Commentary

Juan Manuel Marquez still a force

Originally Published: August 2, 2010
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Las Vegas
Lightweight
Juan Manuel Marquez W12 Juan Diaz
Retains world lightweight title
Scores: 118-110, 117-111, 116-112
Records: Marquez, 51-5-1, 37 KOs; Diaz, 35-4, 17 KOs

Rematches of great fights rarely live up to their original, and Marquez-Diaz II, the sequel to the 2009 fight of the year, unfortunately didn't. In Marquez-Diaz I, waged in February 2009 in Diaz's hometown of Houston, Marquez scored a ninth-round knockout to culminate a comeback in a bloody slugfest to retain the lightweight world championship.

After that terrific fight, Marquez and Diaz went their separate ways. Marquez went for the big bucks and jumped up two weight classes to take a crack at Floyd Mayweather Jr., who schooled him with ease in a lopsided decision. Diaz jumped up to junior welterweight and had two fights with former titlist Paulie Malignaggi. Diaz got a controversial hometown decision in the first fight, one of the worst robberies in recent years. Malignaggi easily outpointed him in the December rematch. So with Marquez and Diaz both coming off losses and returning to their more natural weight class, Golden Boy put together the inevitable rematch.

Although Saturday's bout was not a candidate for 2010 fight of the year, it was nonetheless an entertaining, albeit one-sided, affair that once again confirmed Marquez's greatness as well as Diaz's continued slippage.

Although Marquez, 36, is 10 years older than Diaz, he looked like the younger man. He boxed Diaz well, and when there were exchanges -- and there were more than enough to keep the pro-Marquez crowd of 8,383 at Mandalay Bay cheering -- he got the better of it. Despite a swollen right eye from an accidental thumb in the fourth round, Marquez was never in any danger and racked up points with a busier and more accurate attack on Diaz, who is no longer the energetic volume puncher that made him one of the best in the business for a few years. While Marquez landed 288 of 672 punches for a 43 percent connect rate, according to CompuBox statistics, Diaz landed just 155 of 579 (27 percent). Diaz averaged fewer than 50 punches thrown per round, well off the whirlwind style he once had, and never outlanded Marquez in any round.

Marquez made his case for a third fight with Manny Pacquiao afterward. He desperately wants a fight with him after two highly controversial results against him, a draw in their 2004 featherweight title fight and a split-decision loss in the 2008 junior lightweight championship rematch. That won't happen, at least not next. Pacquiao and Top Rank have other plans. Marquez probably will go for a December fight with junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan, the flashy Brit who was ringside. It's an easy fight to make because they are both with Golden Boy, and it's a darn interesting fight as well. Marquez is interested because he'd like to become the first Mexican to win titles in four weight classes. Khan would like it because adding the name of the future Hall of Famer to his résumé sure has a nice ring to it.

It wouldn't be a shock if Diaz retired. Even though he's only 26, he has a lot of mileage (he turned pro at 17) and doesn't need boxing. He's made good money and recently graduated college. He plans to take the LSAT exam in the fall and then go to law school, so has a lot of options that don't include getting cracked in the grill. Good luck to him, because, like Marquez, he's always been a class act.

By the way, if you missed the HBO PPV, the main event will be replayed Friday night on HBO Latino (9 ET/PT). For those who don't speak Spanish, props to HBO for this: The English commentary provided by Jim Lampley and Emanuel Steward on fight night will be available by using the SAP button on your remote.

Middleweight
Dmitry Pirog TKO5 Daniel Jacobs
Wins a vacant middleweight title
Records: Pirog, 17-0, 14 KOs; Jacobs, 20-1, 17 KOs

Rafael's remark: After Pirog drilled Jacobs for the upset, ring announcer Michael Buffer declared, "A new middleweight star is born." Maybe so, because although Pirog was an unknown 3-1 underdog and Jacobs was the 2009 ESPN.com prospect of the year, the 30-year-old Russian looked like the real deal. Pirog is a formidable fighter even if his new belt is of the paper variety, because it had been stripped from legitimate and lineal champion Sergio Martinez in May.

