- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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LAS VEGAS -- The rematch of the 2009 fight of the year is on.
Lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez and former titleholder Juan Diaz, who waged an all-out bloody brawl 15 months ago, will meet in a rematch on July 31 at Mandalay Bay, Golden Boy Promotions announced at a news conference Saturday.
The bout, which has been in the works since March, was announced at Mandalay Bay sister property MGM Grand, where the world boxing media was gathered for the Shane Mosley-Floyd Mayweather Jr. mega fight that Golden Boy is also promoting on Saturday night.
Marquez-Diaz I took place in front of a wild crowd of more than 14,000 on Feb. 28, 2009, at the Toyota Center in Diaz's hometown of Houston. It turned out to be an unforgettable fight and was named fight of the year by ESPN.com, the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring magazine.
"These two guys are made for each other," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said. "The first fight was fight of the year and I have no doubt the rematch will be another great fight."
The rematch came about after both fighters had gone their separate ways and fell on some hard times.
Mexico's Marquez (50-5-1, 37 KOs), 36, went on to face Mayweather, who was coming out of retirement, in a September welterweight fight and was routed in a one-sided decision loss. Now, however, Marquez is returning to the division to make his second defense of the title he won when he knocked out Joel Casamayor in the 11th round in September 2008.
"I came back to lightweight because at welterweight I lost a lot of speed," Marquez said.
Diaz (35-3, 17 KOs), 26, struggled in his two post-Marquez fights, also at a heavier weight. He fought former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi at junior welterweight twice, claiming their first bout in August on a controversial decision before dropping a clear decision in the rematch in December.
"I know that 140 is not my weight class," Diaz said. "It didn't take anything away from me."
With neither Marquez nor Diaz having a bigger fight available to them, they opted to face each other again in the rematch, which will be broadcast on HBO PPV.
"I am going to forget our first fight. It is like it never happened," Marquez said. "I am going in as if this were our first meeting. A lot of people are asking me, 'Why Juan Diaz again?' There are two reasons. No. 1 is that he is a great fighter and deserves a rematch. No. 2, the people deserve a great fight like this.
"Our fight was the fight of the year in 2009 and it may be the fight of the year again in 2010. Finally I want to give the people a great fight, especially the Mexican people. You are all going to see two warriors who will give everything they have and leave everything in the ring."
Diaz is training for the fight but also studying for his law school entrance exam, which is on June 7.
"I am very excited because I have two things going on in these next couple of months," Diaz said. "I have the second biggest fight of my career. I have some career defining decisions. On June 7, I am going to take the LSAT and those logic puzzles are kicking my butt. I am excited because this is going to be a great summer for myself, for my family and for my team.
"People are saying this is going to be a must win fight for me. But I don't see it that way. I see this as redemption. Redemption for what I was going to accomplish in 2009, but it wasn't meant to be. Come July 31, I am going to pick up in the ninth round. I left off in the ninth round last time, and I am going to pick it up from there."
Lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez and former titleholder Juan Diaz, will meet on July 31 at Mandalay Bay in a rematch of 2009's fight of the year.