On the Mark: Juan Manuel Márquez, Mexican Boxing Legend

Juan Manuel Márquez celebrates after knocking out Manny Pacquiao. Photo: Google

(Note: This originally came out on June 27, 2022, in PNM.)

by Mark Lorenzana

On Monday, June 13, Mexican boxing legend Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Márquez was finally inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, after more than two decades of dedicating his life to the sweet science and eight years since he fought — and won — his last fight against Mexican-American contender Mike Alvarado in 2014.

Joining Márquez in the Boxing Hall of fame are Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Andre Ward, Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko and the first female fighters — Christy Martin, Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Regina Halmich and Holly Holm — to be enshrined in Canastota.

Best known for his four fights against fellow boxing great Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao, Márquez knocked out Pacquiao in their final fight in December 2012 after settling for two losses and a draw against the Filipino in their first three fights. But Márquez actually made a name for himself first in the lower weights before moving up and figuring in big-money fights against Pacquiao, Mayweather and Timothy Bradley.

Born in Mexico City on Aug. 23, 1973, Márquez grew up in an impoverished area of Iztacalco in the central-eastern area of the capital, one of its smallest boroughs. While many of Márquez’s friends succumbed to gang violence and died young, he chose to box, accumulating an amateur boxing record of 82 wins and four losses, with 72 wins coming by knockout. His younger brother, Rafael, is a former world champion in the bantamweight and super bantamweight divisions, and is one of the most exciting boxers to ever come out of Mexico. The brothers both trained under legendary boxing coach Ignacio Beristáin, and at one time Juan Manuel and Rafael were both listed in Ring Magazine’s top 10 pound-for-pound list.

Márquez also went to school while boxing on the side, becoming an accountant after graduating from university, and ended up worked for several government agencies in Mexico City. He eventually gave up his accounting work and focused entirely on his budding professional boxing career.

Making his professional debut on May 29, 1993, in Mexico City, Márquez actually lost his first fight via disqualification. He then proceeded to rack up 29 straight wins — picking up several regional boxing titles along the way — before losing again, this time in his first attempt at a world title, in 1999, against American featherweight world champion Freddie Norwood.

Perhaps believing that he needed more time to improve his skills before competing for a world title again, Márquez decided to go back fighting for regional belts and won the WBO–NABO featherweight title. After four years, he again tried his luck in 2003 and finally won his first world championship at the age of 30, knocking out fellow countryman Manuel Medina for the vacant International Boxing Federation (WBF) featherweight belt.

Known for his cerebral boxing style and counterpunching prowess, Márquez figured in countless wars against the Who’s Who of lower-weight greats: Derrick Gainer, Pacquiao, Orlando Salido, Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor and Juan Díaz. He is also known for his toughness, which he regularly displayed against bigger opponents, especially the ability to bounce back from knockouts, cuts and a broken nose. Márquez is also one of the best in-fight strategists in boxing, owing to his superb ring IQ, excellent timing and unparalleled defensive skills.

“When I started my career, I wanted to be a world champion, and I did it seven times and in four different divisions,” Márquez said at his Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “That dream was fulfilled. I am excited to be here with the elite of boxing. This is especially for the fans, my family and for Mexico.”

Indeed, Mexico should be proud that one of its boxing legends has again reached the pinnacle of the sport.

Pacquiao’s win over Marquez raises more questions than answers

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on November 15, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

“I clearly won the fight.”

It’s hard to tell if Manny Pacquiao said that with real conviction during the postfight interview after another grueling fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. After 36 brutal rounds, the only clear thing is that Pacquiao seems to have found the perfect foil in Marquez. “Marquez has Manny’s number,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said after the third fight. Not a lot of people will disagree with that assessment.

The trilogy has, so far, yielded one draw and two wins for Pacquiao. The third bout was supposed to be the most decisive of all three battles, but the outcome only managed to raise more questions than answers.

Did Juan Manuel Marquez hurt Pacquiao?

Does Juan Manuel Marquez, someone who has fought at the welterweight limit only a couple of times in his career, punch harder than full-fledged welterweights like Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto?

When Pacquiao fought Margarito and Cotto, he took both those guys’ best shots, even egging them on to punch him in the body so that he could taste their power. This drew the consternation of Freddie Roach, but it was all good because Pacquiao never really buckled under the onslaught. The Pacquiao against Cotto and Margarito was far more accurate than the one against Marquez because Manny seemed more confident and at ease when he fought those two bigger guys—he let his hands go freely and wasn’t afraid to engage.