Although Jacobs, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., landed almost twice as many punches (73 to 43), according to CompuBox, Pirog sure made his count. He had Jacobs in trouble and almost knocked him down in the second round. Through four rounds, he trailed 39-37 on all three scorecards, but in the fifth round, he put Jacobs away with a crunching right hand to the jaw that will be in the conversation for knockout of the year. Jacobs, with his hands down and pulling straight back in an amateurish mistake, was a dead duck when it landed. He went down and was flat on his back and not moving when referee Robert Byrd didn't bother to finish his count.

If Jacobs was not fully focused on the fight, it is understandable. His grandmother, Cordelia Jacobs, who helped raise him, died earlier in the week from lung cancer. Jacobs seems to have the maturity to rebound from the knockout and still live up to his considerable potential, but Golden Boy should not rush him. He probably was not ready for a title bout after just 2½ years as a pro and very little in the way of seasoning. Pirog may have come out of nowhere, at least as far as American fans are concerned, but don't you want to see him again and soon? Let's hope HBO and Showtime took notice of his fan-friendly style, carefree personality and, of course, sick right hand.

Junior welterweight
Robert Guerrero W10 Joel Casamayor
Scores: 98-89 (twice), 97-90
Records: Guerrero, 27-1-1, 18 KOs; Casamayor, 37-5-1, 22 KOs

Rafael's remark: Guerrero, a former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist who only recently moved to lightweight, took a calculated risk that Casamayor was too long in the tooth to deal with him and moved up to junior welterweight for the fight. It turned out to be the right move, as Guerrero, 27, of Gilroy, Calif., easily outpointed the veteran former lightweight and junior lightweight champ. Guerrero rocked Casamayor several times, dropped him in the second round (during which referee Jay Nady took a point away from Casamayor for holding) and rolled to the win.

It would have been nice to see Guerrero step on the gas a bit more. If he had, he very well might have gotten the knockout. It was too little, too late for Casamayor when he scored a flash knockdown with a little more than a minute left in the fight.

Despite the trip to the canvas, the first time Guerrero was knocked down, he turned in a solid performance and now has options. He can return to lightweight, where he'll be formidable against anyone, or stick around at junior welterweight and try to land a big fight in one of the sport's deepest and most exciting divisions. Guerrero, who'd love a crack at main event winner and lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, was no doubt boosted by his wife Casey's presence at ringside. She's been battling leukemia since 2007 and has had some difficult times, but a recent bone marrow transplant has seemingly worked, and she's in remission.

Casamayor, 39, has had a great career, winning a 1992 Olympic gold medal for Cuba and multiple world titles, but it's pretty clear that his time at the top is done. He has no legs left, and his reflexes and speed are not what they were. Marquez knocked him out in the 11th round in 2008 to win the lightweight title. Since then, Casamayor struggled in a decision win against a journeyman and then was wiped out by Guerrero. Burdened with financial problems, Casamayor will undoubtedly keep fighting, but he's done as a serious factor.

Lightweight
Jorge Linares W10 Rocky Juarez
scores: 99-90 (twice), 97-92
Records: Linares, 29-1, 18 KOs; Juarez, 28-7-1, 20 KOs

Rafael's remark: Linares' star was very bright in September. He was a two-division titlist who owned a junior lightweight belt and had just signed a promotional contract with Golden Boy. Before he signed the deal, he had scheduled a bout for October against Juan Carlos Salgado, and he went through with it. Salgado shocked the world with a first-round knockout win, which dropped Linares' stock like Enron's. The 24-year-old then returned in March and struggled to a majority decision in his native Venezuela against Francisco Lorenzo.

