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Marquez still has fight left at 36, Diaz might be done at 26

31
Jul

Juan Marquez Marquez found the target many times in his one-sided victory over Juan Diaz on Saturday in Las Vegas. The 36-year-old lightweight champ still has a lot of fight left and plenty of career options. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

LAS VEGAS — Juan Manuel Marquez’s 36-year-old body has the wear and tear of 17 years of boxing, but the lightweight champ’s career is as bright as ever after his unanimous decision victory over Juan Diaz in their rematch on Saturday.

Marquez (51-5-1, 37 knockouts), who won by scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112, talked about a third match with Manny Pacquiao, fighting for a 140-pound title, and defending his RING championship against Michael Katsidis after the decisive victory.

Diaz (35-4, 17 KOs) is only 26 years old but the Houston native might have fought his last high-profile fight with his second failed attempt to take the lightweight title from the Mexican legend.

Diaz, who has lost four of his last six bouts, did his best to make the technical adjustments his team believed would enable him to improve on the gutsy performance he put forth in their thrilling first fight, which he lost by ninth-round knockout last February.

They found that the “old man” of the lightweight division, who was coming off a lopsided decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a welterweight bout last September, still has a lot left.

“Diaz came in with a different strategy,” Marquez said at the post-fight press conference, “but I was prepared for everything. Diaz came forward in the first fight, he pressed the fight and was aggressive, but in this fight he was thinking more. His fight was more technical.”

The thinking-version of Diaz made for much-less exciting rematch, which is not to suggest that the return bout didn’t entertain the 8,383 fans inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center or those who watched the live broadcast on HBO Pay Per View.

The rematch simply paled in comparison to Marquez-Diaz I, which was a breath-taking slugfest that won 2009 Fight of the Year honors in a year of excellent high-profile bouts. Marquez-Diaz II was merely a good 12-round scrap in a year of mediocre big fights.

Marquez, to his credit, did his best to make the rematch the war the first fight was but he didn’t have a willing combatant.

Diaz came to box, not fight. It was an honest effort that was effective in spots but the strategy was out of character for the former titleholder nicknamed “The Baby Bull.”

Diaz is a good boxer but ever since he first laced on a pair of gloves, his bread and butter has been pressure fighting and volume punching.

Diaz’s boxing was effective in the early rounds of the bout when both fighters were cautious as they vied for position, but he was still caught with the occasional flush power shot from the combination-punching lightweight champ despite jabbing and moving behind a high guard.

“I fought the best fight I could,” Diaz said after the fight. “I thought I fought a good fight. I got in and got out. I didn’t want to stand in front of him. The game plan was to get in there, get off with combinations, step around him and get out, but it was hard and I got hit with a couple good shots.”

To his credit, Diaz kept his composure when he was tagged, something he didn’t do in the first fight when he appeared to let his emotions get the better of him. However, Diaz didn’t retaliate enough to win rounds.

The cautious approach allowed the hard-nosed veteran to take the initiative in the fight.

Marquez staggered Diaz with an uppercut at the start of the fourth round and then wobbled the younger man with a follow-up hook. The crowd howled with the anticipation, believing the fight had begun in earnest, but Diaz resisted the temptation to fire back and instead circled the ring until he regained his bearings.

It was the smart thing to do in that round but the choice in tactics detracted from Diaz’s offense and after a few rounds of avoiding conflict it appeared to chip away at his confidence.

When Marquez buzzed Diaz in the final 10 seconds of the sixth round, the former titleholder got on his bicycle and didn’t even attempt to engage.

The action was decidedly dull in the seventh and eighth rounds of the bout, which brought out the boo-birds in the crowd. Marquez responded to the lull in action and fan disapproval by stepping up his intensity in rounds nine and 10.

Diaz took some chances in the brisk championship rounds of the bout but his heart didn’t seem in it.

The college graduate with law school aspirations fought more like a student preparing for his LSAT exam than a hungry young challenger.

And, of course, Diaz is studying for his LSAT. He’s always been a scholar-athlete but he seemed more like student than a fighter during Saturday’s rematch.

Marquez has no such inner conflict. He’s all fighter and one of the best, which Diaz recognized.

“I followed my game plan but he’s a very tough fighter, he’s a great fighter,” Diaz said. “He was the better man tonight.”

Marquez always was the better fighter and always will be, which is nothing for Diaz to be ashamed of.

Diaz has won three major lightweight titles, defeated seven current or former beltholders, and made a lot of money (including a guaranteed $540,000 for the Marquez rematch) in his 10-year career. Thanks to his two fights with Marquez, his name is attached to a future hall of famer.

If he hung up his gloves tomorrow to focus full time on his studies and future law career nobody would criticize him.

Diaz is a smart man, so he’s considering it.

“I have to sit down with my manager and trainer and really consider my future in boxing,” he said. “I’ll consider all the facts. I’m not going to make a decision tonight, but boxing has been good to me. I’m going to think about what I’m going do (in boxing). For now I’ll concentrate on the LSAT. On Oct. 7 I’m going to knockout the LSAT.”

Marquez, as always, is focused on his next fight, which he hopes is a third match with Pacquiao.

“I’m right here,” Marquez said of a Pacquiao match. “There’s no hiding or running. I’m right here for him. This is what boxing fans want. It’s what boxing needs. He needs to fight a fighter who can beat him.”

Marquez said he is willing to go as high as 143 pounds to get a shot at Pacquiao, a welterweight titleholder who is scheduled to fight Antonio Margarito at junior middleweight on Nov. 13.

Marquez is not a college grad but he’s no dummy. He knows the Pacquiao fight is a long shot and he doesn’t plan to wait around for it.

“I might have to defend my (lightweight) titles,” Marquez said. “I have to respect that Michael Katsidis is the no. 1 challenger for my titles. If the Pacquiao fight doesn’t happen, I have to defend my titles with honor.

“The door is wide open. The opportunity is there to fight for a 140-pound title (against Amir Khan) and become the first Mexican fighter in history to win titles in four weight classes.

“I just want to be involved in the best fight possible.”

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