Against Marquez, Pacquiao seemed nervous and tentative, he missed a lot, and most of his punches were short and didn’t connect because he wasn’t close enough to hit his target—Pacquiao seemed afraid to engage. Again, does Juan Manuel Marquez punch harder than naturally bigger men like Margarito and Cotto?

What was Pacquiaos game plan going into the fight?

Freddie Roach said part of the strategy was to avoid Marquez’s right hand. “Manny’s a left-hander and if you’re fighting a right-hander like Marquez, you don’t slide to his right because he’s going to hit you every time,” said Roach. But Pacquiao repeatedly slid right directly into Marquez’s straight hand, and naturally, he got hit every time.

Another plan, according to Roach, was to go to the body early, something that could have slowed the 38-year-old Marquez down. But Pacquiao went to the body sporadically and essentially headhunted most of the fight, with little success.

For some strange reason, Pacquiao deviated from the game plan. Did he do it on purpose, or were there other factors that kept him from doing what he needed to do to win the fight in more convincing fashion?

Did Pacquiao overthink Marquez?

Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who also worked briefly as a boxing analyst for HBO, always said during broadcasts that a fighter shouldn’t overanalyze his opponent’s style. His advice? Just fight.

In the first two bouts against Marquez, that was what Pacquiao did—he just fought. And because of that he was able to knock down Marquez four times. In those instances, Pacquiao just let his hands go and peppered the Mexican with punches from weird angles. Marquez didn’t know where the punches were coming from, so he eventually got hit with solid shots and went down several times.

Also, Pacquiao has a wider repertoire of punches now, so why didn’t he throw more hooks and uppercuts instead of just throwing spartan 1-2 combinations all night? Before the fight, Evander Holyfield said that all Pacquiao needs to do to win is to be himself. Against Juan Manuel Marquez, does Pacquiao find it hard to be his explosive, unpredictable self?

After three close fights where Pacquiao was very, very lucky to escape with a draw and a couple of close wins, it certainly seems to appear that way.

What should Marquez do for him to win against Pacquiao?

The first couple of fights were very close and could have gone either way, but in the third one Marquez looked to be more in control and landed the more telling blows.

Of course the Pacquiao aggression was there as usual, but it was not effective aggression. Against David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Sugar Shane Mosley, Pacquiao showed effective aggression; in this fight he seemed lost and out of sync. Perhaps this was the reason why, as Time Magazine’s Gary Andrew Poole said, “No one on press row had Pacquiao winning, and only a few had him stealing a draw.”

Marquez’s “problem” (if we can call it a problem) is that he is a counterpuncher, and a lot have argued that this is precisely why he can’t win in the eyes of the judges—in close fights, judges tend to favor (fairly or unfairly, you be the judge) the more aggressive fighter even if the more defensive fighter lands the cleaner shots. What’s ironic in this case is that it’s precisely this counterpunching style that has made Marquez very difficult to solve for Pacquiao.

Needless to say, if Marquez employed a more aggressive style against the Filipino, he would be playing right into Pacquiao’s hands and would be deposited in the canvas in no time. In this case, Marquez finds himself in a quandary: fight smart and lose in the eyes of the judges or fight aggressively and get knocked out.

It’s a no-win situation for him, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy and all the hard work he always puts in. This is a painful case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” for Juan Manuel Marquez.

Is Pacquiao slowing down?

Was Pacquiao’s less-than-stellar performance a sign that he is finally slowing down and that his skills are eroding, or is it just purely because of Marquez’s style, a style that has given Pacquiao fits for three fights now? Pacquiao has supposedly suffered cramps again, which may be a sign that his body is not what it used to be. At 32, Pacquiao is not exactly a spring chicken, and there are a lot of fighters (especially offensive pressure fighters) who have appeared to age overnight. The next fight against another opponent (preferably one who will take the fight to Pacquiao) will, hopefully, answer that question.

Will there be a fourth fight?

Yes, perhaps. That is, if Pacquiao is still up to it.

Fight Scribe Bullets: Pacquiao vs Marquez edition

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on November 6, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

The third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez is just around the corner, and anticipation and excitement for the fight have just about reached fever pitch. As usual, cinemas, sports bars, and restaurants have been aggressively marketing their own pay-per-view coverage of the fight and in the case of the last two, with the customary free drinks and brunch thrown in.

In addition, in online boxing forums, discussions between fight fans have been heating up. And of course, sports gamblers, who have been meticulously studying the odds for the fight, have been taking a closer look at the betting lines—that is, before they ultimately decide which fighter to bet on and whether or not they think the fight will last the full distance.

