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Weekend Review: Marquez of old returns

02
Aug

Jorge Linares (left) turned in an impressive performance against Rocky Juarez on Saturday but would benefit in the long run if he fought somewhat more aggressively. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

BIGGEST WINNER
Juan Manuel Marquez: Marquez demonstrated on Saturday in Las Vegas that he remains one of the best fighters in the world. We wondered whether his weight fluctuation (up and then back down) and one-sided loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. would take anything out of the Mexican star. Nope. We wondered whether his age (36) would finally catch up to him. Definitely not. Marquez was the fierce little fighting machine he was in his two fights against Manny Pacquiao and in so many other impressive performances. He is a counterpuncher by nature but takes the fight to his opponent if necessary, as was the case Saturday. He threw crisp, vicious combinations that few fighters in the sport can land as effectively. Diaz had no chance. Many who watched the fight had to be thinking: “What a fighter.”

MOST DESERVING
Marquez-Pacquiao: Manny Pacquiao should be fighting Marquez on Nov. 13, not Antonio Margarito. Pacquiao and Marquez engaged in two extremely close (and entertaining) fights in 2004 (draw) and 2008 (Pacquiao by decision) in which Pacquiao did not prove conclusively that he was the better fighter. Marquez earned one more shot at the Filipino icon in those fights. And Marquez probably would be Pacquiao’s next opponent if he fought for Top Rank and not its rival, Golden Boy Promotions. Thus, a deserving opponent (Marquez) is locked out because he is represented by a rival company while an undeserving opponent (Margarito) will receive a lucrative opportunity. It’s not right.

BIGGEST LOSER
Juan Diaz: Diaz said after he lost to Marquez that he must think seriously about his future. That’s a good idea. The affable three-time titleholder is only 26 but has endured a great deal of wear and tear over the past decade as a result of his volume-punching style. And he hasn’t enjoyed positive results recently: He’s 2-4 in his last six fights. He can still beat the majority of fighters at and near his weight but his apparent decline would probably continue until he would have no choice but to retire. Now he has a choice. He has his faculties and a bright future outside the ring; he’s studying to take the LSAT and plans to become a lawyer. Now might be the time to turn the page.

BIGGEST PUNCH
Dmitry Pirog: Pirog was attempting to realize a dream in a land thousands of miles from his native Russia but was as relaxed and confident as could be. The 30-year-old from the small Black Sea resort town of Gelendzhik seemed to know he was about to do something special. And he did so on the Marquez-Diaz undercard. Pirog landed one of the biggest punches of the year, a breath-taking straight right that rendered Daniel Jacobs unconscious and made him the first Russian to win a major middleweight title. The jury is still out on Pirog, who received the title shot in only his 17th fight and proved little by beating a fellow neophyte, but he seems to have the ability and demeanor to remain an important fighter for years to come.

BIGGEST LOSER II
Daniel Jacobs: Jacobs and his team didn’t plan to seek a major title so early in his career but took a shot when an opportunity presented itself. It back fired. It’s never easy to bounce back from such a devastating knockout loss but, as Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy pointed out, he has something going for him: youth. Jacobs is only 23. He has the talent and backing to regroup and succeed the next time he fights for a belt, assuming he has the ability to leave the setback in the past. Amir Khan has bounced back from his first-round KO loss to Breidis Prescott. Jorge Linares is back on track after he was stopped in one round by Juan Carlos Salgado. We’ll see what Jacobs is made of.

MOST-FASCINATING MATCHUP
Marquez-Guerrero: I believe that Marquez will fight brawler Michael Katsidis next in what would be a thrilling matchup. Another good option if that doesn’t happen is a fight with Guerrero, who defeated still-capable Joel Casamayor in convincing fashion on Saturday. Guerrero is naturally bigger than Marquez and much fresher than Diaz. He doesn’t have the all-around ability of Marquez – how many do? – but he is skillful and fierce. He also isn’t overly aggressive, which could work in his favor against a counterpuncher of Marquez’s ability. I’d pick Marquez in that fight but it would be interesting to watch.

MOST FRUSTRATED
Rocky Juarez: I believe Juarez when he says he won’t stop fighting until he realizes his dream of winning a world title, which we can admire. And who knows? It might yet happen in this unpredictable sport. At some point, though, it becomes harder and harder to justify one fighter receiving so many opportunities – he’s had five major title shots – when so many wonderful prospects are craving their first. He’s 5-7-1 in his last 13 fights, after all. Juarez, 30, shouldn’t necessarily retire but he should be required to beat a series of good fighters before he’s given another opportunity on the biggest stage. And, if he does retire, we’ll always remember a plucky warrior relentlessly pursuing his goal. That’s not a bad legacy.

MOST IMPRESSIVE
Jorge Linares: The Tokyo-based Venezuelan is a beautiful, athletic boxer who will be difficult for anyone in the junior lightweight division to beat assuming his chin holds up. Juarez, also a good boxer, had no idea how to cope with Linares’ sharp, accurate punches and deft movement. I was impressed. Linares was smart to fight judiciously in light of his KO loss to Juan Carlos Salgado and Juarez’s power. And he said he injured his left hand when he dropped Juarez in the fifth round, which might’ve hindered his chances of scoring a knockout. I think he could become a star if he fights with the skill he demonstrated Saturday but with more aggression. That’s the only way he’s going to stir fans.

DUMBEST MOVE
Sakio Bika: The Cameroon-born Aussie said he didn’t realize unbeaten Jean Paul Mendy of France was on one knee when he knocked him out cold on Saturday but rules are rules: He was DQ’d, making Mendy the winner and spoiling his hopes of winning a title in the near future. Bika is formidable, though; he’ll be back. Here’s an odd situation. The winner of Bika-Mendy reportedly was supposed to fight the winner of the Oct. 15 fight between super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute and Jesse Brinkley in Montreal. Mendy certainly will have chosen an unusual route to an important opportunity – probably against Bute – if he actually gets the fight.

MOST RIDICULOUS
Mayweather is chicken: Many people have come to the conclusion that Mayweather is afraid to fight Pacquiao. Nonsense. Mayweather doesn’t believe anyone at or near his weight can compete with him, including Pacquiao. Mayweather has thus far refused to fight Pacquiao because of his obnoxiously oversized ego, not fear. I believe he is stalling because of Roger Mayweather’s legal problems. The younger Mayweather doesn’t want to go to battle without his principal cornerman, which is understandable. No one would’ve called him a chicken if he’d just said that or given another plausible reason for putting off the fight everyone wants to see. However, he said nothing because he’s arrogant and selfish. Chicken? No. Jerk? Yes.

BEST QUOTE
Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy Promotions CEO, to The Associated Press: “Juan Manuel Marquez is fully licensed and approved to fight in Nevada on Nov. 13, just in case Bob (Arum of Top Rank) is wondering.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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