Marquez Gets It Done Again, Diaz Done?

The rematch of February 2009’s classic between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz didn’t need to happen.

Marquez proved himself the better man the first time around when he weathered the Diaz storm in the early rounds. Marquez came back, bloodied the Baby Bull and twice dropped him. The final knockdown produced the devastating knockout win.

But because both men were coming off losses heading into this weekend’s second chapter, they needed to produce something exciting to revitalize their careers and remind fans that they were still relevant to the fight game.

Marquez – the winner once again – did just that.

Still the lightweight champion despite the drubbing he suffered at the hands of a much bigger Floyd Mayweather Jr. last September, Marquez was out to prove he was still one of the best in the world when fighting at the appropriate weight. And whether the case was that Diaz came into the fight too shopworn or that Marquez really has held the clock back at 36 years of age, the proud Mexican looked terrific.

He took command in the first round, boxing when Diaz allowed him room and letting the hard leather fly when in close quarters. Diaz scored equally well in the first several rounds, possibly even taking two of the first three. For those thrilling first nine minutes, it looked like another war was brewing.

That all changed in round four when Marquez visibly hurt Diaz with an uppercut that backed him up and put him on the defensive. Though Diaz refused to commit to a serious attack for much of the fight after that, Marquez still managed to hurt him on other occasions, including rounds six and nine. Diaz fought through it, with the intention of making it to the final bell.

He accomplished that goal if nothing else but lost a clear cut unanimous decision, even with two rather lenient judges giving him three and four rounds respectively. If he won more than two, it was hard to pinpoint them.

If there is to be any criticism of Marquez, it’s that he didn’t score the knockout over a kid who looked ready to go at times and completely unwilling to engage down the final stretch. But Marquez was also coming off a yearlong layoff and, though the scorecards won’t necessarily reflect it, fought through a lot of adversity.

Even before the midpoint of the fight, Marquez’ right eye began to close from what he told his corner was a thumb to the eye. His nose also bled early and continued to do so throughout the night. The face of Juan Diaz looked just as bad, the entire right side marked up and his lip badly swollen after he suffered a cut in the mouth late in the fight. It was clear that even though the fight couldn’t possibly live up to its predecessor, it had been a brutal affair for both combatants.

But both men made it through to see Marquez the winner for the second time, and they now go their separate ways, with no rubber match in demand.

Marquez continues to call the name of Manny Pacquiao – the man he earned a draw against in 2004 and lost a split decision to by a single point in 2008. These results after climbing off the canvas four times in two fights and battling through miserable cuts. Pacquiao, now campaigning as high as 154 pounds, is unlikely to answer the challenge of a man three divisions south of him, meaning Marquez will have to shop elsewhere.

There are intriguing fights to make at lightweight, should Marquez want them. Rugged Australian brawler Michael Katsidis could make for an appetizing HBO main event. Or, if he wants to refrain from leaping into yet another war in a career that has been littered with them, Marquez could look into a chess match with the equally tactical Joan Guzman. And then there’s the possibility of Marquez taking on compatriot Humberto Soto, who holds a belt at 135 pounds. Cinco de Mayo couldn’t ask for a more appropriate lightweight showdown.

What is more likely to happen, however, is that Marquez pursues a fight with fellow Golden Boy stablemate and WBA 140-pound champion Amir Khan. Before he signed to fight Diaz, Marquez had been considering a proposed bout with Khan. While the risk would be tremendous, Marquez stands to become Mexico’s first four-division champion if he pulls off the upset.

Marquez is still going to be a player in boxing for at least one or two more fights, but Diaz’s immediate future is not so clear. Now the loser in four of his last six fights, he seems to have hit the wall in his career at the early age of 26.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for Juan Diaz, who has long been praised for earning a college degree while maintaining a top level boxing career. If boxing is out of the way, he can pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. It’s certainly on his mind. While Marquez was rambling on about fighting Pacquiao in November or the Spring, the only future opponent Diaz mentioned was the LSAT in October.

Here’s hoping that Diaz can win that battle and exit gracefully from the sport that has watched him grow up for the last decade.

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