Marquez makes strong case for third Pacquiao bout
If you haven't had a chance, find a way to watch the nine-round TKO win Juan Manuel Marquez recorded over rugged Australian Michael Katsidis on Nov 27. Doesn't matter how you find it. HBO on Demand it, YouTube it, download it. However you have to do it, find that fight, watch it and savour master craftsman Marquez in all his bruising brilliance.
Of course, Marquez did go down in the third round -- hard -- thanks to a Katsidis left hook, but his early vulnerability is part of what makes his fights so compelling. He hits the canvas early and when he rises he's usually more angry than hurt, and from there he blends technique with controlled rage and more than a touch of machismo to produce something special.
In 2004 Marquez survived three first-round knockdowns against Manny Pacquiao to rally for a draw, and Saturday night he regained his feet and his composure against Katsidis to conduct a clinic and offer emphatic proof that size only matters so much when you counteract it with skill.
You only needed to glance at the two fighters Saturday night to figure out which of the two men was stronger. Marquez, at 5-foot-7 looked like exactly what he is -- a smaller man who grew into the 135-pound division as he matured.
Katsidis, meanwhile, rippled with more muscles than you ever expect to see on a lightweight and entered the ring with the game plan his physique dictated. From the opening bell he pressed forward, muscling the smaller Marquez around the ring winging punches with his massive arms.
But while Katsidis was clearly the stronger man it became apparent, even after he scored a knockdown, that Marquez was landing more damaging blows, placing precise shots between Kastidis' arcing blows, bruising the Australian's face with head shots, deadening his momentum with hooks to the body.
By the ninth round Katsidis could only lurch forward while Marquez peppered him with lefts and rights, prompting referee Kenny Bayless to step in and stop the fight. The stoppage sealed the 52nd win of Marquez' career, cemented his status as one of the sport's premier counterpunchers, and proved that at 37 he remains a favourite against nearly any fighter in the world who faces him at 135 pounds.
Does that list of prospective opponents include current pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao?
Hard to say.
Just about every top fighter between 135 and 154 pounds wants the Pacquiao payday, but how many of them can make a matchup that's worth the Pac Man's time and effort?
Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez made plain his desire for a Pacquiao matchup after his one-punch destruction of Paul "The Punisher" Williams and conceivably could meet Pacquiao at junior middleweight, where Pacquiao is the WBO champ.
The the same titanic roundhouse left that felled Williams may also have convinced Pacquiao's camp to keep their man at welterweight and below.
When undefeated welterweight Andre Berto similarly starched Freddy Hernandez on the Marquez undercard, he too lobbied for a Pacquiao matchup and his résumé says he deserves one. But for all Berto's speed and strength he lacks the one key ingredient Pacquiao and his people need in a pay-per-view opponent.
It's not that anybody hates Berto. They just don't know who he is. Not even in his native Miami, where in April he defended his title against Carlos Quintana and donated the proceeds to Haitian earthquake relief.
Total paid attendance: 972.
Clearly he's not ready.
And with the Mayweather camp facing more showdowns in court than in the gym these days Marquez re-emerges as Pacquaio's most compelling opponent.
Granted, Katsidis doesn't offer anywhere near the speed or savvy Pacquiao does, but Saturday's win proved that Marquez isn't just comfortable counterpunching when he appears outgunned.
And nearly three years after dropping a close split decision in a rematch with Pacquiao he remains the last opponent to seriously rattle the Pac-Man, a bit of unfinished business Pacquiao might want to settle for good.
Anyone who loves fights would drool over this one but we still don't know if it will come together, first because of the long-running beef between Golden Boy (Marquez' promoter) and Top Rank (Pacquiao's promoter).
The fact also remains that these two men compete two, and sometimes three weight classes apart and we don't know how much interest Pacquiao has in dropping back down to lightweight. Losing the weight should be easy for a fighter who has to force-feed himself to stay at welterweight, but he at least has performed spectacularly at higher weights. Marquez, meanwhile looked small and slow -- especially in contrast to Mayweather's mastery -- when he jumped two weight classes in September 2009.
But at 135 Marquez is still dynamite, and if he can manage to meet Pacquiao at lightweight he can provide something we haven't seen in a Pacqiuao fight since 2008.
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