- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Juan Manuel Marquez's featherweight title reign ended with the hum of a fax machine, not the thud of a fist, on Monday.
Marquez, who unified the IBF and WBA titles in 2003, was stripped by the IBF because no promoter was willing to spend the minimum $50,000 on a purse bid for his mandatory title defense, and that defense was overdue.
Under the WBA's complicated rules, the IBF stripping Marquez is expected to lead the WBA to withdraw its recognition of Marquez as a "super champion." That would leave Marquez, who surprisingly rejected fights for $750,000 and $1.5 million this year, without any titles or a future payday.
Marquez (44-2-1, 33 KOs), long regarded as one of the top 10 fighters in the world pound-for-pound, was obligated to make his IBF mandatory against obscure Thai boxer Phafrakorb Rakkiatgym, the organization's dubious leading available contender. Marquez's last mandatory, a lopsided victory against Orlando Salido, was on Sept. 18, 2004.
With the Marquez-Rakkiatgym bout overdue, the IBF held two purse bids for the fight, July 26 and Aug. 5. Neither time did any promoter bid the minimum $50,000 for the bout. A purse bid is an opportunity for any registered promoter to bid on the right to promote a mandatory fight if the two sides are unable to negotiate an agreement.
When the second purse bid resulted in no offers, the IBF's board of directors voted to strip Marquez, IBF championship committee chairman Lindsey Tucker told ESPN.com. Marquez and his handlers were notified via fax.
"It's not the fighter's fault and everybody here feels terrible," Tucker said. "We really like Juan Manuel and he has had our title for a long time. We reached out to his promoter [Top Rank] and his manager [Nacho Beristain] but nobody bid. We know Juan Manuel Marquez was not at fault but the champion has the responsibility to defend. What are we supposed to do? We expect the champion to do his mandatory and would expect his promoter to do the fight."
Tucker said Rakkiatgym would be ordered to face Valdemir Pereira of Brazil for the vacant title. When asked why Rakkiatgym would retain his position when his promoters did not bid on the fight with Marquez either, Tucker had no explanation.
Top Rank did not bid on the fight because of ongoing problems with Marquez and Beristain.
"I have one fight left with [Marquez] and I'm not going to waste my money on a fight like that," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "The guy [Rakkiatgym] got knocked out in one round by [Manny] Pacquiao. If I'm going to do a fight, let's do one that's marketable, one that people are interested in. This is an unmarketable fight."
DuBoef, however, was incredulous that the IBF would strip Marquez for something out of the fighter's control.
"I don't know how he loses his title that way. I don't know how they do it. Because no one wants [to bid on] the fight? It's ludicrous. I've never heard of something like this in my life," duBoef said. "I'm embarrassed to be in the sport when things like this happen. Stripping the title does nothing to accomplish anything. He earned the title in the ring."
DuBoef said Top Rank would have been willing to eat the cost of the fight if it was part of a new long-term agreement with Marquez, who would be due a minimum of $100,000 for the fight under his Top Rank contract. However, duBoef said Marquez and Beristain have been unwilling to meet with Top Rank officials to talk about Marquez's career.
Marquez and Beristain, both of Mexico, were unavailable for comment.
"We tried sitting down with Juan Manuel and Nacho but they didn't want to meet with us," duBoef said. "We'd underwrite the fight if we had a long-term game plan. He wouldn't meet with us. If no one wants to talk about the game plan why should we spend our money? That's all it would be, our money. Is HBO or Showtime buying the fight? The burden would be on us to put it on a pay-per-view or create a pay-per-view card around it. But why make the investment in a fight that doesn't mean anything for someone who doesn't want to meet with you?"
Marquez appeared to reach stardom in May 2004 when he rallied from three first-round knockdowns to retain his titles in a draw with Pacquiao in a sensational action fight.
HBO, which televised the fight, loved it so much they asked for a rematch, and Top Rank began working on it. But Marquez rejected a career-high $750,000 for the fight, asking instead for $1.5 million -- the entire license fee that HBO had offered for the rematch.
Then, following Marquez's easy decision victory against Victor Polo on May 7, duBoef said Top Rank offered Marquez $1.5 million to fight Erik Morales this fall on HBO PPV. DuBoef said the Marquez camp asked for $3.5 million, a figure even the popular Morales has never been guaranteed for a fight.
Morales instead turned his attention to a Pacquiao rematch, which will happen in early 2006 provided they each win on a Sept. 10 doubleheader.
The IBF stripping will impact Marquez's WBA belt, too. The WBA recognizes Marquez as its "super champion," a title it gives to fighters who unify titles. Other WBA "super champions" include welterweight Zab Judah and middleweight Jermain Taylor.
When a fighter unifies major belts, the WBA elevates him to "super champion" status and allows the next two available contenders to vie for the vacant "regular" title.
The WBA says that the reason it has two champions in one division is to allow unified champions more time between mandatory title defenses -- 18 months instead of nine. The cynics view it as merely a way for the WBA to extract two sanctioning fees within a division.
However, now that Marquez has lost his IBF belt and therefore is no longer a unified title holder, WBA rules state that the "super champion" status will be withdrawn. The WBA could name him as the mandatory challenger for WBA "regular" featherweight titlist Chris John of Indonesia.
Bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez should probably take note of what happened to his older brother. He could soon face the same problems as his brother.
Rafael Marquez, whose Top Rank contract expires at the end of the month, is due to face mandatory challenger Silence Mabuza of South Africa. But at an Aug. 9 purse bid, no one bid the minimum $25,000.
Tucker said a second bid is scheduled for Friday.
"He's in the same boat as his brother," Tucker said. "No one bid the first time. If no one bids the second time, it will go back to the board for a vote."
Byrd-Williamson bid: Promoter Don King won the right to promote Chris Byrd's mandatory heavyweight title defense against DaVarryl Williamson on Tuesday.
According to Tucker, King was the only bidder, winning the IBF purse bid with an offer of $500,500. The minimum bid was $100,000. King must put the fight on before Nov. 16, Tucker said.
Under the rules of the bid, Byrd is entitled to 85 percent of the bid ($425,425) while Williamson, the leading available contender who is also promoted by King, is entitled to 15 percent ($75,075).
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Featherweight Juan Manuel Marquez lost the IBF's belt and could lose the WBA's crown. No promoter was willing to spend the minimum $50,000 on a purse bid for his overdue mandatory IBF title defense.