I’m personally intrigued about how the fight will unfold and how both fighters’ divergent paths, since they last met in the ring three years ago, will affect the outcome of the bout. On to the bullets:

— The first fight between Marquez and Pacquiao happened when both fighters were still campaigning at featherweight. That was, amazingly, seven years ago. The rematch was a weight division higher, at 130 pounds, not really a substantial move up in weight.The third fight will be at welterweight, and Pacquiao has been undefeated so far against opponents weighing 140 pounds or more: he made the aging and shot Oscar De La Hoya quit on his stool and eventually retire from boxing, he flattened Ricky Hatton in two rounds, he stopped Miguel Cotto in twelve, he gave Antonio Margarito the worst beating of his boxing career, and he forced Joshua Clottey and Sugar Shane Mosley to lace up their running shoes.

While it seems to me that Pacquiao, at this point in his career, could still go down and fight at light welterweight if he wanted to, his natural speed, quickness, and power pose a lot of problems even for legitimate welterweights. This is why he is the WBO welterweight world champion.

On paper, this would seem to be the strongest argument against a Marquez win: at this stage of both boxers’ careers, Manny Pacquiao at welterweight might just be too much for the smaller Juan Manuel Marquez, a blown-up lightweight, to handle.

— After the second fight with Pacquiao, Marquez moved up to lightweight, and to every fight fan’s pleasant surprise, the Mexican boxer eschewed his somewhat cautious counterpunching tactics in favor of a more aggressive fan-friendly style.This resulted in more exciting fights for Marquez, fights that, in turn, helped pull in more paying fans to watch him ply his trade.

But I doubt if he will try to pull off something like that against Pacquiao. I believe Marquez will fight smart and revert to his tried-and-tested counterpunching style; that is, if he wants to survive the early rounds against the Filipino.

— While a lot of boxing fans are happy that this third fight will finally push through, there are people who feel that this fight was made a little too late to be competitive at all. Marquez is 38 years old and is at the twilight of his brilliant career while Pacquiao is six years younger and has yet to show signs of slowing down.Boxing pundits have been quick to zero in on Pacquiao’s otherworldly ability to carry his speed and power up to welterweight, but a lot have failed to point out something even more impressive—Pacquiao has been able to withstand heavier bombardment from stronger and more powerful foes. It’s as if his chin has gotten stronger for every weight class he has climbed. De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Clottey, and Mosley all pack dynamite in their fists, but Pacquiao took all their best shots and shrugged them off. Pacquiao took those guys’ best shots and was never in any danger of getting dropped.

In contrast, Marquez has been knocked down by Michael Katsidis and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and was hurt several times by Juan Diaz in their first fight. We all know that Pacquiao has felt Marquez’s power at featherweight and super featherweight, but an intriguing question that needs to be asked is this: will the Mexican’s punches still hurt Pacquiao at this weight class? In turn, can Marquez’s chin be able to hold up against, say, a Pacquiao punch that smashed the living daylights out of Ricky Hatton? We will see soon enough.

— While Marquez was able to reinvent himself into a more exciting fighter this late in his career, Pacquiao has gotten some flak for seemingly being too kind and showing too much compassion for his last three opponents. Some critics have even labeled him as getting soft and criticized him for allegedly losing his killer instinct. Clottey, Margarito, and Mosley have all managed to stay on their feet and hear the final bell, and a lot of bloodthirsty Pacquiao fans have been clamoring for a knockout win for a change.It remains to be seen whether Pacquiao will go at Marquez with the intent to destroy, but It’s safe to say that these fans won’t take too kindly to another Pacquiao performance characterized by the Filipino uncharacteristically pulling his punches and looking at the referee to stop the fight instead of actually pressing on to force the stoppage.

— The outcome of the fight largely hinges on the ability of Marquez to successfully fight at the same level he has been fighting in the lower weights but at twelve pounds north of his current comfortable weight. Marquez has had one fight at 147, against Floyd Mayweather Jr., and if that fight is any indication of how successful the Mexican will be against Pacquiao, then we should assume that there is going to be a massacre in the offing.In his fight against Mayweather, Marquez looked slow, sluggish, and bloated; hence, it was another easy day at the office for Floyd. And granting that Manny Pacquiao will come out with guns blazing and looking to make up for his last three seemingly lackluster performances, then the Marquez that looked as old as Methuselah and as slow as molasses against Floyd is going to be in big trouble come November 12.

— Marquez will get a guaranteed purse of $5 million, the biggest so far in his career, while Pacquiao will get $20 million guaranteed. Pacquiao said he will force his opponent “to bleed for every cent.” What he means by that, we will soon find out in a few days. I suspect Marquez doesn’t want to find out.

The Pacquiao-Marquez IV Aftermath: Redefining Legacies

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.

