Juan Manuel Marquez is expected to announce his next opponent in the coming week, and his targets for the July 14 date at Cowboys Stadium have been narrowed down to Filipino prospect Mercito Gesta and Mexican veteran and working legend Erik Morales.
The original plan was for Marquez to face Brandon Rios, as the two were expected to win on April 14. Marquez won easily, beating Serhiy Fedchenko, but Rios badly struggled and robbed Richard Abril of a victory on the judges' scorecards, which really took a bite out of Rios' reputation, not to mention that he missed weight for the second fight in a row.
The weight isn't the issue here -- Rios is moving to 140, where Marquez is now, and really shouldn't have problems making that weight, where he should have gone for April 14 anyway. It's the reputation. It doesn't even look like it has anything to do with Rios not being a southpaw, since Morales is in the running, and unless they're going to make Morales sign a contract that stipulates he fight as he did in the 12th round of his win over Manny Pacquiao in 2005, he's not a southpaw either.
Zab Judah was rumored to have the date locked up, but "Super" Judah balked at the money being offered, and that's off the table.
Gesta (25-0-1, 13 KO) also fought on April 14, defeating Oscar Cuero in a mismatch, but wasn't exactly impressive in doing so. He's had a little hype and a lot of Manny Pacquiao comparisons, but he's not Manny Pacquiao, and the hype may have already overstated his ability. He's a decent fighter, a prospect with upside, but he's not ready for Marquez. This is why Marquez wants Gesta -- he's a lefty, which would, in theory, prepare him for a fourth Pacquiao fight later this year, and he's a prospect with an undefeated record that Marquez really should beat.
Morales (52-8, 36 KO) lost his last fight to Danny Garcia on March 24, and more interestingly here, couldn't make the 140-pound limit for the bout. At 35, Morales finally looks close to finished, especially at the higher levels. His comeback has gone better than most expected, but wins over Pablo Cano, Willie Limond, Jose Alfaro, and Francisco Lorenzo don't exactly stack up to a fight with Marquez at this point.
The good thing about the fight is clear: It would complete the great featherweight circle, finally matching up Marquez and Morales, even if too late. Chances are the fight would still be pretty good, but they might have to do a catchweight at 143 or so if they can get it to happen.
BoxingScene.com reports that Morales will meet with Golden Boy officials on Monday to discuss potentially fighting Marquez, who is currently promoted by Zanfer and Top Rank, companies that don't work with GBP. I would have to think there's a chance that Golden Boy would let Morales out of his remaining three-fight deal with the company to take this one. They don't have a lot to gain from a quickly-fading Morales at this point, and this is probably the biggest fight out there for him. It's not like they have much for him in-house that anyone really wants to see or would take seriously.