- Ron Borges
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The chant began before the 11th round did, rolling down from the back of the packed hall at the Desert Diamond Casino like a proclamation from a higher power.
For six more minutes WBC super featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez still had to deal with Rocky Juarez but a larger issue was already looming.
"Bring on Pacquiao!" Marquez's supporters hollered in unison again and again. "Bring on Pacquiao! Bring on Pacquiao!"
Several fans from the cheap seats hollered the same advice in the direction of Oscar De La Hoya, whose promotional company now handles Marquez's business as well as co-promoting Pacquiao along with Bob Arum. De La Hoya smiled knowingly and waved in response. There was business left to conduct with Juarez first but far more business was already under discussion and its name was Manny Pacquiao.
Before Marquez was finished defending his version of the 130-pound title by hammering out a lopsided unanimous decision over a brave but badly beaten Juarez, text messages were flying between the WBC champion's representatives and Pacquiao's. So clear was Marquez's dominance that one of the three judges, Chris Wilson, scored the bout 120-108, meaning every round went to Marquez. Robin Dolpierre (118-110) and Burt Clements (117-111) were kinder but not by much, thus validating the kind of victory Marquez hoped would push Pacquiao into a corner at the same time he was avoiding going into any with Juarez.
It was the kind of victory Marquez needed to strengthen his case for a rematch with Pacquiao, with whom he fought a draw 3-and-a-half years ago on a night when he was decked three times in the first round and in trouble in the second before battling back in remarkable fashion against a guy many people feel is the second best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound.
Wherever that leaves Marquez, 48-3-1, it can't be far behind. He is already in the Top 5 on most pound-for-pound lists and he did to Juarez what he needed to do to increase both the pressure on Pacquiao to meet him again and his own standing in the larger boxing community after years of tolling in the shadows.
That statement was beaten all over his challenger's bloody and swelling face, a process that began only minutes into the fight. From the opening round, when an accidental head butt caused a nasty cut to open along Juarez's left eye, to the final one, Marquez was dominant. He controlled every aspect of the fight and every bit of the real estate between the ropes. He presided over every minute of the affair.
Using superior speed, a hard jab and fast hands, he repeatedly beat Juarez to the punch and refused to allow him to get inside, where the challenger needed to be to have any chance for an upset. Juarez has long had a reputation for starting slow and not punching his way inside but rather wading in and paying whatever price his opponent could extract for getting there.
That has often worked well for him but not in the four biggest fights of his career, all title-fight losses (to Humberto Soto, Marco Antonio Barrera [twice] and now Marquez). The pattern was the same in each. Juarez's reluctance to throw early allowed his opponent to build up a lead he could not overcome. The difference was in this fight, Juarez never had a chance of coming back because Marquez was too competent, too confident and, frankly, way too good for him.
Later, Juarez would complain that the cut changed everything because it bled into his eye throughout the fight, sometimes profusely, and blurred his vision. Surely it did, but so did Marquez's jab, which kept striking him with the same effect of having his face repeatedly pushed into one of the cactus plants that sit just outside the desert casino.
Either would hurt. Both would affect your vision in the worst of ways. Neither is something you'd like to repeat any time soon.
Although Juarez bravely called for a rematch, Marquez's people had already been talking with Arum about Pacquiao and the dominant manner in which Marquez won will only serve to increase the pressure on Pacquiao to agree to a March showdown, which would crown one of them king of the super featherweight division.
"Pacquiao took out Morales and Barrera," De La Hoya said. "If Pacquiao wants to be called world champion at 130 pounds he has to fight Marquez. It's the next logical fight for the fans."
It's also now the biggest fight in the division and the one Marquez craves. He was offered such an opportunity immediately after the draw but followed bad advice from his handler, Nacho Beristain, and rejected it, claiming he wasn't being paid well enough. Pacquiao went on to fight -- and win -- a series of mega-fights, while Marquez was left out in the cold, still winning but without notoriety or significant remuneration.
Marquez seems to have learned from that mistake, signing with De La Hoya the same day he fought Barrera, who is also promoted by Golden Boy, last March because he knew he needed significant help to get the big-money fights that have for so long eluded him. That decision, and this win, set up a logical next step, though it remains one he is not sure will happen.
"I want Pacquiao now but he does not want me," Marquez said. "I'll do anything my company wants. I'm ready to fight Pacquiao."
Certainly he is. As for the beaten Juarez, his future may be back at 126 pounds, where perhaps he could next fight IBF champion Robert Guerrero, who distinguished himself on the undercard with a 56-second knockout of Martin Honorio. Marquez was gracious, praising his opponent's obvious courage and relentlessness even, though it led to nothing more than being assaulted for the better part of an hour.
"That guy has a big heart," Marquez said. "He hurt me in the seventh round. It was a difficult fight."
Not that difficult. Probably not even as difficult as the fight that begins Monday morning when Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer intends to make a call to Arum. No one will have to tell Arum what he's calling about.
Ron Borges, who has won numerous Boxing Writers Association of America awards, covers boxing for HBO.com and for Boxing Monthly.
With Rocky Juarez out of the way, is Manny Pacquiao next for Juan Manuel Marquez?