In his meteoric rise, from up-and-coming fighter who started his career in the now-defunct Blow by Blow boxing program to becoming one of the pound-for-pound greats while annihilating supposedly bigger and stronger opponents en route to becoming the first and only eight-division world champion so far, the Pacman hasn’t owed anyone anything.

Not to us, his proud and awe-inspired countrymen, who have never failed to tune in to any of his fights. Certainly not to the self-serving politicians—who plucked him away from the dangerous squared ring and introduced him to the even-more dangerous political arena—who only have their own and their family’s self-interests in mind. Not to the shameless leeches and hangers-on in his grossly overblown entourage who cling to him for dear life in fear of losing their one and only meal ticket. No, not even to his “god”—whoever he or she or it is right now, in whatever reincarnation or shape or form, rosaries or signs of the cross or other pre- or post-fight rituals notwithstanding—whom he had never failed to give praise to or thanks to in the course of his brilliant and illustrious career whether in a win, in a loss, or in a draw.

No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe his success inside the ring and outside of it to anyone—or anything—in particular.

One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his long-time trainer, Freddie Roach, who has helped shape Pacquiao from a gangly, left-hand-happy, whirling dervish of a dynamo that struck fear into the hearts of lower-weight fighters into a more calculated, two-fisted offensive machine with improved defense, a fighting machine that effectively chopped down bigger opponents campaigning in the higher weight divisions.

One can also argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his once-unparalleled work ethic, which has had Roach beaming with pride not so long ago and which has had the five-time BWAA Trainer of the Year pull his prized pupil back at times during training lest his ward—champing at the bit—invest all his energy in the gym, punishing the punch mitts and the heavy bags and the speed bags and his sparring partners instead of unleashing all his bottled-up energy inside the squared ring in front of his opponent.

One can, perhaps, also argue that the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his pure love of the fight game. A love that has, until recent years, prompted Pacquiao to focus squarely on the task at hand and leave all the other non-boxing distractions out the door of the Wild Card gym and just buckle down to work. And by work we might actually mean real boxing-related training: genuine training that doesn’t include basketball with the gang and badminton and volleyball with the missus and dancing the Gangnam Style at the daughter’s birthday party. By work we might actually mean setting up camp early in Los Angeles and not shuttling to and fro from Baguio to Manila to the Wild Card or from Sarangani to General Santos to the Wild Card or wherever. By work we might actually mean taking care of the body by resting right and sleeping early during a training camp and not staying up all night in cockfights and drinking sessions and, more importantly, Bible studies because, really, isn’t it the body and not the “soul” that a boxer is putting to the test inside the squared ring against an opponent who has an equal love of the game and who has also put in the same amount of hard work, or even more so, for several months in a vow to take your damn head off?

One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to all three: a great trainer who has always had his ward’s welfare in mind, an excellent work ethic, and an unadulterated passion for boxing.  The trainer, of course, who will tell him when the time is right to hang up his gloves for good, which might not be very long from now. The work ethic that has since branched out from the gym and ring and enthusiastically parlayed into politics, TV, the movies, advertisements, and other pursuits. And the passion for boxing that burned and smoldered within him like a raging fire in his early years but has somewhat died down as of late, threatening to flicker into a dying flame.

Still, some would argue that, no, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.

One thing should be painfully apparent, however, after all the smoke has cleared: Manny Pacquiao owes it to himself at least to finally figure out who or what he really wants to be from now on—a full-time boxer or a full-time politician.  It’s about time, really. Because, as we all saw the other day when Juan Manuel Marquez—older, slower, less-physically gifted but a full-time boxer since 1993 until this very day—knocked Pacquiao out with a vicious and perfectly-timed counter right straight packed with dynamite, it never pays to be a part-time player in an extremely dangerous sport such as boxing (also known as the hurt business) where one fatal mistake could lead to potential life-threatening consequences.

Especially against an opponent, an Aztec warrior, who owed it to himself and to his countrymen to finally get that elusive win by dint of hard work and by doing what he really loved to do and, more importantly, by being just what he was until the time comes when he can’t be that person anymore—a fighter who respected the game enough to focus 100 percent on the task at hand.

No, the devastating knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez will not erase Manny Pacquiao’s legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his era. Not at all, far from it. But it will, no doubt, redefine the legacy of one “Dinamita” Juan Manuel Marquez, one of the best counterpunchers the boxing world has ever seen and one of the most intelligent fighters the Pacman has ever faced.

The Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez 3 Aftermath: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

It’s been almost a week since the third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, and the buzz has yet to die down. I’ve already written my take on the fight, and I already posted on Facebook that I thought Pacquiao lost that fight. I scored the fight 115-113 for Marquez.

