Marquez vs. Diaz: Head to Head
Lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez (left) and No. 1 contender Juan Diaz are separated by 10 years in age and have different styles in the ring, but they share many attributes which should make their Saturday showdown a memorable fight. Photo / Tom Hogan
JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ vs. JUAN DIAZ
When: Saturday, Feb. 28
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
TV: HBO, 7 p.m. PT/ 10 p.m. ET
Weight: lightweight (135 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Marquez’s RING world title, Diaz’s IBO title, the vacant WBA “super” title, and the vacant WBO title
Also on the card: Chris John vs. Rocky Juarez, 12 rounds, WBA featherweight title bout (HBO’s televised co-feature); Danny Garcia vs. Cristian Favela, 8 rounds, junior welterweights; Daniel Jacobs vs. Jose Luis Cruz, 6 rounds, super middleweights.
Height / Reach: 5-7 / 67
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Turned pro: 1993
Record: 49-4-1 (36 knockouts)
Trainer: Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain
The Ring rating: Lightweight world champion
Titles: IBF featherweight (2003-05; was stripped of title); WBA featherweight (2003-05; was stripped of title); WBO interim featherweight (2006; vacated to move up in weight); WBC super featherweight (2007-08; lost title to Manny Pacquiao); THE RING world lightweight title (2008-present).
Biggest victories: Marco Antonio Barrera, March 17, 2007, UD 12 (to win WBC super featherweight title); Joel Casamayor, Sept. 13, 2008, TKO 11 (to win THE RING world lightweight title).
Biggest fights: Manny Pacquiao, May 8, 2004, Split-Draw 12 (for his WBA and IBF featherweight titles); Pacquiao, March 15, 2008, Split-Dec. Loss 12 (for his WBC super featherweight title).
Worst losses: Freddy Norwood, Sept. 11, 1999, UD 12 (for Norwood’s WBA featherweight title); Chris John, March 4, 2006, UD 12 (for John’s WBA featherweight title).
Height / reach: 5-6 / 67
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Turned pro: 2000
Record: 34-1 (17 knockouts)
Trainer: Ronnie Shields
The Ring rating: No. 1 lightweight
Titles: WBA lightweight (2004-08; lost it to Nate Campbell); WBO lightweight (2007-08; lost it to Campbell); IBF lightweight (2007-08; lost it to Campbell); IBO lightweight (2008-present).
Biggest victories: Acelino Freitas, April 28, 2007, RTD 8 (for Freitas’s WBO lightweight title); Julio Diaz, Oct. 13, 2007, TKO 9 (for Diaz’s IBF lightweight title).
Only loss: Nate Campbell, March 8, 2008, SD 12 (for his WBA, WBO, and IBF lightweight titles).
Skills: Both fighters are skilled boxers, but Marquez’s timing and technique are on par with Bernard Hopkins. Because of his relentless style, Diaz’s skills are often overlooked by fans and ring foes but the young man possesses an excellent jab and good footwork. Diaz also has underrated ring generalship. However, in terms of boxing ability Marquez can do it all and the Mexican vet is perhaps the best counter puncher in the sport.
Power: Although the champ is a natural featherweight who just stepped up to the 135-pound division and Diaz is a natural lightweight who has fought at 140 pounds, Marquez’s punches carry more pop. The reason for this is Marquez’s textbook technique. Unlike Diaz, who tends to swat and slap with arm punches, Marquez turns his punches over when he delivers them, pivoting his feet and hips into every accurate shot in order to get maximum leverage.
Speed: Marquez’s hand speed is above average for a lightweight, but his reflexes have dulled with age. Diaz, on the other hand, possesses extreme quickness and is able to deliver three- and four-punch combinations within an eye blink. Part of the reason for his fast hands is that he doesn’t twist and pivot into every shot, but it’s also because has the reflexes of a young athlete in his prime.
Defense: Neither fighter is an easy target. Both block punches well and have good balance and footwork they often use to back away or side step their opponents’ aggression. However, Marquez has settled down on his feet in recent years and has been caught with more clean power punches in his last six fights than he appeared to catch in the first 48 of his career combined. One would think that Diaz’s aggressive style leaves him open to a lot of punishment but his nonstop punching and movement proves the old adage that a good offense is the best defense.
Experience: Diaz is probably the most experienced 25-year-old fighter in the world having racked up 35 fights against solid to very good opposition in the past eight and half years, but Marquez, who turned pro in 1993 and has compiled 54 bouts, is on another level. Marquez has fought 10 former titleholders, including good fighters like Manuel Medina and Robbie Peden, a very good borderline hall of famer in Joel Casamayor, and two who could be considered all-time greats – Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao.
Chin: Both Marquez and Diaz have proven ability to take a shot. Neither has ever been stopped, and both recover quickly when they are dropped. Diaz withstood the punches of Acelino Freitas, Julio Diaz and Nate Campbell – all of whom carry significant power at lightweight; Marquez’s chin held up to the best shots Manny Pacquiao could deliver during 24 rounds of battle.
Conditioning: Both fighters live clean, control their weight between bouts, and dedicate themselves 100 percent to training. Marquez takes the old-school approach of retreating to the mountains, chopping wood and getting in lots of road work; Diaz’s approach is little more modern as he incorporates track workouts, plyometrics and swimming into his training routine, but the end result is the same for both fighters – they both have incredible stamina in the ring come fight time.
Wear and tear: Diaz has the frenetic style that often leads to early burnout in fighters, while Marquez’s counter-punching prowess has probably spared him from a lot of punishment over the years. However, slower reflexes with age and a willingness to mix it up in recent fights has resulted in Marquez absorbing more damage than Diaz, who has only suffered one brutal fight (the loss to Campbell). Everyone remembers Marquez’s ring battles with Pacquiao, but forgotten were his one-sided but equally punishing brawls with Terdsak Jandaeng and Jimrex Jaca.
Corner: Nacho Beristain and Ronnie Shields are without question among the top 10 active trainers in the sport. Shields, a former fighter who was an understudy to the great George Benton, has trained some of the biggest names of the past 25 years, including all-time greats Pernell Whitaker and Evander Holyfield. He gets his fighters in excellent shape and communicates well during the fight. Shields has a special bond with Diaz, who almost always carries out his instructions to perfection. However, Beristain began training fighters in Mexico when Shields was still an amateur boxer, and next to hall of famer Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, Marquez might be his masterpiece. Beristain is known for getting his fighters in superb condition, instilling textbook technique and devising effective ring strategies for them to carry out. Nobody executes Beristain’s strategy as well as Juan Manuel Marquez.
Outcome: Expect an intense fast-paced boxing match in the early rounds as Diaz gives Marquez just enough respect to avoid getting caught with hard counter shots. Both fighters will look to establish their jabs from the onset and whoever does will gain the advantage going into the middle rounds, which should feature more toe-to-toe action as Diaz figures out ways to get in and out and Marquez settles into his feint-attack-and-counter-punch rhythm. The late rounds will decide the nip-and-tuck contest. Inspired by his hometown crowd Diaz will attempt to finish strong. He has incredible heart and will, but so does Marquez, who has been in this position before against more talented and seasoned fighters than Diaz. Look for the champion to emerge in the championship rounds to clinch the bout.
Prediction: Marquez by close decision.