LAS VEGAS – When a boxer reaches his late thirties, he’s usually at the end of his rope. Juan Manuel Marquez is 36 years old, but last Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, he reached down and found a reserve tank against the much-younger Juan Diaz.
What transpired over 12 rounds in the rematch was nothing short of amazing, as Marquez seized control early, and never lost it, claiming a unanimous decision over the 26-year-old from Houston, Texas.
At stake before 8,383 fans was The Ring Magazine World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Association lightweight belts.
The victory came with a price for the Mexican great, who resides in Southern California, as he suffered near-closure to the right eye, which he claimed occurred in the fourth and eighth rounds when accidentally poked by Diaz’s gloves.
In their first meeting in the Lone Star state, Diaz came out and attacked from the outset, setting the pace, but tired late, and getting knocked out in the ninth round.
This time, Diaz, nicknamed the “Baby Bull,’’ was more cautious. The strategy was questioned afterward by Diaz (35-4-0 with 17 knockouts).
Diaz’s best round was the 10th when he delivered several good shots, while the 11th and 12th were close enough to give the challenger, who has a college degree from the University of Houston, and who hopes to enroll in law school.
“We had a great night of boxing,’’ said Oscar De La Hoya, President of Golden Boy Promotions.”Juan Diaz came to fight. He showed much heart and desire.”
It’s always easy to look back. What happened what Diaz became a counter-puncher, something Marquez (51-5-1 and 37 KO’s) is noted for.
“He (Diaz) came out with a different game plan,’’ said Marquez through De La Hoya, who acted as an interpreter.”In the first fight, Diaz came forward and pressed the fight.”
Marquez found the range on 43 percent of his total punches, and 37 percent of his jabs. Diaz hit on 24 percent of his jabs, and 27 percent of his overall punches.
After two action-packed rounds to begin the main event, Marquez put on his stamp in the third late, hammering away at the body and face.
“It was physical. It was a war,’’ said Diaz. “He’s a good fighter. He knows what he’s doing.”
Marquez was the winner on Judge Jerry Roth’s scorecard, 116-112, Glenn Trowbridge, 118-110, and Patricia Morse Jarman, 117-111.
Marquez followed with a solid fourth round, and connected with a two-punch combination in the next round.
The sixth saw Marquez, who had 48 percent of his power punches find the mark to 30 percent for Diaz, continue the blitz, landing a right-left volley toward the end of the round.
Diaz was asked if this is the end. “I’m going to have to see,’’ he said.”I’m not going to say this is my last fight, and I’m not going to say I’m going to fight again.”
Marquez will step into the ring, even when he turns 37 this month. The talk afterward was a third fight with Manny Pacquiao, who still doesn’t have a date with undefeated welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr., and is the bout the world wants to see.
“I’m right here,’’ he said.”I’m waiting for him. Whenever he’s ready to knock on my door, I’m here.”
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.