Linares looked much better in his second fight since the loss, as he easily outpointed Houston's Juarez, whose career in meaningful fights probably ended. This was basically a loser-leaves-town match. Linares regained some of his lost luster with a quality performance, as he outboxed and outpunched Juarez, 30, for most of the fight. Although Juarez closed strong in the final two rounds, it wasn't nearly enough to warrant the decision.

Concerns remain about Linares' ability to take a punch, but his boxing skills and talent are unquestioned, and a title shot is probably in his near future. Juarez's future is far more murky. The 2000 U.S. Olympic silver medalist just can't win a significant fight. He's 0-5-1 in junior lightweight and featherweight title bouts and is 1-4-1 in his past five bouts, including two losses in a row. It might be time for Juarez to move on.

Junior welterweight
Frankie Gomez KO1 Ronald Peterson
Records: Gomez, 5-0, 5 KOs; Peterson, 2-3, 2 KOs

Rafael's remark: Gomez fought better opponents than Peterson in the amateur ranks. These early pro fights don't really seem to help Gomez learn anything. He's just knocking over human heavy bags at this point as he pads his record and gets used to the pro game. The 18-year-old from East Los Angeles turned pro in April after winning a silver medal in the 2009 world amateur championships and gold in the U.S. nationals. Golden Boy considers him its best prospect, which is why he'll be a regular on its big cards for the foreseeable future as he gets his reps. But don't blink when you see him on the bout sheet. He knocked out Peterson, 20, of St. Paul, Minn., in 2 minutes, 14 seconds using a right to the chin followed by a left to the body. It was Gomez's third consecutive first-round knockout.

Super middleweight
Jean Paul Mendy W-DQ1 Sakio Bika
Title eliminator
Records: Mendy, 29-0-1, 16 KOs; Bika, 28-4-2, 19 KOs

Rafael's remark: What looked to be a pretty good fight on paper turned into a blowout with an unfortunate ending. Bika, the 2007 winner of "The Contender," is a dangerous man early in any fight, as Mendy now knows. He came right to Mendy and forced him into a corner, where he unloaded several blows. A left hook in the onslaught knocked the 36-year-old Frenchman to a knee. But Bika did not recognize that Mendy was down and bashed him with a massive right hand to the chin. Mendy went down face-first and was briefly out cold, his glassy, vacant eyes staring directly into press row as he lay on the canvas. Although Bika was utterly dominant in the brief fight, you cannot hit a man while he is down, and referee Joe Cortez properly disqualified him at 1 minute, 19 seconds.

The disqualification a shame because it seemed that Bika, 31, of Australia, was eventually going to knock Mendy out. Mendy had offered nothing in the brief bout. So Bika, fighting for the first time in year, cost himself a shot at a world title. Instead, Mendy, who went to the hospital just as a precaution, finds himself as the unmarketable mandatory challenger for the winner of the Oct. 15 bout between titlist Lucian Bute and Jesse Brinkley. Good luck to the promoters trying to sell that mismatch.

Super middleweight
George Groves TKO6 Alfredo Contreras
Records: Groves, 10-0, 8 KOs; Contreras, 11-8-1, 5 KOs

Rafael's remark: Groves, 22, of England, fights in the same camp as heavyweight titlist "The Ducker" David Haye, who was in his man's corner, for his American debut against Mexico's Contreras. Groves has gotten a bit of hype across the pond and made his American debut against Contreras in a methodical but not overly impressive performance. He fought at a measured pace and broke his man down. Contreras took a lot of punches but never seemed hurt when referee Russell Mora called off the fight at 48 seconds of the sixth round. The stoppage was more from general punishment and a lack of return fire on Contreras' part than any one particular big shot from Groves.

