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Best I Faced: Raul Marquez

11
Apr

Raul Marquez is a well-respected member of the boxing fraternity. He represented the United States at the 1992 Olympics, later won a world title as a pro and then embarked on a career in broadcasting.

Marquez was born in the small town of Valle Hermoso in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, in the summer of 1971. At a young age, his parents brought him to the U.S.

“My dad used to come to Houston and Chicago as an illegal alien, and would work and go back to Mexico,” Marquez openly told RingTV.com. “Me, my mom and my dad would go to Chicago when I was about 2 years old. Then my brother Aldo was born there, so we got our Green card. It was too cold in Chicago so we moved to Houston when I was 4 or 5 years old.

“I’m not going to say we were poor; we were a middle-class family. We didn’t live in a great part of town at that point; we lived in the north side of Houston – it was kind of rough there.”

Marquez, the eldest of three children, became interested in boxing because of his father, initially learning the sport in the family garage before moving to a boxing gym a year later.

“My dad was always a big boxing fan,” he explained. “Back in Mexico, my dad used to collect a magazine, Ring Mundial – kind of like RING magazine – and he used to watch old-time fighters like Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate, Salvador Sanchez and Pipino Cuevas. He led me to boxing and my dad learned from watching other guys fighting; he was a student of the game.”

Over the next decade, Marquez would develop into one of the best amateurs in the country. He won bronze in Moscow at the World Championships in 1989, silver at the Goodwill games in 1990, and was ranked No. 1 in America in two weight classes, having won the Nationals at 147 and 154 pounds.

He beat the respected trio of Robert Allen, Lonnie Bradley and Antwun Echols – all who later fought for or won versions of the middleweight title as pros – at the Olympic Trials to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

However, his hopes of a medal were stymied when he lost in the quarterfinals.

“I still think about it and how things could have been different,” Marquez said. “I lost by four points. It was a close fight and the guy that beat me went on to the final and he lost to Juan Lemus, who won the gold medal, from Cuba. Five months before the Olympics I beat Lemus 24-19 at a world challenge and that’s the guy who won the Olympics. That tells you how good a fighter I was [as an amateur].”

Marquez exited the amateur scene with around 160 contests with an estimated 12 losses. He was courted by several promoters but “El Diamante” opted to pen a deal with Main Events, making his debut in October 1992.

Over the first four years of his career he adapted to the rigors of the pro game and moved his record to 23-0, winning the USBA junior middleweight strap along the way. He then signed with Top Rank and, after two contests with them, in ’96 he was given the opportunity to fight Anthony Stephens for the IBF 154-pound strap that had been vacated by Terry Norris. Marquez stopped Stephens in nine rounds.

In his maiden defense he stopped Romallis Ellis before facing battle-hardened Keith Mullings on the undercard of former Olympic teammate Oscar De La Hoya’s domination of Hector Camacho.

“Keith Mullings was a tough fight,” he said. “I got cut up pretty bad. I still think I pulled out the decision. It was a split decision win. I was the champion and I don’t think Keith Mullings did enough to win the fight and I knew he was going to be a tough durable guy … I knew him from the amateurs; he was in the Army team, he was in the Olympic trials – he was a good pro fighter.”

However, when Marquez was given the opportunity to defend his belt against Yori Boy Campas on another De La Hoya card a few months later, he took the fight against his better judgement and paid the price.

“I think we took that fight too early,” he said. “I was banged up from the Keith Mullings fight in September of the same year, not even three months [earlier]. I had, I want to say, 50 stiches in both eyes. It was pretty bad. I didn’t let my face recuperate like I was supposed to.

“When Campas beat me, the judges had it even – one judge had it for me, one had it even and one had it for him, but I just couldn’t see. My eye was closed up, my face was unhealed from the Mullings fight.

“As the doctor said, my skin was traumatised from the inside, it wasn’t heeling right. It caused me to swell up bad, I didn’t cut up, it was more my face was swollen, he got on me and they ended up stopping the fight. Good for him, he won the title. You live and learn … I was young and I was like, No, I’m going to beat this guy. Any other time I think I’d have beaten him but at that point it was an opportunity, the payday was good and they were promising us other bigger fights with bigger names.”

