Sunday, June 04, 2023  |


Experience, ability beats size, youth

Fighters Network

After the wild first round of Juan Manuel Marquez’ brilliant win over Juan Diaz on Saturday night, Nacho Beristain told Marquez in the corner, “Everything is fine.”

Certainly this was intended to calm and reassure Marquez, who must have felt as though he were caught in a tornado.

Marquez believed him, apparently, because he did not panic. He waited out the storm. The second round was better for him than the first. The third was better than the second. The fourth he won.

Then it was Ronnie Shields’ turn: “Everything is going good for you,” he told Diaz after the fourth. But it wasn’t. Marquez found in that round that he could hurt Diaz to the body and land uppercuts. That was all he needed to know.

It was all Diaz needed to know, too.

“I boxed him really well but he is really strong,” Marquez said afterward. “He hurt me with one body shot, but we came to work and we came to box. He threw a lot of punches, but I knew how to contain him. The fight was even, and then I started avoiding his punches, and I hurt him in the body. I knew in the fourth round things were changing.”

There are certain undeniable advantages that come with youth: good reflexes, stamina and speed, a sense of invincibility and a certain recklessness that serves prizefighters in particular very well.

Young fighters like Diaz generally have skin that’s more resistant to cuts, knees whose cartilage has not yet been worn down almost to nothing, and hands and wrists probably decades away from feeling the first twinges of arthritis.

In short, a young fighter has every advantage over an older one, especially one as old as Marquez. At 35, he should, by most standards, be low-hanging fruit to one as youthful and exuberant as Diaz.

But there are advantages to being older too, and Marquez exhibited them. He has the kind of ring wisdom that can only come with experience. He has patience and a sense of calm that come from trust in his people and confidence earned over a long, hard career, and skills borne of a thousand hours in the gym. And even as an old man, he retains a fighter’s heart.

These are things no fresh synapses can overcome, things that cannot be undone by mere energy and enthusiasm or by short bursts of violence, even those sustained over several hard rounds. Against them, youth alone is nearly useless.

It helped Marquez that, like many superb offensive machines, Diaz is hard to wound but if you can get to him and hurt him, the wind goes out of his sails quickly.

It takes a certain kind of fighter to do that. Nate Campbell did it. He’s 36. And now Marquez.

Keep underestimating the old guys.

Some random observations from last week:

Pound for pound: What’s better – consecutive knockouts of David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya, or of Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz? ÔǪ

Marquez’ win was the latest in a long, long line of examples that prove greater size is consistently overrated by people who ought to know better. Diaz’ size did not help him one iota to overcome the reality that Marquez is a better fighter. ÔǪ

For what it’s worth, from my couch I had Chris John beating Rocky Juarez 116-114 in a heck of a good scrap. Juarez got a bit of a gift, yes, but crikey, if this kid was a heavyweight, he’d be a millionaire. Let him have this one. ÔǪ

How is it that Michael Buffer can come up with nothing better for a prelim than, “Let’s get this party started”? ÔǪ

In case you missed it, Vitali Klitschko is mad at the WBC for making him fight Oleg Maskaev right after Juan Carlos Gomez. He says no one will care about a Maskaev fight. We can’t disagree with him there, but Vitali: did you really think Jose Soprano, er, Sulaiman, wouldn’t expect some favors down the road? ÔǪ

In more sanctioning body fun, John Ruiz has broken the record set by Manuel Medina by being named a WBA mandatory challenger for the 316th time. For reasons that make sense only on the planet Boron, Ruiz will meet the winner of the Ruslan Chagaev-Nikolay Valuev rematch. When will this nightmare end? 

ESPN’s production piece on Glenn Johnson prior to Johnson’s win over Daniel Judah Friday night was top notch. Who do they think they are over there, HBO? ÔǪ

Speaking of HBO, there were several long stretches during the Marquez-Diaz fight when the crew of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Emanuel Steward said not a word. It was wonderful. A note to all other broadcasters: Sometimes it’s best to put your ego aside, shut up and let the action speak for itself. Good job, guys. ÔǪ

It’s hard not to like world cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, who is becoming one of the game’s more reliable power punchers. And if Steward thought Johnathon Banks had any chance of winning, he would have been in Newark for Banks’ unsuccessful challenge Friday night. ÔǪ

Speaking of the cruiserweights, you know a weight division is bogus when there’s no word for it in other languages. How do you say “cruiserweight” in Polish? “Cruiserweight.”

Giovanni Lorenzo’s knockout of Dionisio Miranda was the prettiest of the week, but his reward is something he should not want: a fight with Arthur Abraham. That’s the thing about boxing: the better you do the more likely it is you’ll get your head handed to you next time.

Not only did Ricky Hatton beat Manny Pacquiao at darts at a pub in Manchester, he also out-performed him at the luncheon table, downing 178 plates of bangers and hash in seven seconds, compared to just a plate and a half for Pacquiao. Good thing Ricky was wearing stretch pants.

11,000 in New York, 7,000 in Youngstown, 6,000 in Newark, 15,000 in Houston. Who the hell needs Las Vegas? And outside of newspaper editors, who themselves are vanishing faster than Russian political journalists, who still thinks this game is dying in America?