Rafael Marquez still had the heart and the muscle memory, but the gears were turning too deliberately, and it looks like his career is over following a TKO-9 loss tonight against Efrain Esquivias on Showtime.
The 38-year-old Marquez, who is likely headed to the Hall of Fame, came out looking sluggish but effective in the first round, but from there, it was clear that we were seeing the shell of a once-great fighter. Marquez (41-9, 37 KO) really hadn't scored a significant win since 2007, when he beat Israel Vazquez in their first battle, but a loss to Esquivias (17-2-1, 10 KO) is a whole other story from losing to Vazquez, JuanMa Lopez, Toshiaki Nishioka, and Cristian Mijares.
With all due respect to Esquivias, who got a shot and took advantage of it tonight, he's not exactly an elite fighter. But he was a good choice for opponent tonight, as he proved he could show us what Marquez had left. Sadly, it wasn't much. Esquivias likely earned himself another nice TV spot with the win, and if you strip away the context, it was a very entertaining, action-packed fight.
Esquivias was simply able to take Marquez's best shots tonight, and then walk him down and land almost at will with short, hard right hands. Though Marquez threw some nice combinations early, those faded away as Esquivias continued to work at the body of the veteran former champion, mixing up his work and taking advantage of a deteriorated defense from Marquez, who was never exactly Pernell Whitaker in the first place.
Early in the ninth round, Esquivias connected clean on a right hand, sending Marquez to the mat. Though Rafael got up, referee Raul Caiz Jr made the right call, determining that the fight should end there, with Marquez stumbling back toward his corner.
After the fight, Marquez didn't officially retire, but he said it would be something he thinks about. He signed a three-fight deal with Golden Boy Promotions and this was the first bout on that contract, but in reality, he's finished. If he wants to fight twice more and likely be fed to prospects who are on the cusp of becoming contenders, that's his call, and we've certainly seen worse.