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Saturday Night, Mayweather vs Marquez Blood Fest

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Whatever else you've thought about Saturday's fight, you should start here, the best reason not to pick Juan Manuel Marquez to win: Floyd Mayweather Jr. picked him as an opponent. Take that as both admiration for Mayweather's handicapping, and an unapologetic commentary on Mayweather's character.
If you're reading this, you care enough about the fight to know all the tangible reasons to pick against Marquez. Size, strength, reflexes, youth, defense, athleticism -- "the list goes on and on," as Money May would put it. None of these matters as much as Mayweather's willingness to put his undefeated record in jeopardy against this natural 126-pounder,

Saturday night at MGM Grand, Mayweather will end his retirement by fighting Marquez at something close to welterweight on HBO pay-per-view. The weight could be anything from 143 to 147, but so long as it is above 140, it will be too much to make me make the trip to Las Vegas. Plenty of other writers will be conserving their travel budgets for November, too. But few of them can boast an AMC Theater showing the closed-circuit feed within a mile of their homes, as I can.
That's where I'll be. Fifteen dollars seems the perfect price for "Number One/Numero Uno."
Nobody gives Marquez much of a chance to upset Mayweather, despite Marquez's fight-of-the-year, come-from-behind February knockout of Juan Diaz -- a bigger, stronger, younger, more athletic prizefighter with better reflexes.
Among the loud, unknowledgeable fans who recently unretired with Mayweather, the reasons for not giving Marquez a chance are several: Mayweather's victories against an overweight Ricky Hatton, an over-age Oscar De La Hoya and a hopeless Carlos Baldomir convinced them Mayweather was invincible. And the "Big Boy Mansion" helps, too!
Among sober, knowledgeable folks, though, things mostly reduce to the weight difference. Four years ago, Mayweather fought Sharmba Mitchell at 147 pounds. Four months later, Marquez fought Chris John at 125. Is 22 pounds a lot at the championship level? I don't know, is a 100-mph fastball much different from a 78-mph fastball at the major league level?
After his decision loss to Manny Pacquiao 18 months ago, Marquez demanded a rubber match. When that was not forthcoming, Marquez seemingly advised Golden Boy Promotions he'd fight Godzilla for the right purse. Since then, he has moved up somewhere between 13 and 17 pounds -- whatever the weight for Saturday will be -- and made some money. But the ultimate cost is not missed by his legendary trainer.
"Fighting against a boxer of Mayweather's class is a good showcase, but I would not call it an opportunity when the weight goes against [us]," Nacho Beristain told the Mexico City periodical Milenio back in early May. "But boxers get to a level at which they do not pay much attention to counsel, and I could not ask Juan Manuel not to accept [the fight]."
Worse still is where Marquez has added the weight -- his upper body. He now fights top heavy. Gone are the days of the balletic counterpuncher fighting left-heel-up as if from a La-Z-Boy. Beginning with his knockout win over Joel Casamayor -- a trickier fighter to solve than Mayweather -- Marquez has leaned well forward. And that's a bad position when your opponent's best punch is a right uppercut.
But fighters also gain weight on their chins more than their fists. Unlikely as Marquez is to hurt Mayweather early, Mayweather's none too likely to hurt Marquez before the halfway point. Especially when his punches come one at a time.
Which brings us to Marquez's only tangible advantage: He's a much better combination puncher. Marquez not only throws four-punch combinations but throws unusual bunches that often begin and end with uppercuts. Why does this matter? Because if you can start the fourth punch in a combination, you can land it. The trick is starting it.
But combination punching alone won't be tangible enough. That means few in MGM Grand, and perhaps no one in Marquez's corner itself, will believe Marquez can win when Saturday's fight starts. Heck, maybe even Marquez sees this as just a career payday against a slick defensive specialist -- a match destined to end as another dull, unanimous-decision victory for Mayweather.
But once Marquez is struck by Mayweather, that will change. Marquez's lunatic pride ensures it.
Which brings us to the intangibles. First, all pressure is on Mayweather. Or as Marquez aficionado Darryl Walker put it in an e-mail sometime ago: "How would you like to be going into a fight with a featherweight, as a welterweight, having all the pressure in the world on your shoulders, knowing your paycheck is going straight to the IRS?"
To that, Walker's fellow aficionado Kirk Christiano added the following: Marquez has never once doubted he is a prizefighter. Mayweather has retired twice.
"Being a fighter is a lot like being married -- the longer you are in it, the worse it gets," Christiano wrote when the fight was made. "Floyd wants the payday, but not the punches."
More intangibles? Marquez has been in firefights with prime champions lately. And most of all, while Mayweather might not be the greatest prizefighter Marquez has faced, Marquez will be the greatest prizefighter Mayweather has seen.
So long as this fight remains contested on tangibles, though, Mayweather will win the way everyone is predicting. But if it comes to intangibles ...
Mayweather gives away three of the first four rounds, tentatively figuring Marquez out. Mayweather applies those lessons and wins the next three rounds, at which point Marquez changes. Mayweather loses Rounds 8 and 9 and starts to worry. Mayweather imposes himself in the 10th and seems to have Marquez hurt. Mayweather hits the accelerator, but his body doesn't respond the way it used to. Marquez fights back ferociously. And as the bell rings to begin the final round, only intangibles remain.

