- Don Steinberg
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A look at six pivotal fights in Juan Manuel Marquez's career:
Pro Fight No. 31
Opponent: Freddie Norwood (35-0-1)
Date/Site: Sept. 11, 1999; Las Vegas
Result: Norwood by decision in 12
Why it matters: After losing his 1993 pro debut in his native Mexico on a disputed disqualification, Marquez won 29 straight fights and earned a title shot.
Norwood, the WBA featherweight champ, was a small, hyperactive southpaw in the mold of Pernell Whitaker. Norwood wasn't evasive, though; he ran across the ring to exchange at the opening bell, and in Round 2 he knocked Marquez down with a tight left to the chin. A head butt in Round 4 cut and slowed Norwood. After that, Norwood seemed obsessed with loading up another one-shot knockdown. He landed crunching lefts and hard left crosses in the eighth.
Marquez, always the slow starter, got steadily busier and landed more power punches in the fight. In Round 9, he caught Norwood off balance with a left to the face that floored him. For Marquez, the rally wasn't enough. All three judges gave Norwood the decision.
Pro Fight No. 40
Opponent: Robbie Peden (20-1)
Date/Site: March 9, 2002; Pittsburgh
Result: Marquez by TKO in 10
Why it matters: This title eliminator with the tough Australian earned Marquez another shot at a world championship. Peden, who later admitted he'd been ill with a virus coming into the fight, fought gamely as Marquez outboxed and mostly outslugged him. Marquez circled Peden and dug shots to the body early.
Whenever Peden lowered his hands, Marquez connected to the head with his right from all angles: lead rights, counter rights, rights behind jabs. In Round 7, Marquez had tallied a 60 percent connect rate. But Peden did damage, too. He broke Marquez's nose in Round 3 or 4, and Marquez spent much of the fight swallowing blood. Peden summoned a strong Round 8, and in Round 10 the fighters threw big blows in a wild exchange.
On the stool after that round, Peden vomited in a bloody spew, and his corner stopped the fight.
Pro Fight No. 42
Opponent: Manuel Medina (60-12)
Date/Site: Feb. 1, 2003; Las Vegas
Result: Marquez by TKO in 7
Why it matters: It had taken nearly four years and 10 straight wins after the Norwood loss for Marquez to get another title shot.
Naseem Hamed and Derrick Gainer had avoided him like the plague. As mandatory challenger for Medina's IBF belt, Marquez capitalized. Medina frequently lunged with his right, leaving himself exposed, and Marquez punished him with clean combinations. In Round 2, Marquez connected with a picture-perfect three-punch combo (left-right-left uppercut) that floored Medina. He wobbled Medina to end the fourth and after Round 5, with Medina's left eye swollen almost shut, referee Robert Byrd warned Medina he was ready to stop it.
When two hard lefts put Medina down in the seventh, on the advice of the ring doctor, he did stop it. Nine months later, Marquez TKO'd a scared-stiff Gainer for the WBA belt in a lousy fight. Gainer literally ran away: in 107 attempted jabs, he landed just one.
Pro Fight No. 45
Opponent: Manny Pacquiao (38-2-1)
Date/Site: May 8, 2004; Las Vegas
Why it matters: Yikes! Marquez decided to trade shots early with Manny Pacquiao and paid a huge price. He was knocked down three times in Round 1, all by Pacquiao's brutal straight left. Marquez's nose was broken, flowing blood. Amazingly, he never really was in trouble, and survived with a giant scoring hole to climb out of. By Round 3, Marquez began ducking under Pacquiao's lefts and countering with head-rocking rights and left hooks.
Through five rounds, Marquez had landed more total punches -- and was gathering momentum. But Pacquiao reloaded his effective left hand in late rounds, and the judges' scoring diverged widely. One scored it 115-110 for Marquez, another 115-110 for Pacquiao. Judge Burt Clements sealed the draw with a 113-113 score, but he admitted making a mistake. He should have had the first round 10-6 for Pacquiao instead of 10-7. Pacquiao would have won a decision.
Pro Fight No. 48
Opponent: Chris John (36-0-1)
Date/Site: March 4, 2006; Kutai Kartanegara, Indonesia
Result: John by decision in 12
Why it matters: Something just wasn't right on this night. Marquez had been stripped of the WBA and IBF featherweight titles through failure to fight mandatories and other politics.
Undefeated John of Indonesia owned the WBA belt, and Marquez needed to go to a parking lot in Indonesia, for a tiny purse, to try to retrieve it. In the ring, Marquez seemed to be standing a half-step too far from the taller John. He lunged in with punches. John scored with isolated shots, though rarely more than one rally per round. Marquez seemed to outbox John and land the bigger shots, but he was warned, then penalized twice, for low blows that mostly seemed to land at John's belt line.
In the end, the judges scored the fight for John, by wide enough margins that the foul points didn't matter. It was a disappointing night, and Marquez needed to rebuild.
Pro Fight No. 51
Opponent: Marco Antonio Barrera (63-4)
Date/Site: March 17, 2007; Las Vegas
Result: Marquez by decision in 12
Why it matters: Here was a chance to escape from the shadow of fellow Mexican Barrera -- and a chance to reset a career of frustration. Marquez started slow in this super featherweight title fight, as usual. Barrera tenaciously countered anything Marquez started. In Round 5, Marquez asserted himself with power shots. In the sixth, he drove Barrera to the ropes for the first time.
Round 7 was a classic: Marquez landed a hard right hand that put Barrera in serious trouble. Then a looping Barrera right caught Marquez on the chin and put him down. Referee Jay Nady missed the knockdown punch and ruled it a slip, and he (rightly) penalized Barrera one point for punching Marquez on the ground. The no-knockdown ruling was inconsequential. Marquez connected with enough hard rights and left hooks late in the fight to win by surprisingly wide spreads on judges' cards.
On this night, it was Barrera who got no respect.
Don Steinberg, a winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America's award for best column in 2005, covers boxing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Still on the fence about Saturday's big fight? Perhaps a look at Marquez's impressive ledger will sway you in his direction.