well, but when the final scores were read, it was Marquez who had won the bout and stood as the new WBC Super Featherweight champion of the world.

    After such a performance in the big stage, Marquez next stepped into the ring to face Rocky Juarez on November 3 at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson, Arizona.

    Marquez won a unanimous decision, defending his WBC crown and bringing his record to 48-3-1. And better yet, he had secured a rubber match with Manny Pacquiao in 2008.

2008

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    Although it had taken more time than fans had hoped for, on March 15 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Juan Manuel Marquez stepped into the ring to face one of the brightest stars in the sport, Manny Pacquiao, in a rematch of their first thrilling bout.

    Since their last meeting in 2004, Pacquiao had seen his name grow very large. He had bested Erik Morales twice, Marco Antonio Barrera (for the second time) and many people were beginning to clamor for a fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather, although such a movement hadn’t really grown to the size it would in 2010 and beyond.

    Pacquiao simply looked unbeatable as he went along, and fan support was growing rapidly. Given that their last fight was so memorable, securing the rematch with Pacquiao not only promised to be a great bout, but by association would see Marquez’s name grow within the buying public that followed the sport.

    In addition, Pacquiao was 29 years old and, as the younger man, was seen to have the youth advantage over Marquez, who was now 34—an age where many fighters who have not endured as much as Marquez begin to see their careers slide downhill.

    Still, it was good business for both fighters, and it was good for the sport—a combination that doesn’t come along as often as it would seem, at least from a fan perspective.

    And so, both men traded leather again, and once again, it was a terribly close fight that showed both men possessed a deep well when it came to reviving their spirits and enduring punishment in the face of skilled and passionate opposition. Both men enjoyed success in the bout, and it really could have gone either way.

    As it turned out, that old adage of styles making fights really is true, no matter how many fans like to believe it can be dismissed in order to hype a newer fighter (who usually happens to be untested). Marquez proved he had a great deal left “in the tank,” as they say, giving Pacquiao everything he could handle while attaching some mortal gravity to his rising star.

    After staggering Pacquiao in Round 2, Marquez once again found himself on the canvas after a nasty counter-left hand. From there on out, it was a classic back-and-forth bout that saw both men stunned and bloodied. Marquez seemed to win Rounds 2, 5, 6, 8, 11 and 12 while Pacquiao won the rest, but it was still incredibly close.

    Sadly for Marquez, it wasn’t enough. The judges awarded Pacquiao the victory by split decision, and Marquez saw his record fall to 48-4-1.

    Thankfully for Marquez, the fight had been so close that a loss from the judges didn’t diminish his performance, nor did it contain the voices of many fans who felt he defeated Pacquiao. Indeed, the fact that both men were so evenly matched and fought with such passion is what saw the fans cry out for chapter after chapter of the Pacquiao-Marquez saga.

    Determined to make the most of his current place in the spotlight, Marquez stepped in to fight Joel Casamayor, who was famous in his own right for his bouts against Diego Corrales.

    As the fight began, it looked like Casamayor could be the kind of fighter who was too slick for Marquez; Casamayor appeared to win Rounds 1 and 2 with the kind of polish normally reserved for those who are enjoying a favorable stylistic advantage.

    Then, back came Marquez, winning Rounds 3 through 10 with sharp counterpunching and a two-fisted attack that saw the left eye of Casamayor looking very chewed up. The end came in Round 11, when the sharper, hungrier Marquez staggered Casamayor with a left before dropping him with a hard right hand.

    Casamayor managed to pull himself to his feet, but it wasn’t enough. The referee waved the fight off, and Marquez saw his record climb to 49-4-1.  

2009

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    In his first fight of the year, Marquez took on Juan “The Baby Bull” Diaz at the Toyota Center in Houston.

    Just one fight removed from his second loss to Manny Pacquiao, Marquez was storming forward, taking control of his own career rather than assuming a supporting role behind Pacquiao in the ever-changing script of the world of boxing.

    For fight fans, hearing that Marquez was going to fight Diaz…well, it was wish fulfillment, to be honest. We just knew that there were going to be some serious fireworks; we just didn’t know how long they would last.

