Last year’s fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz showed two warriors duking it out until one couldn’t get up. The rematch saw both men potentially etch their legacies into boxing history.
Juan Manuel Marquez played the part of never-aging warrior with another phenomenal performance with his usual mix of power and technique while Juan Diaz may simply be a really good fighter who has reached the proverbial glass ceiling as far as his abilities as a boxer go.
The differences in approach, intensity, and output were as different as night and day in this one. It seemed that Marquez possessed the same intensity that last year’s fight had while Diaz came out slower and much more tentative. As far as output was concerned, Marquez threw 93 more punches than Diaz, but was able to land 133 more. Marquez was also able to keep Diaz under one-hundred landed in both jabs and power punches according to the CompuBox numbers.
Despite this apparent difference in emotion towards the fight, it did have a nice opening round that saw both men land big shots and teased the fireworks of last year’s fight of the year. It was just that, a tease. As much a tease was the grand finale of the fight with both men engaging in a slugfest for the final ten seconds of the fight as well as a few seconds after the bell.
With the loss, Diaz has dropped four of his last six fights suffering his first career loss in a decision loss to Nate Campbell, losing the second of his two fights in 2009 against Paulie Malignaggi, and losing both of his fights with Marquez. In reality, it should’ve been Diaz’s fifth loss in six fights as only some of the worst judging in recent boxing history gave him the win in his first fight against Malignaggi this time last year.
What killed Diaz in this fight was that he tried to completely revamp his strategy from the more aggressive, brawling style that has defined him to a more tentative, technical style that may have benefited Diaz had he been able to hone it in a fight or two. Either of the Malignaggi fights would’ve been perfect opportunities for Diaz to implement this new style as he probably would’ve stood a better chance against Paulie by staying outside and working the jab the way he attempted to do two weeks ago against Marquez. The other thing to remember is that Marquez is a boxer who can modify his game within a match several times; the first fight with Diaz last year is a great example.
Without any other fights to work on the style change, Diaz looked out of his element for the majority of the fight. And in those moments where things began to click, Marquez found a way to gain the upper hand. Round five is a good example as Diaz had better movement and controlled the ring for the majority of the round, but Marquez landed far more effective shots and ended up winning the round. The fact that Marquez’s eye began to swell and may have been thumbed accidentally by Diaz in round seven should’ve been something that should have worked in Diaz’s favor. However, Diaz was never able to land consistently on the eye and thus the swelling never became an issue.
Diaz seemed to get a handle on this style change in the final few rounds when his movement and punches began to get smoother, but it was far too late by then.
Marquez nearly sent Diaz to the canvas on several occasions during the fight. With about 1:45 left in round four, a left uppercut put Diaz on rubber legs and Marquez went in for the possible knockdown. However, in a move not necessarily in his playbook before this fight, Diaz played it smart and used his footwork to escape the pressure from Marquez and was able to make it through the round without getting rocked again. Then in round nine, Marquez seemed as though he were going to finish things in the same round he did last year as Diaz could do nothing to stop Marquez from landing combination after combination on him. Diaz’s solution was to clinch Marquez for the first time in their two fights against each other.
Both men now have very different futures staring them in the face. Marquez wants a third fight with Pacquiao that he likely won’t get and Diaz may be done with boxing. Diaz recently graduated college and is taking an entrance exam for law school in October. Depending on how he does on that test and what he decides to do with that result, his boxing days could be over.
As for Marquez, he’s not quitting anytime soon. As far as I’m concerned, the 135-pound (maybe 140-pound) division is where Marquez belongs. The Mayweather fight was a great payday, but this is where Marquez is, has, and will always be his most effective. As for what lies ahead of him at 135, two names ring louder than others: Robert Guerrero and Michael Katsidis.
Guerrero won impressively over Joel Casamayor on the undercard of the Marquez/Diaz II event and was Guerrero’s first win against a name fighter within the division. Guerrero’s only loss was a split decision one to Gamaliel Diaz in 2005, one that Guerrero avenged in knockout fashion six months later. Katsidis has had to bounce back the last year and a half as 2008 provided him with his only two career losses, a TKO from Joel Casamayor and a decision loss against Juan Diaz. Both were great fights, but the Casamayor fight was much closer and was one that it could be argued that Katsidis was winning on points at the time he was floored. Choosing between the two isn’t any easier as Guerrero doesn’t have the name value within the boxing world that Katsidis does, but he is a little younger and is a fresh face on the scene in the 135-lb. division as most of the other ranked fighters within the division are familiar faces. However, Katsidis does share the following quality with Marquez that could make a fight between them more desirable than a Marquez/Guerrero fight at this moment: Katsidis, despite being a mostly technical boxer, can take a great deal of punishment and doesn’t mind turning a fight into a brawl if the situation calls for it or if he has to as a matter of survival.
As for Diaz, if his time is over he will be one of the big “what if”‘s in boxing in recent history. Prior to 2008, this guy looked as if he was going to be the next megastar to come out of the 135-lb. division. And despite the last two years being very unfriendly to him, the fights have been entertaining and his potential is still there. He’ll be 27 years old in a month, so who’s to say that he couldn’t fully make a style change and become a more versatile fighter and not be overly outmatched when faced with a more skilled boxer? The fights with Marquez and Malignaggi were learning experiences more than anything for Diaz. Being primarily a brawler and a wildman, if you will, in his approach has gotten him far and gotten him plenty of attention in the boxing world. But it can only get you so far when you face a higher level of talent, especially those who are more adaptable and have a basic knowledge of various styles of boxing.
The first Marquez fight really should’ve been the wake-up call because in that fight he was beaten at his own game and TKO’d by a boxer, not a brawler, in a fashion that you would expect from a brawler.
If Diaz continues to box and I hope he does, I can only hope that he carries the following lesson from his last two years in the ring with him: you can still be a warrior while possessing a more balanced, technical gameplan.
Marquez 10 10 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 10 118
Diaz 9 9 10 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 10 9 110