Through the ages in boxing, weight has been a central issue. Weight classes started off fairly simple, then they got a little more complicated. Fighters have moved up, moved down, accomplished amazing things.
Yet every time a fighter takes the leap to find more money, bigger fights, or just take a professional risk, it seems that a large portion of the fan base suddenly turns into a gaggle of overprotective mothers. Hey, I've done it. I worried Oscar de la Hoya would cream Manny Pacquiao last December. It didn't happen for several reasons. Ricky Hatton had supporters against Manny Pacquiao in May, though Pacquiao was moving back down a few pounds, because some assumed Hatton, a "natural" 140-pounder, was simply too strong.
Cotto-Pacquiao has people heavily concerned about weight, as Cotto is a "natural" 147-pounder.
I'm not by any means saying weight doesn't matter. Pacquiao's absolute limit has got to be 147 pounds. We've seen Shane Mosley struggle mightily at 154 while still remaining one of the world's best at 147. Oscar de la Hoya gave 160 pounds a try and was a shadow of his prime self. Winky Wright looked out of shape and gassed when he moved up to a 170-pound catchweight against Bernard Hopkins, and Kelly Pavlik didn't carry the same weight well against the same man. Hatton's two fights at 147 were clearly a step too far for him. Even Floyd Mayweather Jr. had some issues when he jumped all the way up to the 154-pound division.
But counting out Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday simply because of the weight is not giving him enough credit. Look at what Pacquiao did to Oscar and Hatton. Floyd still outpointed Oscar despite his struggles, and Mosley has won some pretty good fights at 154 despite the fact that he never looked great there.
Marquez's journey from featherweight up to a 144-pound catchweight against Mayweather is big, but not unprecedented. His greatest rival, Pacquiao, has gone from a 106-pound debut in 1995 up to a guy who's won a big fight at 147. Pacquiao, of course, has many special circumstances, not the least of which is he's a freakish talent. Miguel Cotto boxed Ivan Calderon in the amateur ranks as a teenager, as crazy as that might sound. Hell, Mayweather started off at 130, Mosley at 135, Oscar at 130, etc.
No, Marquez is not a big man, and yes, he will have some size disadvantages. At 5'7" with a 67" reach, he stacks up in simple frame measurements to Pacquiao and Cotto, but Mayweather is that tick taller (5'8") and longer (72") than all of them.
But do we make too much of this sort of thing, considering the relative frequency with which it happens at the top ranks of the sport? Yeah, I think we do.
If you believe weight will be an issue, that's understandable. But if Marquez does lose as most expect he will, I just don't think the weight will be the deciding factor, just as I don't think that'll be the case should Miguel Cotto upset Manny Pacquiao in November.
This fight will be won on skill, determination, gameplanning and the old, cliche will to win. For as much guff as Mayweather takes because he apparently "lacks heart" according to so many, his will to win is huge. That undefeated record -- much like Joe Calzaghe's -- means a lot to Mayweather. When he's criticized, he can point at that and say, "Who beat me?" So far, nobody has. And we know Marquez is a man driven to win, and this is a victory that would shake the boxing world to its core.
I've stated my own problems with the weight, and how I think it could affect the fight. Marquez, good as his wins over Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz were, has looked a little slower at 135 than he did at 126 and 130, so jumping all the way to 144 does figure to slow him down even more. He gets hit a lot nowadays, too, or at least he did by Diaz, but couldn't that have been part of his plan? The feather-fisted Diaz never got Marquez to fear or respect him as a danger during that fight, which eventually got Diaz knocked out, as he was lured into trades with the harder-punching, more accurate Marquez.
Does anyone here honestly think Marquez and Nacho Beristain plan to fight Floyd the way they did Juan Diaz?
So as much as I understand the concern, I just can't get on board with it. Boxing is a sport with a history filled to the brim of Cinderella men, near-miracles, jaw-dropping upsets, and unbelievable feats. A fighter as excellent as Juan Manuel Marquez shouldn't be considered a hopeless case because of a nine-pound weight jump.
Move on up, Juan.