Juan Manuel Marquez v. Juan Diaz - Preview #2

February 28, 2009

Tonight in Houston, Juan Manuel Marquez faces Juan Diaz for the Lightweight Championship of the World. Although Houston is Diaz's home town, I expect the crowd to be more evenly split than you would expect between the fighters as Marquez has an ever-increasing Mexican following. Although this will only be Marquez's second fight at this weight, the pound-for-pound star is still the favorite but this should be a very competitive and entertaining fight.

Juan Diaz (34-1, 17KOs) suffered the only loss of his career to Nate Campbell last year. In that fight, Diaz started strong but suffered a large cut early in the fight which seemed to bother him throughout. The 26-year old star had never had a problem like that against a quality opponent before, and it was understandable that he might struggle in that situation. Nonetheless Diaz showed a lot of heart and refused to quit throughout. He rebounded from the loss appropriately with a decisive decision over Michael Katsidis later in 2008.

Some fans seem to have forgotten what a hot commodity Diaz was before that fight. He was truly a rising star and a potential pound-for-pound top 10 fighter. There is no reason to think that Diaz won't remind everyone of those high expectations with his performance tonight.

On the other hand, he is fighting a truly legendary fighter in Juan Manuel Marquez. As HBO's boxing analyst Max Kellerman noted, Marquez might rightly be regarded as the greatest featherweight of one of the great featherweight eras of all time (better than Pacquiao, Hamed, Barrera, or Morales). In his first fight at lightweight Marquez did nothing but enhance his reputation with an impressive 11th round TKO over Joel Casamayor.

Here are the main questions to consider in determining who will win this fight:

1. Will Marquez get old overnight?

At 35, Marquez is at an age where the wear and tear of a long career may finally take its toll. Will he react like Roy Jones Jr. or Oscar De La Hoya and reveal himself finished? Or will we see another indication of sustained greatness a la Bernard Hopkins or Shane Mosley? This is probably the most imporant factor in this fight, and it is also the most difficult to predict. The take here is that nothing from Marquez's knockout of Casamayor revealed signs of him slowing down. He should be in top form.

2. Can Marquez keep up with the youth, pressure, and high punch rate of Diaz?

Diaz is an aggressive fighter who likes to get inside and impose his will. His goal will be to wear down the older fighter while throwing 100 punches per round over the course of 12 rounds. Ideally for Diaz, Marquez will begin to slow in later rounds because he will have been hurt to the body and never been given a moment's rest. At that point he can either finish him or create a large lead in the scorecard.

However, Marquez has never been knocked out in 54 fights, and Diaz is not exactly a knockout artist (only 17 knockouts in 35 fights). If Marquez has handled the pace and pressure of Manny Pacquiao, I think he can handle Diaz as well.

3. Can Marquez effectively keep Diaz on the outside with his jab and lead right hands?

Marquez is certainly capable of fighting inside for periods of time, but that is clearly not his style. To prevent this from becoming a bruising, inside fight, Marquez must be able to stick and move effectively. However, Marquez will not hesitate to mix it up either, and when he does he must do damage. If Diaz feels as though Marquez is not hurting him, then the constant pressure may take its toll.

If Diaz is hurt at all early in this fight, expect him to get just cautious enough for Marquez to control the distance. Either way, I believe Marquez has the power to dissuade Diaz from simply "bull" rushing him.

And The Winner Is...

Marquez by unanimous decision. Diaz will have his moments of effective aggression early in the fight, but by the 9th round, Marquez will have figured him out. Diaz will repeatedly eat combinations in his efforts to get inside and will get outpointed.

Juan Diaz is a really good fighter. But unless Marquez slips considerably, the best fighter wins this one.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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