    Clearly, Marquez held the advantage as the better defensive fighter and counterpuncher, but given that Diaz was not only the younger fighter, but the fighter with the most to prove and a serious arsenal of fight-ending tools (due to his high-pressure and punches-in-bunches style), it was clear for fight fans that this could be a barnburner.

    And oh my God was it ever.

    The fight took place at the Toyota Center in Houston on February 28 for the lineal lightweight championship of the world. While the idea of titles has been diminished over the years due to the creation of a slew of needless championships, Marquez and Diaz fought with energy due the ideals of the moment, as if there were only one title per weight class available.

    Yeah, it was an incredible fight.

    Not only was Diaz the younger man, but he was a naturally bigger man by five to 10 pounds. And with that size advantage, many thought he would enjoy a power advantage as well. If that wasn’t enough, Diaz was motivated to redeem himself from a loss to Nate Campbell, and given that they were fighting in his backyard, many observers thought that the table was set for a Diaz victory.

    Those favoring Marquez noted his experience and excellent corner, not to mention his sharp counterpunching skills and his bravery and tenacity. Given how Campbell had dissected Diaz, the notion that Marquez could enjoy at least some of the same successes was not all that far-fetched.

    But in the end, the biggest advantage of note was honestly youth. Diaz was 10 years younger than Marquez, and the former had not seen the same level of abuse endured by the latter—especially given the blows Marquez had taken from the power-punching Pacquiao.

    So, Marquez slipped through the ropes, a man about the business of forging truth at the cost of fiction, and Diaz would prove to be an able co-author in this most noble and honest of enterprises.

    The first round was both technical and explosive in addition to being very near an all-out war.

    Diaz went on the attack early, putting pressure on Marquez, keeping close to the veteran, crowding him toward the ropes. The left hook of Diaz was landing well, and Marquez was forced to spend the majority of the round making adjustments in a losing effort during Round 1.

    Indeed, from the opening bell, the pressure of Diaz enabled his left hook, which saw Marquez staggering in Rounds 1 and 2.

    The early rounds were brutal for Marquez anytime he was caught against the ropes for too long. Diaz might not have been a one-punch KO artist, but he knew how to do damage in flurries—and Marquez was finding that out in a hurry anytime his back touched the ropes.

    Both men were ducking and punching, twisting and stabbing outward with their fists during these exchanges against the ropes, but it was Diaz who was doing the real damage.

    Still, Marquez was landing sharp, effective shots, be it in close in the middle of the ring or with his back against the ropes. He was stinging Diaz with both hands, but given the passion and the aggression of the younger fighter, the work Marquez was doing was easily lost amid the flurries of Diaz.

    Indeed, near the end of Round 3, Jim Lampley captioned the action perfectly, saying: “A lot of Marquez advocates thought this might be man-against-boy; so far it’s been man-on-man, in a fight for men only.”

    Then, after both men had been taking turns digging into each other with ferocity in excellent action, Diaz opened a cut over Marquez’s right eye in Round 5, heightening the drama.

    Marquez, with experience being cut in the same location through his career, continued on, pushing forward with his slick counterpunching and left uppercut, opening a cut over the right eye of Diaz in Round 8 in a fight that saw his accuracy growing as the bout grew long. Then, late in Round 9, Marquez stunned Diaz with a combination that had him falling face-first into the ropes and from there the floor.

    Diaz managed to climb to his feet, and Marquez renewed his assault, forcing him to cover up after repeated flurries and then catching him with the fight-ending uppercut from there. Marquez was now the winner of the Fight of the Year bout for 2009, and in the distance awaited the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    Thus, on September 19, Marquez faced Mayweather in a catchweight bout after Mayweather had come in two pounds over the agreed weight limit for the fight. The bout was highly anticipated, mainly due to the fact that fans were dying to see Mayweather face his greatest rival, Manny Pacquiao, and in absence of that fight, they were willing to pay for anything that would allow them to more closely examine the unknown, even in the abstract.

    In short, if they couldn’t get Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, they could at least get Mayweather vs. the guy who many felt beat Pacquiao, and that was better than nothing.

