Head to head: Lopez vs. Marquez
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ vs. RAFAEL MARQUEZ
When: Saturday, Nov. 6
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
TV: Showtime, 11:15 pm. ET (live) / PT (delayed)
Weight: Featherweight (126 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Lopez’s featherweight title (second defense)
Also on the card: Glen Johnson vs. Allan Green, 12 rounds, super middleweights (Super Six World Boxing Classic)
Height / reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 69 (175cm)
Hometown: Caguas, P.R.
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 29-0 (26 knockouts)
Trainer: Alex Caraballo
Fight-by-fight: Fight-by-fight: Fight-by-fight: http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=291928&cat=boxer
The Ring rating: No. 2 featherweight
Titles: WB0 junior featherweight (2008-10; vacated); WBO featherweight (2010-current)
Biggest victories: Daniel Ponce de Leon, June 7, 2008, TKO 1 (won junior featherweight title); Gerry Penalosa, April 25, 2009, TKO 10; Rogers Mtagwa, Oct. 10, 2009, UD 12; Steven Luevano, Jan. 23, 2010, TKO 7; Bernabe Concepcion, July 10, 2010, TKO 2.
Height: 5-5 (165cm) / 68¾ (174)
Hometown: Mexico City
Turned pro: 1995
Record: 39-5 (35 knockouts)
Trainer: Daniel Zaragoza
The Ring rating: No. 9 featherweight
Titles: IBF bantamweight (2003-07, vacated; seven successful defenses); WBC junior featherweight (2007; lost it to Israel Vazquez)
Biggest victories: Mark Johnson, Oct. 6, 2001, SD 10; Johnson, Feb. 23, 2002, TKO 8; Tim Austin, Feb. 15, 2003, TKO 8 (won IBF title); Mauricio Pastrana, Oct. 4, 2003, UD 12; Pastrana, Nov. 27, 2004, TKO 8; Silence Mabuza, Nov. 5, 2005, TKO 4; Mabuza, Aug. 5, 2006, TKO 9; Israel Vazquez, March 3, 2007, TKO 7; Vazquez, May 22, 2010, KO 3.
Biggest losses: Israel Vazquez, Aug. 4, 2007, TKO 6 (lost WBC title); Vazquez, March 1, 2008, SD 12.
Skills: Both fighters are boxer-punchers. They have the power to knock out their opponents and they relish stoppage victories but they are not reckless in their pursuit of the KO. Put short, Lopez and Marquez possess sound fundamentals and generally set up their power punches. Both have good balance and stances, although Marquez angles his body a little more. Both keep their hands up and deliver their punches with tight technique. Neither fighter is a defensive specialist as both tend to drop their guard when they open up with combinations while coming forward. This, of course, is why they are so much fun to watch.
Power: Marquez was arguably the hardest punching bantamweight since Carlos Zarate (OK, maybe since Junior Jones) during his 118-pound reign. However, that’s where the majority of his 35 knockouts were scored; 27 of his stoppage victories took place under 120 pounds. His 122-pound campaign was confined to his trilogy with Vazquez. Marquez’s last two bouts, against Colombian journeyman Jose Mendoza and a shopworn Vazquez, took place at featherweight and were won by KO. But his power is still largely unproven at 126 pounds. Lopez, on the other hand, has shown overwhelming power against quality opponents at 122 pounds (Ponce-DeLeon and Penalosa) and at 126 (Luevano and Concepcion).
Speed and athletic ability: Both men are fast and powerful athletes, but Lopez appears to have a slight edge in speed and reflexes at featherweight. Marquez’s quickness and reflexes have dulled over time, and as he has stepped up in weight.
Defense: Both Lopez and Marquez substitute a good offense for a sound defense. While both fighters keep their chins tucked and their hands up, they are vulnerable to incoming shots when they advance behind combination punching. Both also have the temperament of warriors: They don’t shy from a good exchange, probably because they are the harder puncher 99 percent of the time.
Experience: While Lopez is about as seasoned as a 26-year-old fighter can be, the 35-year-old Marquez, who turned pro 15 years ago, clearly has the edge in experience. Marquez has consistently been in with top opposition since his first bout with “Too Sharp” Johnson (then 40-1) in 2001.