Heavyweight
Seth Mitchell TKO1 Derek Bryant
Records: Mitchell, 18-0-1, 12 KOs; Bryant, 20-6-1, 17 KOs

Rafael's remark: The heavyweight division in the United States is barren. There are virtually no prospects of note to watch. Maybe you could say 2008 U.S. Olympian Deontay Wilder, but he's a raw project who's years away if he ever even gets there. That leaves Mitchell, who just might be the best American heavyweight prospect. Although he came to boxing late after playing linebacker at Michigan State from 2001 to 2003, the 28-year-old from Brandywine, Md., is athletic and in tremendous shape, and he seems to be getting better and better. He has a fine work ethic and good technique, and his people all say he's very coachable and a willing student. Against Bryant, he aced another test.

Although Bryant, 39, a onetime fringe contender, hadn't fought in almost two years, he was clearly a step up in competition for Mitchell. Still, Mitchell needed only 1 minutes, 45 seconds to blow him out in an exciting performance. Mitchell worked his left hand to the body very well, unloading a series of punches while Bryant was backed into a corner. Then Mitchell went to work upstairs and connected with a whole bunch of shots, including a right hand that rocked Bryant's head back, sending referee Kenny Bayless in for the well-timed rescue. Who knows how far Mitchell will go, but at least there's a rising American heavyweight worthy of attention.

Saturday at Tepic, Mexico
Junior bantamweight
Juan Alberto Rosas TKO6 Simphiwe Nongqayi
Wins a junior bantamweight title
Records: Rosas, 32-5, 26 KOs; Nongqayi, 16-1-1, 6 KOs

Rafael's remark: South Africa's Nongqayi didn't seem long for holding his title after claiming a vacant belt with a decision against Jorge Arce in September 2009. In his first defense, he was held to a draw by unheralded Malik Bouziane in France in April. In his second defense, he went to Rosas' hometown and lost his title in the "Top Rank Live" main event.

Rosas and Nongqayi could have fought in a phone booth, because they stood in each other's chest and fought inside almost exclusively. They swapped a lot of punches, but Rosas' appeared to do more damage. Rosas had a big fifth round, and it was clear Nongqayi was fading. In the sixth, Rosas landed a right hand to the side of the head, causing Nongqayi to turn away, take a step and then go to a knee. He got up at the count of eight from referee Ray Corona, but his corner stepped onto the ring apron and asked for the bout to be stopped, setting off a frenzy as Rosas' fans celebrated the triumph. With Arce winning the main event, don't be shocked to see a Rosas-Arce title bout.

Bantamweight
Jorge Arce KO1 Martin Castillo
Records: Arce, 55-6-1, 42 KOs; Castillo, 35-4, 18 KOs

Rafael's remark: Four or five years ago, when both fighters were near the top of their game, this would have been a major fight in the smaller weight classes. There was a lot of talk about it happening, too, but Top Rank never put it together. Now, years later, it happened, and Arce scored the quick and easy knockout against his Mexican countryman and fellow former junior bantamweight titlist. Both fighters are long past their best days, but Castillo is way more gone than Arce, who landed a left hand to Castillo's gut and knocked him out with four seconds left in the first round. At 31, Arce keeps trucking along as one of Mexico's most popular fighters. Bank on his getting another shot of some kind after notching his third dominant win in a row following a clear decision loss to Simphiwe Nongqayi in a junior bantamweight title bout in September. (Nongqayi lost that title on the undercard of Arce-Castillo.) Castillo, 33, ought to go happily back into retirement. Fernando Montiel destroyed him in four rounds in a 2008 title bout, sending Castillo in retirement. But he returned in July 2009 and won two bouts before Arce blew him out.

Friday at Miami, Okla.
Welterweight
Ashley Theophane W10 Delvin Rodriguez
scores: 96-94 (twice), 99-95
Records: Theophane, 27-4-1, 7 KOs; Rodriguez, 25-5-2, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: Rodriguez has been on the wrong end of some questionable decisions, but this one takes the cake, as he was robbed in the "Friday Night Fights" main event to fall to 2-3-1 in his past six bouts. He probably should be 5-1. Rodriguez, 30, a Dominican Republic native who grew up in Danbury, Conn., totally dominated the first half of the fight. Although England's Theophane, 29, won some of the late rounds as Rodriguez began to tire, there is no way he won six rounds. None.