    Sadly for the one million-plus fans who coughed up their hard-earned money to watch the bout on pay-per-view, a fight between the best counterpuncher in the sport and the second-best counterpuncher in the division turned out to be anticlimactic and void of any true drama. Mayweather was simply the better tactician, not to mention being the faster, larger fighter.

    Marquez was constantly a beat behind the music, and in the end he was resoundingly defeated minus the usual fanfare associated with action-packed fights. This was a boxing match always destined to be decided upon points and nothing more. Once the decision was announced, Marquez looked like nothing more than a well-groomed and carefully chosen feather for Mayweather’s hat.

    After the drama of so many previous fights, fans of the sport saw Marquez exit 2009 on a minor note: defeat in the key of C (for conservative). His professional record at the end of 2009 was 50-5-1.

2010

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    After his disappointing loss to Mayweather in 2009, Marquez went back into the ring against a man who had given him some serious lumps in their previous fight, which garnered both men Fight of the Year honors by The Ring Magazine in 2009: Juan Diaz.

    Meeting on July 31 in Las Vegas instead of returning to Texas, the fans at the Mandalay Bay gathered in anticipation; could the rematch prove to be as great as their first meeting?

    The answer turned out to be a bit of both “yes” and no.”

    This time around, Diaz fought a great deal more off his jab, perhaps in an attempt to be in a better position of choosing the moments when both men would brawl. In their first fight, Diaz had put the pressure on quickly, and he did a lot of damage in the first half of the fight—so much so that nearly any other fighter in the division would have fallen.

    But it was the patience, timing, heart and skill of Marquez that saw him come back in their first bout, and Diaz clearly decided that he needed to at least show Marquez something different if he wanted to change how the story went in chapter 2.

    Sadly, Diaz was not up to the task of outboxing the sharper, more experienced Marquez. The fight was very close in each and every round; Diaz was scoring with good punches when he decided to go for broke, but those times didn’t come often enough for The Baby Bull.

    Simply put, Marquez was always just a little bit better in nearly every round. The final scores were 116-112, 118-110 and 117-111 in favor of Marquez, and those scores seemed appropriate. Marquez hurt Diaz in Round 4, and he generally took the fight by throwing five to land one or two. And when they landed, they landed cleanly for the most part.

    Still, Diaz didn’t go home without some measure of satisfaction. He used his left hand to swell up the right eye of Marquez, and he made it to the final bell, which was better than the last outing.

    After defeating Diaz for the second and final time, Marquez fought Michael Katsidis on November 27 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    Marquez managed to defeat Katsidis, proving his depth and wide array of tools, eventually defeating Katsidis via TKO in Round 9. Katsidis was game and tough, but he was simply outmatched save for one-shot power punches or the occasional combination.

    It was another successful year for Marquez, who went into 2011 with a record of 52-5-1.

2011

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    With two professional victories on his resume since his last loss, Marquez looked to keep the momentum going in 2011, and to do so, he would need to defeat Likar Ramos in Cancun, Mexico, on July 16. Ramos had an announced record of 24-3-18, but even in the beginning, it looked like he was in way over his head against Marquez.

    And he was.

    Marquez caught Ramos with a right hand that knocked him flat near the end of Round 1 and just like that, Marquez was going home without even breaking a sweat. It was an odd fight to watch, anticlimactic and utterly unsatisfying—like watching a sparring session rather than a real fight.

    Thankfully, a real fight was now on deck against a true rival: Manny Pacquiao.

    Taking place on November 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Marquez was getting his third attempt to defeat a man many felt he had already beaten at least once. For men like Marquez and Pacquiao to have any questions lingering about who won and who lost is a clear indication that a true verdict that eliminates all doubts and questions is needed.

    Thus, both fantastic fighters met in the ring a third time in the attempts to discover that answer. Once again, Marquez was moving up from lightweight to welterweight, and with the WBO title on the line, the pressure couldn’t be greater.

    For such a bout, Marquez had made some changes, most notably a weight training program, which allowed him to fill out his physique and, some argued, absorb the power punches of Pacquiao better than before.