Some people tried to convince me that Pacquiao actually won that fight, that perhaps I was just too fixated on a knockout win for Manny and that’s why I failed to score the fight objectively. A friend even told me to watch the fight again and mute the TV so I wouldn’t be swayed by the commentators.

Two things: One, when I watched the fight I wasn’t originally listening to the commentators because I was sitting at a table that was too far from the TV for me to hear the audio. Two, I watched the fight a second time without the distractions and tried to be as objective as possible. I still ended up scoring the fight for Marquez.

For me it’s fine to score the fight for Pacquiao if you really thought he won. Last time I checked, this is still a free country. What gets my goat, however, are those Pacquiao nuthuggers who have been looking for excuses to explain why Pacquiao didn’t perform up to par in this fight.

Here’s a list of those excuses:

  1. Pacquiao had foot cramps. We have to give Manny the benefit of the doubt here because he had suffered from cramps in previous fights. But in those fights he still won convincingly, so perhaps this time the cramps were more severe than what he suffered before?

“It was difficult for Manny,” Roach said. “His in-and-out motion was affected and he was coming in flatfooted. The pain started in his arches and then spread up to his calf. It is something that we really have to figure out and we will get advice on it. This has happened in his last two fights and we want to get it fixed. We are not making excuses.”

I’m just wondering if Pacquiao also had foot cramps when he fought Marquez for the first time in 2004 and four years later in their first rematch in 2008. He also had trouble with Marquez in those two fights.

  1. Marquez cheated Pacquiao by stepping on Manny’s foot in the course of the fight. Check out YouTube, and you’ll see quite a few videos devoted to this topic. For me this is just too fucking moronic. What could be more idiotic than this? People who genuinely watch boxing know that when a southpaw and and orthodox fighter meet, it is normal for them to step on each other’s foot inadvertently. And when you think about it, would Marquez even bother to try and step on Pacquiao’s foot on purpose instead of just focusing on the damn fight and throwing his counterpunches? If he focused too much on trying to stomp on Manny’s foot, he’d be eating a Pacquiao knuckle sandwich in no time and find himself on his ass.

And it’s as if all that foot stomping would really make a huge difference in the fight. Also, isn’t it quite funny that we haven’t really heard of Pacquiao’s camp complaining about this? Anyway what’s ironic is that there are also quite a few videos in YouTube that show Pacquiao repeatedly stomping (inadvertently, of course) on Marquez’s foot the entire fight. I think this will finally put an end to this stupid issue. Then again, maybe not. Them Pactards are one tenacious and feisty bunch.

  1. Marquez was given an illegal substance to drink in between rounds. A few hours after the fight, some people have already posted pictures on Facebook showing Marquez chugging on a yellowish drink. Some thought it was an illegal mixed drink that the Marquez cornermen smuggled into the corner, while others thought it was urine. (Marquez’s own urine, of course. Heh.) Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, promptly cleared the matter up. “Water and electrolyte drinks are allowed in the corner. Any electrolyte drink must be brought to the arena in factory-sealed, plastic bottles. Mr. Marquez used water and Pedialyte on Saturday night,” he explained. So there.
  2. Marquez used performance-enhancing drugs. Quinito Henson, columnist for the Philippine Star, recently wrote about “a disgruntled former member of Juan Manuel Marquez’ team” who “is ready to come out in public and expose the WBC lightweight champion of taking steroids to bulk up for his fight against Manny Pacquiao.” Quinito added that the “source said the ex-member was fired by Marquez, probably for cause, and is out for revenge. He supposedly sneaked into Marquez’ home and took an illegal drug from his refrigerator. The illegal drug is some kind of steroid or performance enhancer.”

For me, it’s actually quite funny that this came out because Pacquiao is no stranger to these kinds of allegations. Manny even sued Floyd Mayweather Jr. because Floyd had repeatedly hinted in the past that Pacquiao has been taking PEDs and that this is the reason why he has been able to move up in weight and still keep his speed and power.

I think this is an unfair allegation against Marquez. Like Floyd’s accusations against Pacquiao, there is no proof that Marquez took steroids.

All these excuses and allegations notwithstanding, I think we should all just be honest and admit to ourselves that Manny Pacquiao really had trouble against Juan Manuel Marquez because Marquez is a damn good boxer and he just gives Pacquiao fits. He has been a thorn in Pacquiao’s side for three fights now, and this won’t change even if both boxers meet in a fourth fight.

Hell, even Pacquiao himself admitted that Marquez gives him trouble because the Mexican is just one tough hombre.

I mean, if Pacquiao could admit that, then perhaps the rest of us should as well.

How now, Pacquiao nuthuggers?