Poor Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas, the ESPN2 commentators, who were more or less at a loss for words over this head-scratcher. It was a pretty good fight, but it didn't look all that difficult to score. And the CompuBox stats also backed up Rodriguez, who landed 194 of 767 shots to Theophane's 136 of 523. Rodriguez's shots sure looked like they had more steam on them as well, such as the big right hand with which he hurt Theophane in the ninth round.

Super middleweight
Francisco Sierra Tech. Dec. 7 Donovan George
Scores: 69-62 (twice), 68-63
Records: Sierra, 22-3, 20 KOs; George, 20-1-1, 17 KOs

Rafael's remark: What a beatdown. Sierra, 22, of Mexico, beat the living crap out of the favored George, the 25-year-old prospect from Chicago. After the pounding he took, George may never be the same. In Sierra's only previous fight in the United States, Edison Miranda knocked him out in the first round in October 2009. Since then, Sierra has won two in a row, and this one was easy.

Sierra landed right-hand bomb after right-hand bomb on George. By the third round, his nose was a bloody mess, and his face was swelling. It's pretty amazing that George stayed on his feet as long as he did, but a split second after the bell rang to end the seventh round, Sierra crushed him with yet another right hand, and George's body went limp like a rag doll and he fell basically into the arms of referee Gary Ritter. But because the shot came after the bell, the fight was stopped even though Sierra clearly had no intent to foul George.

Ritter could have given George five minutes to recover from the shot, but it was obvious that he was done. Ritter, who did an excellent job of handling the situation, docked Sierra two points for the foul, and they went to the scorecards for a technical decision. The two points off had no impact on the outcome because Sierra had been so utterly dominant and won the lopsided decision.

George looked like a broken man sitting on his stool in the corner after the fight. He took a potentially career-altering shellacking, while Sierra gave folks a reason to look at him again after the loss to Miranda.

Also on the undercard, 2004 Irish Olympian Andy Lee (26-1, 16 KOs), 26, the once-heralded prospect, knocked out James Cook (11-4-1, 8 KOs) in the fifth round. It was Lee's seventh win in a row since suffering an upset seventh-round knockout loss to Brian Vera in 2008 on ESPN2.

Friday at Cancun, Mexico
Welterweight
Danny Garcia TKO9 Jorge Romero
Records: Garcia, 18-0, 12 KOs; Romero, 17-3, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: It was nice for a change to see a competitive fight between young fighters in the main event of Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate." Philadelphia's Garcia, 22, one of Golden Boy's top prospects, got a real fight from Mexico's Romero, 22. Garcia appeared to be in control most of the way, but it Romero never stopped swinging. He pressured Garcia, landed some clean shots and swelled his right. In the ninth round, Garcia landed a picturesque left hook that stopped Romero in his tracks and sent him to the canvas. He got up quickly, but Garcia was all over him. He pounded him three brutal right hands before the referee jumped while Garcia was throwing a fourth right hand. Romero may be just 1-2 in his last three, but he's as tough as they come.

Wednesday at New York
Junior lightweight
Argenis Mendez W8 Shamir Reyes
Scores: 80-71 (twice), 79-72
Records: Mendez, 17-1, 9 KOs; Reyes, 18-7-2, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mendez, 24, won the biggest fight of his young career in May when he outpointed contender Martin Honorio in a mild upset. The Dominican-born, New York-based Mendez, a 2004 Olympian, returned in a smaller fight to remain active and easily outpointed Reyes, a 29-year-old onetime prospect from New York who is now a journeyman opponent. Headlining on promoter Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" series, Mendez dropped Reyes in the first round and rolled to the shutout victory. Reyes dropped to 0-4 with a no-contest in his past five bouts.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.