    Yet as the third chapter unfolded, it seemed that as much as the song may change, it still stayed the same. Once again, Marquez and Pacquiao went at it in fierce fashion, both men enjoying moments of advantage in a spirited fight that spoke to the better traditions of professional boxing.

    But then, seeming to have a two- to three-point lead on the scorecards (depending on who you are or who you ask), Marquez seemed to take it easy during the last few rounds, clearly believing he had enough of a point advantage that taking rounds off would not hurt him.

    This, as it turns out, was probably the difference in the fight. Marquez had fought better than ever for Rounds 1 through 9, but then he allowed Pacquiao to finish the fight strong—or at least stronger than himself. Of course, the hubris involved in thinking that any round could be clearly seen as bankable in such a close contest did not help Marquez’s cause.

    Whatever you think of the bout, however you scored it, the judges came back with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-112. Once again, Marquez had lost a highly debatable decision to Pacquiao, and with that his record settled at 53-6-1 at the end of 2011.

2012

20 of 23

    After dropping two highly debatable decision defeats to Pacquiao in their trilogy, Marquez still was hungry for more. But before he was given a fourth bout with Pacquiao, he had to stop Serhiy Fedchenko in Mexico City on April 14.

    The fight was as one-sided as you would imagine, with the scores being 119-109, 118-110, 118-110. Fedchenko would not go down—and for that he should be applauded—but the simple fact is that he was really in no position to win the bout in any round. And that is saying something.

    But as lopsided as the bout was, it also served a purpose—it helped get Pacquiao back into the ring a shocking fourth time. Marquez was now the WBO Welterweight champion, within striking distance of Pacquiao, who had moved up in weight earlier, seemingly leaving Marquez behind.

    But Marquez pursued Pacquiao upward, intent on facing him for the forth time. Seeing fighters engage in trilogies is highly uncommon in the sport today, but four fights?

    In the 1950s, for example, this wasn’t all that unheard of, but in today’s day and age, it is exceptional.

    Of course, it was more than just the victory over Fedchenko that got Pacquiao back into the ring. It had been over eight years since their first bout in 2004, and after three thrilling fights, no one was certain whom the better man was, no matter what decision the judges had passed down.

    Simply put, Pacquiao was starting to see a glimpse of the end, and he wanted to put the subject of Marquez behind him without leaving any doubt. I wish more fighters were like that, but they seem to be a thing of the past.

    And so, on December 8 at the MGM Grand, Marquez and Pacquiao met yet again, and once again, it was razor-close up until the final moment.

    Pacquiao came out showing more head movement than in their past fights, causing Marquez to find new ways to adjust and attack. He decided upon body shots as both men engaged in the same spirit of their previous efforts.

    Then, in Round 3, Marquez knocked Pacquiao down for the first time ever, thanks to a hard right hand that landed when Pacquiao bought a fake to the body. He was smiling as he rose. But he was hurt, and we all knew it.

    Both men came out hard in Round 4, which could have gone either way. It was impressive to see Pacquiao show the same spirit that Marquez had displayed in Round 2 of their first fight after having been knocked down three times in the opening frame.

    Round 5 saw Pacquiao knock Marquez to the floor off a short, hard-left straight, and then later in the round Pacquiao hurt Marquez with a brutal right hook with less than 60 seconds remaining. Pac-Man was on the offensive the rest of the round, and it looked like the tide could be turning in his favor.

    In Round 6, Marquez, with swelling around his right eye and what appeared to be a broken nose, continued his march forward, but Pacquiao was landing his left hand hard. As both fighters revolved around each other, Pacquiao seemed to be the fresher, faster fighter, and things were not looking good for Marquez as Pac-Man continued to land.

    Then, with seconds remaining in the round, Marquez landed the greatest countershot of his career—a pulverizing right hand that caught Pacquiao flush and dropped him face-first to the floor, out cold.

    Just like that, it was over.

    Marquez ran to the corner post and stood on the ropes, fists high in the air in victory while Pacquiao lay unconscious on the canvas.