After a well-deserved rest, Marquez resurfaced and won two fights to a earn a shot at his old IBF belt, which had since been won by rising star Fernando Vargas.

“It was a tough fight – he was on for that fight,” said the affable Texan. “That was probably the best Fernando Vargas. I didn’t expect him that way – he was very sharp, very fast. He was on point.”

Vargas would stop Marquez in the penultimate round, and afterward, Marquez decided to retire from boxing.

However, the lure was too much and after a 19-month hiatus he returned. Four wins over the course of the next two years led him to a matchup with former lightweight and welterweight superstar Shane Mosley, who was stepping up to junior middleweight for the first time.

Unfortunately, before the fight had found any rhythm, a clash of heads brought proceedings to a close in the third stanza.

Marquez was soon matched with another former Olympian, Jermain Taylor, up at middleweight. Taylor was seen as the heir-apparent and was the bigger man with all the physical advantages of a natural middleweight. Taylor kept Marquez on the end of the jab and forced a merciful corner stoppage at the conclusion of the ninth frame.

Again, Marquez walked away from the sport, but would be enticed back once again.

“After I saw Taylor beat Bernard Hopkins, I said, I’m coming back to boxing. This guy beat Bernard Hopkins, so I’m going to give it another try.‘”

He won several lower-level fights before beating longtime contender Bronco McKart … or so he thought.

“I beat McKart in his hometown, three weeks later they reversed the decision to a draw,” he explained. “I don’t know what happened but then that night I beat him.

“The people I was with, Warriors Promotions, had already worked out a fight by that time with (Giovanni) Lorenzo – big, strong, undefeated Dominican (in an IBF middleweight title eliminator).”

Lorenzo was expected to beat the old guard, but Marquez breathed new life into his career with a stirring display of blood and guts, using his experience, guile and considerable know-how to turn back the young lion, thus earning a second middleweight title shot.

In November 2008, he made the trip to Germany.

The day of the weigh-in, I made weight, he made weight and they canceled the fight because he had the flu,” explained Marquez. “I had to come back to the United States and they rescheduled the fight for three weeks later. I had to come back to the States and go back to Germany. Obviously, things weren’t not the same like the first time. No excuses, the guys a great fighter. I’m just glad I got the shot at the title. The guy was a tough guy – strong, heavy-handed, great fighter.”

Abraham forced Marquez to remain on his stool at the end of the sixth round.

“I knew if I didn’t win the title there I had to pack ’em up. I was 37 years old. I knew I had always done broadcasting and knew that would open up other doors.”

After retiring, Marquez worked for several well-known TV channels as a boxing commentator before finding a home with Showtime four years ago. He regularly appears on “ShoBox: The Next Generation” and also works the Spanish broadcast for Showtime.

While many boxers struggle with civilian life after their careers are over, Marquez has embraced the new ventures through the medium of broadcasting.

“I’m not in the ring anymore but I’m still at the big events and even the smaller fights,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be there. I cover all the big fights on Showtime, I do it in Spanish. For me it’s great. I know both languages and I’m able to bring to the audience a boxers perspective, my boxing ideas and IQ, what certain fighters bring to the fight, what they do wrong, what fighters have a future, et cetera. I love it.”

Marquez, now 45, re-married last September. He still lives in Houston and has three sons: Raul Jr., 24, who’s in college; Arturo, 20, who’s following in his father’s footsteps as a professional boxer (the 5-0 (3 knockout) prospect is signed with Top Rank); and youngest son Giovanni, 16, is also a boxer, currently plying his trade on the amateur scene. Marquez also owns a gym called “Raul Marquez Boxing Fitness,” though it is more of a fitness gym than an active boxing gym.

“Boxing is my life,” he said proudly. “Boxing put food on the table, whether it’s commentating, managing my son, helping out my amateur boxers, running the gym.”