Chin: Neither fighter is known for his ability to take a good shot. Lopez was repeatedly wobbled by Mtagwa during the late rounds of his thriller against the fringe-contender slugger and barely survived the 12th round. He was dropped by a counter left hook in the first round of his last bout, against Concepcion, shortly after sending the Filipino puncher to the canvas and battering him about the ring. However, Lopez had the will to survive the final round against Mtagwa, and he recovered quickly against Concepcion. Marquez has been stopped in four of his five losses. One was to Israel Vazquez (no shame in that), one was to then-contender Genaro Garcia (when he was still developing), and one was to former titleholder Victor Rabanales in his pro debut (which should be discounted). But one also was to journeyman Francisco Mateos (no excuse there). Bottom line: Marquez does not have a world-class chin to go with his awesome power. Vazquez, who is heavy handed but not as hard a puncher as Lopez, dropped Marquez in their first and third bouts.
Conditioning: Both fighters lead Spartan lifestyles, enjoy training hard in the gym and are extremely dedicated to the sport. Lopez has only gone the 12-round distance once, his scare with Mtagwa, but he was busy and strong in the late rounds of extended bouts against Penalosa (TKO 10), Olivier Lontchi (TKO 9) and Hugo Dianzo (TKO 10). Marquez has fought the 12-round distance three times in his borderline hall-of-fame career, including the 2008 Fight of the Year rubber match with Vazquez, and he has never faded in the late rounds.
Wear and tear: One has to question how much Marquez has left after his grueling trilogy with Vazquez, especially at his advanced age. He has fought twice since the breathtaking third bout with Vazquez (which essentially ended Vazquez’s career), but both bouts were inconclusive early-round stoppage wins. Lopez is clearly the fresher fighter in this matchup.
Corner: Lopez’s trainer, Alex Caraballo, is not well known, nor does he have a vast stable of fighters he trains. But he must know his craft well. The proof is in Lopez, who is a complete fighter with a very sound technical foundation. Caraballo cannot be compared to Marquez’s original trainer, the legendary Nacho Beristain, but he can match accomplishments with the Mexican’s new coach, Daniel Zaragoza. The former 118- and 122-pound titleholder was enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004, but he has a long way to go in establishing similar credentials as a trainer. Like Marquez, Zaragoza was a pupil of Beristain, and the awkward southpaw was also one of the sport’s craftier boxers in his day, so there’s no doubt that he brings something to the table. However, at this point, he’s no more proven than Craballo as a trainer.
Outcome: Marquez will delight his Mexican fans by controlling the tempo of the fight in the center of the ring with a hard sharp jab in the first two rounds of the bout. He will send them into a frenzy when he rocks Lopez with a well-timed straight right midway through the third round. Marquez will advance on Lopez looking to score a early round KO, but he will be met with sharp uppercuts and right hooks as the proud Puerto Rican boxer regains his bearings along the ropes. Lopez will survive the round, but Marquez will look to finish matters in the fourth round. The fighters will meet in the center of the ring and engage in spine-tingling infighting. It will be the Puerto Rican fans’ turn to cheer when Lopez buzzes Marquez with a left cross to the top of his forehead near the end of the round. Marquez will stumble back but continue to let his hands go, stemming Lopez’s follow-up attack. Lopez will attempt to slow the pace down by sticking and moving in the fifth round. Marquez will pursue the younger man and appear to take the round on aggression, but he will also run into counter punches that Lopez lands on the fly. Lopez will walk Marquez into an uppercut at the start of the sixth, and the fireworks will start again as the veteran fighter furiously tries to regain his momentum by launching deadly accurate combinations. Marquez will drop Lopez with a grazing uppercut, but the younger fighter will get up and soon wobble the former champ in return. The fans will go crazy. The shootout will continue in the seventh, but as Lopez begins to sense that Marquez’s legs are weakening he will start pushing his foe back on his heels and towards the ropes. A sneaky body attack will help drain the veteran as well as bring down his gloves for head-shot openings. Lopez will catch and drop Marquez at the start of the eighth and give the proud warrior a working over for the duration of the round. Marquez will survive on heart and guile alone but he won’t have much for the ninth round. The referee will close in on the action after Marquez is repeatedly rocked at the beginning of the 10th and finally step in as the Mexican warrior reels into the ropes.
Prediction: Lopez by late stoppage.
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.