    After so much time spent facing his complementary and brave nemesis, Marquez had finally conquered him with a level of authority Pacquiao never enjoyed in their previous efforts. It was one of the greatest counterpunches in many years delivered by a true professional at a time that he needed it most.

    And so, as Marquez enjoyed the greatest victory of his career, his record now stood at 55-6-1.

    But even greater than the WBO belt around his waist was a new title: the man who knocked out Manny Pacquiao.

2013

21 of 23

    Approximately 10 months after his crushing victory of Manny Pacquiao, Marquez faced Timothy Bradley on October 12 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

    Many wondered if Bradley had the tools and experience needed to deal with the counterpunching ability of Marquez, especially given the latter and his penchant for being pulled into toe-to-toe exchanges from time to time.

    Bradley gave us the answer, winning the bout off the strength of his jab—darting in to land hard punches and then getting out of range quickly.

    Marquez was never really in the bout, and it seemed like Bradley hurt him badly on two occasions. In the end, the judges, who scored the bout a surprising split decision, handed Marquez a frustrating but honest defeat. Marquez won on one card, 115-113, while Bradley won on the remaining two cards, 115-113 and 116 to 112.

    In his only fight of the year, Marquez fell to 55-7-1.

2014

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    Perhaps stinging from the loss to Timothy Bradley, Marquez would only fight once in 2014, clashing with Mike Alvarado on May 17 for the WBO International Welterweight title.

    For the first half of the bout, Marquez was in fine form, dominating the action by outboxing Alvarado, who seemed overly cautious of the power Marquez brought to the table.

    Then, in the closing moments of Round 8, Marquez caught Alvarado with a near-perfect counter right hand that sent him reeling across the ring. When he landed, he had slid under the bottom rope, and for a moment it looked like he would travel all the way out of the ring.

    Alvarado beat the 10 count and was saved by the bell—and not a moment too soon.

    Just when it looked like Marquez was in perfect position to close the show big, Alvarado came back in Round 9 and dropped Marquez with a strong right hand.

    From there on out, it was a toe-to-toe brawl, with both men landing heavy shots and knocking the sweat of each other’s heads with sharp shots. Even though Alvarado was landing more than at any other time in the fight, Marquez was still the better man, getting the best of most exchanges in an action-packed close to the fight.

    The judges awarded Marquez the decision by scores of 117-109, 117-109 and 119-108.

    With the victory, Marquez got the title and placed himself as the No. 1 contender for the WBO Welterweight title held by none other than Manny Pacquiao.

    As of 2014, Marquez owns a record of 56-7-1. 

The Present

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    After defeating Alvarado, the career of Juan Manuel Marquez seemed to sputter due to a knee injury in 2014. Since then, many have begun to wonder if he would return to the ring after so much accomplished in so many wars.

    Marquez is 41 and has been a professional since 1993. That's a long time to be in such a demanding and fickle sport. Even though there are talks of Marquez possibly facing 28-year-old Kell Brook, as Marquez's trainer told Sky Sports, it seems unlikely he will press forward.

    Marquez is a very smart man who understands that in the sport of boxing youth eventually trumps all, and he probably has no desire to be anyone’s stepping stone.

    Now, with Manny Pacquiao set to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the biggest fight in boxing history (at least in terms of receipts), Marquez still finds his name mentioned in connection to the megafight. Should Pacquiao win, it would not be surprising to see him push for one final bout with Pac-Man.

    But outside of one final huge fight against a peer in terms of age, skill and accomplishment, Marquez could quietly bid his farewell to a sport that he has served so faithfully. If that does come to pass, no one could blame him or say he has not sought out and fought the best fighters available, which is one of the true measures of a great fighter.

    He’s a shoo-in for the Boxing Hall of Fame, a major titleholder in four divisions, won The Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year honors for 2009 and 2012 and, last but not least, he is the man who knocked out Manny Pacquiao when Pac-Man was one of the very best in the world.

    The career of Marquez has been a labor to be sure, but for a man who has persevered through so much to gain so much, it was clearly a labor of love.

    And when he finally arrived to the attention of fans, he labored well into the night. And we were there to watch him, slowly becoming aware of just how special he was.

    And the truth is we were lucky to have him.