He graciously took time to speak to RingTV.com about the best he fought in 10 key categories.

BEST JAB

Jermain Taylor: To me it has to be Jermain Taylor. He had an excellent, long jab. He kept me away. I’m an inside fighter – when I did work myself inside he would grab and hold me and wait for the referee to break us up. It was hard to get under his jab; it was long jab. He was too big for me but his jab didn’t let me get in. It was always in my face and kept me from doing my inside work.

BEST DEFENSE

Arthur Abraham: Probably Abraham. He’s got that peekaboo defense, he was hard to hit. Again, he’s a big dude and that was sort of near the end of my career. You could never really land a clear shot on him because of the way he covers up and puts his hand up and fights behind his guard.

FASTEST HANDS

Shane Mosley: Has to be “Sugar” Shane Mosley. He was pretty fast. I knew Shane from the amateurs. Obviously, I was a stronger guy than him – he was fighting as a junior middleweight for the first time. He was fast, he had fast hands. We came up in the amateurs – he didn’t make the Olympic team I did. I think he lost to Vernon Forrest in the Olympic Trials. Another guy in there with the fastest hands would be Fernando Vargas.

FASTEST FEET

Fernando Vargas: I’m gonna go with Vargas. When I fought him he was very sharp, great footwork. He was there but I couldn’t really catch him. He fought a very disciplined fight when he fought me. He’d tag me and I’d try to go after him but his footwork was excellent and on point – good angles and good lateral movement. Yeah, it has to be Fernando Vargas.

BEST CHIN

Keith Mullings: Well there’s two: Yori Boy Campas, he had a good chin, and Keith Mullings – that was a guy that had a granite chin. Yori Boy Campas I may have dazed and rocked him. And you know what, when I fought Keith Mullings my hands were a mess; my hands were so swollen up from me hitting him. I think I’m gonna go with Keith Mullings. He just kept coming, I couldn’t move him.

SMARTEST

Vargas: I’m gonna go with Fernando Vargas. His smartness, his intelligence … he was a thinker when I fought him. He would take control of the ring. Again, his jab, sharp; short, fast combinations – really snappy — and his angles and lateral movement, good defense, pretty good speed.

STRONGEST

Abraham: I think the strongest guy I fought was Arthur Abraham. He was pretty strong. He’s got good power. With Abraham, he was like a brick wall, he was just strong. When he hit me I could feel his shots.

BEST PUNCHER

Abraham: Vargas had power but it was more snappy. Abraham, you could feel every single punch. You could just feel your whole body. He had stunning power. One-punch knockout power. He had heavy hands; he’d touch you and you could feel he was strong and powerful. Campas has some power. I took a good shot – I was never not knowing where I’m at. Campas had pretty decent power but I don’t compare it to the power Abraham had. Shane’s power didn’t affect me at all; it was more his speed and quickness, but his power was nothing to me. I’d fought bigger guys. He might have had power at 135 or 147 but it didn’t affect me at all.

BOXING SKILLS

Vargas: I’m gonna go with, in my time … Fernando Vargas. I couldn’t tell with Shane ’cause it was only three rounds, but you look at the rounds there was a lot of holding. Every time I hit him with the left hand, he’d hold me a lot. With Fernando, he would hit me, I’d try to hit him and he was gone – he was quick on his feet, quick hands, sharp and explosive, he had angles and lateral movement. I might have caught him with one shot and I couldn’t catch him with three or four shots; he was there and then he was gone. He had good boxing reflexes and skills.

BEST OVERALL

Vargas: Overall, in my time, I can’t say it’s Abraham, I can’t say it was Jermain Taylor – they were good fighters, but again I’m going to go Vargas. Vargas is going to love me picking him! For being that young, when I fought him he was very advanced. He had a great amateur career, he was an Olympian. He was hungry, he was feisty, he was a hungry lion and he wanted to be the best, and perhaps his downfall was he fought the best too soon. For me it has to be Vargas.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright

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