There's an interesting little issue developing with Juan Manuel Marquez right now, the world lightweight champion who has not fought since a blowout loss at welterweight to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last September.
Currently, Marquez is set to rematch Juan Diaz on July 31. The two went toe-to-toe in the Fight of the Year for 2009, but the rematch seems to have lukewarm anticipation from fans in general. Many are anxious to see it because the first fight was so great, but there's no question that both fighters lost steam after their brawl. Marquez was handled with ease by Mayweather, which is nothing to be ashamed of in and of itself, but the feeling that he was there simply for money did bother some people. Diaz got a win over Paulie Malignaggi in August, but it was disputed, and much attention was given to Gale Van Hoy's absurd scorecard, giving many the impression that Malignaggi was "robbed" when in reality it was just one terrible scorecard in a competitive fight. Diaz clearly lost the rematch in Chicago in December, looking sluggish through 12 rounds.
So despite the fact that I think Marquez is the best lightweight in the world still (and one of the three best in the sport, pound-for-pound) and that Diaz is still a top three lightweight himself, it's a fight struggling for credibility in a way. There's also the fact that the ending of the first bout was so definitive, that many might wonder, "How is this any different now?" Sure, Marquez has gotten older, but Diaz, at 26, is right on the edge, too. He's put in a pretty damn big workload for a boxer of his age, having fought in 12-rounders now for the last six years, and in 10-rounders since 2002.
But I want to focus right now on Marquez. Marquez is again calling out Manny Pacquiao for a third fight. The two put on classics in 2004 and 2008, the first a draw many felt Marquez deserved to win (and many felt Pacquiao deserved to win), and the second a razor-thin decision for Pacquiao that many felt Marquez deserved to win. They have been great rivals and their fights will have their place in history forever.
Marquez's tactic of choice is the "bawk bawk bawwwwk!" method, as he's trying to insinuate that Pacquiao fears him. I have my doubts about that, and to go along with it, Michael Katsidis is saying pretty much the same thing about Marquez. You will recall that one of the sanctioning bodies mandated Marquez-Katsidis after the Mayweather fight last year. Marquez, according to Katsidis, said he couldn't make 135 pounds anymore. He's now a bit flabbergasted by Marquez fighting Diaz at 135.
The Pacquiao thing is simple, of course, and frankly, it's Marquez looking for another big payday. He knows he's near the end of his career, and I think Marquez is smart enough to want to build himself a nice, fat retirement fund so he's not fighting when he's 40. Do I believe Marquez really thinks he can beat Pacquiao? Probably part of him does, and he has matched up with Pacquiao's style better than anyone, no arguing that. Over 24 rounds against each other they're basically even. They're a phenomenal chess game matchup, at least if chess involved some high-class violence.
But Marquez isn't dumb, and he surely knows that he's pushing himself even at 135, let alone into the 140s where he'd have to fight Pacquiao. The other thing is, Pacquiao doesn't need Marquez at all. Really, I believe the fight is a mismatch at this point in their careers. Marquez is a brilliant fighter all around, but Pacquiao's aggression, speed and power just seems like it would be way too much for JMM now. Marquez would undoubtedly go out fighting like his life was on the line, because when the chips are down, that's how Marquez fights. But I don't see him doing well.
And what of the Katsidis "thing"? It's no secret Katsidis wants Marquez and that he feels shafted by the lightweight champ now. A Pacquiao-Marquez III fight is not going to happen, so maybe Marquez-Katsidis can happen this fall, if Marquez beats Diaz in July. There aren't going to be many other viable options at 135. There'd really be only Humberto Soto (could be a huge show in Mexico if they could all make it work) or Robert Guerrero (could happen, as JMM and Guerrero are both promoted by Golden Boy).
Does Marquez move up to 140 if he beats Diaz? That's my guess. They already talked about a Marquez fight against Amir Khan for May, which didn't happen. They've talked about Marquez against Ricky Hatton, which is increasingly unlikely as the days go by. Marquez-Khan is going to make sense, especially if Freddie Roach sees notable slowing down in Marquez that he thinks Khan can take advantage of, and with Khan's speed, length, and tremendous jab, that's a tough assignment for even someone as smart, tough and wily as Marquez.
Juan Manuel Marquez is at an interesting point. His fight with Diaz is no gimme, but I don't think it's a stretch to say most expect him to win, and that a Diaz victory would be a pretty big upset. But what then? He wants the biggest glory and money fight there is for him, the Pacquiao bout. But that's not likely. So we're looking at Katsidis, maybe Guerrero, likely not Soto, and then you have the Khan fight, which I think is going to just make too much sense to be passed up a second time this year. My money's on Khan and Marquez getting it on late this year, with Amir maybe taking another fight this summer in the meantime.