Juan Manuel Marquez v. Juan Diaz - Preview #1

February 28, 2009

Tonight, in Houston's Toyota Center, Juan Manuel Marquez 49-4-1 (36 KOs) and Juan "The Baby Bull" Diaz 34-1 (17 KOs) will clash in a lightweight title bout. Marquez is favored over the 25 year-old "Baby Bull" Diaz, due mainly to his recent impressive stoppage victory against the venerable Joel Casamayor. However, Diaz is a former champ and local fan favorite who is sure to have the crowd's support come fight time.

Far more than just your average fight pitting your proverbial aging warrior against a young upstart challenger, this fight comes with its own set of intriguing subplots and questions. Namely, what kind of fight can we expect to see, what advantages does either fighter possess over his opponent, and what intangible attributes might decide the outcome?

First, a closer look at the champion Marquez is needed. As a veteran of 54 fights in his 15-year prizefighting career, Marquez's clear advantage lies in terms of his ring experience.

However, Marquez probably enjoys his greatest advantages in the categories of all-around boxing skills and punching power. Marquez is cited by many as being the epitome of a well-rounded, hybrid boxer-puncher with sound defense, as his many years under the tutelage and watchful eye of legendary Mexico City trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, have enabled him to adjust his style according to his opposition.

Marquez is neither a slick boxer nor a power punching knockout artist (although he has stopped 66% of his foes inside the distance). However, Marquez certainly possesses the all-important intangibles that truly qualify a fighter for greatness.

Marquez has a world-class chin (he has never been stopped in 54 career fights), excellent footwork and ring generalship, and the heart and fighting spirit of a true Mexican warrior. In addition, he has the mind of a chess player when in the ring, as seen by his clever in-fight adjustments against Manny Pacquiao. Furthermore, Marquez has the advantage in both quality and quantity of fights, as he has undeniably fought superior competition over the course of his career.

On the other hand, that very fact may prove to be a disadvantage to Marquez. One has to wonder if all of those hard fought wars, both in the ring and in Beristain's boxing gym, will finally catch up with the proud Mexican warrior, and do him in against the hungry young bull he will be facing.

One obvious advantage for challenger Juan Diaz, is that he is a full ten years younger than the man he will attempt to dethrone. A second advantage for Diaz is that he will be fighting in his hometown of Houston, and thus, will likely enjoy a nice hometown advantage as far as the paid crowd is concerned. Diaz has mentioned on many occasions that the cheers of the hometown crowd and his supporters have helped him dig deep and find extra motivation and energy in tough fights in the past.

Stylistically, Diaz's high punch output could prove to be problematic for Marquez, as the Baby Bull routinely exceeds 100 punches thrown per round. Although Marquez is a master counter-puncher and excellent commander of real estate in the ring, Diaz's high work rate will likely force Marquez to actually fight more minutes of each round than the 35 year-old champion would like to.

Juan Diaz is a unique figure in the sport, as he is in many ways a walking contradiction. Although the Baby Bull is seen by many as an upstart "kid," Diaz is in fact an eight-year veteran of the fight game, having turned pro at the ripe old age of 17. Not only that, but he is the rare scholarly fighter, as he is on track to graduate with a degree in Political Science from the University of Houston this spring.

Continuing with the seemingly unending contradictions, Diaz fights in an unrelenting, frantic all-offensive style that many would say is akin to a bull in a china shop. However, this is misleading, as the Bull has a relatively gentle touch, as evidenced by the fact that he has a low knockout ratio. In fact, 18 of his 35 fights have gone the distance.

Although Diaz's relative lack of power would usually be seen as a source of consternation, such thinking goes out the window against Marquez, since nobody has been able to knock out Marquez. Even those who do possess major punching power, i.e Manny Pacquiao, have failed to stop the iron-chinned Mexican champ. For Diaz to win, he will have to truly beat Marquez down via a sheer accumulation of punches over the rounds.

For those who think that Diaz's forward-marching rapid fire offense is too crude to overcome a refined boxer such as Marquez, it should be noted that Diaz has broken down slicker boxers before. One such example would be his TKO win over Brazilian Acelino Freitas two years ago. Although Diaz's offensive attack is often mistaken as being simple and one-dimensional, his impressive victory total is evidence enough that his offensive attack to the head and body is truly effective against elite fighters.

And the Winner is....

Diaz. In a fight eerily similar to the one almost four years ago in which a lesser skilled, less accomplished, less experienced younger fighter named Ricky Hatton battered and bruised a proud, yet aging champion named Kostya Tszyu into submission and retirement, Marquez will regrettably age overnight.

Diaz's amazingly high work rate, toughness, and unrelenting all-out style will be the difference. Although Marquez is an expert counter-puncher and possesses excellent defensive and all-around boxing skills, Diaz will pressure him and wear him down. To win back the 135-pound titles, Diaz's best bet would be to put his head right on Marquez's chest, and make the older fighter have to use his legs and feet to circle and stay away. If Diaz employs this strategy, pounds away at Marquez with hooks to the body, and stays in his face all day, then his youth and fresh legs will carry him to the late round TKO victory. Call it a TKO in 11, after Marquez's corner mercifully throws in the towel to prevent the living legend from sustaining anymore pounding.

On the televised undercard, Houston native and former US Olympian Rocky Juarez will challenge WBA featherweight champion Chris John of Indonesia for his title. Juarez has come up short each of the previous four times that he has stepped up a level of competition and fought for a title, and although he is a class act and gentleman both in and out of the ring, one doesn't see any indication that Juarez will finally break through and win the big one against John. Call it 1-for-2 for H-Town's Hometown fighters on Saturday.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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