In a month of marquee names, from Pacquiao v. Morales to the returns to the ring of Klitschko, Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright, to the rock solid Showtime card on December 9, there's one televised fight that has received very little attention.
On Saturday, HBO's Boxing After Dark series presents interim WBO featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez (45-3-1) against Filipino fighter Jimrex Jaca (27-2-1) in a matchup that just might be flying under the radar during boxing's jam-packed holiday season.
I'm sure you know about Marquez, but if you don't, here's a primer: The 33-year old Mexican fighter is a champion. Marquez's only losses in a 13-year pro career came on a DQ in his first fight back in 1993, plus decision losses to current featherweight ruler Chris John and Freddie "Lil' Hagler" Norwood, who you may remember left the sport for six years after an upset TKO loss to Derrick Gainer in 2000. Marquez's loss to Norwood was controversial at the time, and remains so today.
(Norwood, for the record, returned this year at age 36 with a pair of wins in Memphis against tomato can veterans.)
Marquez's draw? Well, that was against Manny Pacquiao, and Marquez earning a draw in that fight was damn near heroic. Pacquiao floored Marquez three times in the opening round, but "Dinamita" came back to flat-out outbox Pacquiao the rest of the fight. He lost the fight 115-110 on one card, won 115-110 on another, and the two drew, 113-113, on the third. To say there's unfinished business that I'd love to see resolved there is an understatement.
But we're not there yet. Marquez's loss to John has also been disputed by some. But he came back in August with a seventh round TKO over Terdsak Jandaeng, in a fight he was handily winning.
Right now, Marquez is (or better be) focused on Saturday's fight with Jaca, a 23-year old southpaw that has a spotty, somewhat unattractive career with no really quality wins. His losses came against Japan's Nobuhito Honmo in May and Yasuo Kunimi in 2004, a fight for which Jaca failed to make weight and was knocked out in the seventh round.
Jaca is not a powerful puncher, with 12 knockouts among his 27 wins. He is certainly the underdog.
But, oh, then we get to the drama. Hey, it is boxing, isn't it?
Jaca is a Golden Boy fighter. Or, at least he is now. Jaca's former manager, Rex "Wakee" Salud, has been replaced by Oscar's hype machine, and though I could hardly tell you the whole story, the split has been less than amicable. Golden Boy is giving Jaca $50,000 for the Marquez fight on Saturday, while he would have reportedly earned just $7,500 had he stayed with Salud.
Salud and Jaca had a contract until 2009, and Salud has done his best to get this fight cancelled, after already having it postponed once.
While the Salud/Jaca/Golden Boy dispute is hardly any reason to watch a fight, the fact is that Golden Boy sees enough in Jaca to pick him up, which has to mean at least a little bit.
And on Saturday, Juan Manuel Marquez can either keep his reputation alive against an up-and-comer ten years his junior, or he becomes the big win that Jaca is still seeking. Good money is on "Dinamita," but you never do quite see these upsets coming if you're a conservative thinker.
Beyond just this fight, though, if Marquez is to win, there are a lot of ways to go. A rematch with Chris John could be one thing. A step up to 130 to take on Manny Pacquiao (Jaca's fellow countryman) in a rematch could also happen if a Pacquiao/Barrera fight doesn't come about. Saturday night's fight may not be the one with the biggest red carpet, but it shouldn't be one you ignore, either.
We at Bad Left Hook will have round-by-round coverage and scoring of Marquez/Jaca this Saturday, plus a light welterweight bout between undefeated Demetrius Hopkins (24-0-1) and Rogelio Castaneda, Jr. (23-10-3), and we hope you'll join us and chip in your thoughts as well.