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Marquezes short of the mark on marketability

8/7/2006 - Boxing

Throughout their distinguished professional careers, the toughest opponents for Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez may not have been Manny Pacquiao, Derrick Gainer, Tim Austin or Mark Johnson.

It may have been their own management.

Despite being perhaps the most formidable brother combo in the history of the sport, they seemingly have fallen short of the stardom and riches you would have thought was guaranteed for them.

The Marquez brothers -- who co-headlined Saturday night's edition of "Showtime Championship Boxing" at the MontBleu Resort and Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nev. -- both have immense natural talent. They also have a strong work ethic, impressive resumes, pleasing -- if not colorful -- personalities, and they're Mexican to boot.

So why hasn't this formula worked?

Why are they underrated and underappreciated, instead of superstars like their countrymen, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera?

"It's a tough question," says Gary Shaw, who's promoting this upcoming show and has inked Rafael, the reigning IBF bantamweight titlist, to a promotional contract. "I don't like to knock another promoter, but they weren't kept in front -- it may not be the promoter, it may be the management, it could be a combination -- and you need to be on TV and you need to fight the right opponents."

Their last promoter was Bob Arum, and what Shaw was most likely alluding to was that in the Top Rank galaxy, the stars that were the brightest were those of Morales, Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya during their time with Arum's promotional outfit. But on their own end, they may have been irreparably damaged by the stubbornness of their trainer/manager Nacho Beristain. Lauded as perhaps the sport's best teacher, he is also known as perhaps boxing's worst business representative.

It seems his autocratic ways and unrealistic view of the marketplace have led to the Marquez brothers -- especially Juan Manuel, who not too long ago was a unified champ -- to be on the outside looking in.

"There was never any rational aspect of what he was doing," said a still-flummoxed Arum, regarding that relationship. "And I couldn't get through; I was doing everything through Fernando Beltran, but everyone has trouble with the guy."

Early last year, a proposed deal was on the table for a Marquez rematch versus Pacquiao (they had fought to an exciting draw in April 2004). But instead of taking the $750,000 payday -- and more important, the opportunity and exposure it could have brought -- Beristain reportedly demanded $1.5 million (which was the license fee from HBO for both sides to split).

Instead, Morales and Pacquiao would engage in a two-fight series that has further lined the pockets of "El Terrible" and ascended the "Pac Man" to an ever higher level of iconic status. The highly anticipated rubber match is set for Nov. 18.

As for Juan Manuel Marquez?

Well, he soon lost both his titles without stepping into the ring, and in March he went to Indonesia to attempt to win back his WBA strap from Chris John for around $30,000. He lost a highly questionable verdict.

"We knew it was going to be a possibility," Arum said of that situation. "I mean, why the hell is he going to fight in the jungle? The food's different, everything's different. And for that small amount of money? I just couldn't believe he even did it. We offered to bail them out and do the fight in the United States, and he turned it down."

It was at that juncture that Arum completely gave up any hopes of reconciliation with Beristain and the brothers.

"It was too much aggravation dealing with this guy," he says. "And the thing that's so frustrating is that the brothers are really nice kids."

Shaw agrees that passing on the Pacquiao rematch was a huge mistake.

"Absolutely, both for the money and the fact that I believe he would've beat him. And it would've made him a colossal star," he says.

Last year, Shaw came into contact with the Marquezes when he won the purse bid for Rafael's first bout with Silence Mabuza in November. For the rematch, he finds himself promoting the bantamweight powerhouse full time. This promoter says his dealings with Beristain have been fruitful.

"Truthfully, it has not been difficult since I've signed Rafael and they took the rematch and it was not a problem," he said. "I believe once I'm with Juan Manuel and spend some time with him and Nacho and Jaime Quintana, that I'll be able to sign him.

"They are very talented fighters individually, and as a brother tandem, I don't think there's anybody better in boxing. Maybe not even in the history of boxing."

Shaw agrees with Arum that going to Indonesia was something akin to managerial malpractice.

"I was mortified that they would go over there," he says. "First of all, with no representation, and I was mortified that they would go over there for $30,000. I wouldn't have chased the belt or given up the belt, whatever the case may be."

So why is Juan Manuel, who faces the tough Terdsak Jandaeng, still unsigned?

"At that time, they said Rafael was ready to sign and I said, 'I'd like to sign them both,' and they said Juan would like a little more time. And I said, 'No problem,' and there came a time that Golden Boy tried to wine and dine Juan and he left there and had not signed," Shaw said. "I think that he just wanted to hear what's out there."

On a national conference call, Juan Manuel Marquez was asked about his free-agent status, and he would respond by stating: "There is no intention of signing with anybody. First of all, there is this upcoming fight, so I want to take it one at a time and once we have something in writing or something that is convenient for us, I will sign with that promoter."

Juan Manuel is 32 years old, Rafael 31. Not ancient, but not exactly youthful, either, especially for boxers in the lighter weight divisions. Did their window of opportunity close on them? Were their best years squandered?

"Well," contemplated their former promoter, "they're athletes, and athletes have a limited life. It's not like a business guy that can go on for 40 or 50 years. An athlete has a certain number of good years and then that's it and they've burned up what should've been some of their terrific years."

Were they simply too loyal to a man who built them as prizefighters, but dropped the ball too often as a businessman?

"It seemed that way to me, but I don't know," Arum said. "I just don't know; it seemed that they should've woken up. They're fighting for real short money on Showtime and it doesn't seem like they're going anyplace."

It's no surprise that Shaw believes that the expiration date on the Marquez brothers is a long ways out.

"Oh, for sure; let's take them individually," he says enthusiastically. "Rafael, I think, is the single best fighter at 118, bar no one. And I believe he can go to 122 and beat anybody. So for him, he's got two weight classes, and maybe there are some guys from 115 that are going to come up to 118. He has no problems making it. I think there are some real big fights out there for him.

"For Juan Manuel, he's 126 and he could fight at 130. So we can fight Pacquiao, he could fight either Barrera or how 'bout Rocky Juarez? There are some big fights out there."

But for this supremely talented tandem, you've got to ask: Is the future behind them?