In that case, I'll take Marquez: KO-12.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Boxing great Oscar De La Hoya believes Floyd Mayweather Jr. will lose his unbeaten record when he takes on Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in a hotly anticipated welterweight fight in Las Vegas next week.

Mayweather has won all 39 of his career bouts, including 25 by knockout, but the American will be making his first appearance in the ring for almost two years.

"I just have this feeling that Marquez is going to pull this one off," De La Hoya, arguably the biggest name in contemporary boxing, said in a conference call ahead of the September 19 clash over 12 rounds at the MGM Grand.

"I went down to Mexico and saw him train with my own eyes. I saw how much he bulked up; I saw how much strength he has gained; I saw how seriously he's taking this fight.

"I'm convinced he will win this fight. He's looking sharp, he's looking fast and he's looking strong."

Marquez, a Mexico City native who has a 50-4-1 record with 37 knockouts, has beefed up through a brutal training regime highlighted by lifting boulders up a mountain slope.

Although most boxing pundits back Mayweather to win because of his superior strength, speed and defense, De La Hoya predicts the Mexican's jab will be a telling factor.

"Floyd Mayweather is an excellent boxer and he's the best fighter on the planet, no doubt about it," the 10-time world champion said. "But styles make fights and I'm sure Marquez has dissected Mayweather's style.


"Marquez has an excellent jab and he is going to use triple, quadruple jabs. He's a smart fighter, and it's a matter of throwing those jabs and feigning those jabs. This is the fight of his life ... and he knows it."

De La Hoya is well versed in Mayweather's strengths, having lost the WBC super-welterweight title to him on a split decision in May 2007, the highest-grossing fight in boxing history.

However, he believes the American could be troubled by Marquez in the early rounds on his belated return to the ring.

Mayweather has not fought since his 10th round stoppage of Britain's Ricky Hatton in a WBC welterweight title bout in December 2007.

"Being the professional that Mayweather Junior is, I'm sure it's going to be no problem for him to adjust," said De La Hoya, a world champion in six different weight classes who posted a win-loss record of 39-6 including 30 knockouts.

"At the same time, you know Marquez is coming at you right from the get-go, right from the start. I just feel Mayweather's going to have to be playing catch-up in the fight."

Mayweather, 32, is an undefeated five-division world champion while Marquez, 36, is a five-time world champion.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The chance to embellish his unbeaten record will be uppermost in Floyd Mayweather's mind when he takes on Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in their hotly anticipated welterweight fight in Las Vegas this month.

Mayweather has not fought for nearly two years but believes he will be in prime condition when he returns to the ring from retirement for the September 19 clash over 12 rounds at the MGM Grand.

"It's very important for me," American Mayweather said during a conference call on Tuesday of his bid to maintain an unblemished career record of 39-0 with 25 knockouts.

"I am just happy to say that I'm going down as a Hall of Famer and it's extremely important for me to go out there to perform well and dominate.

"I've got to go out there and be smart, be intelligent and listen to my uncle Roger," he added, referring to his coach Roger Mayweather. "If I do that, we will come out 'A' okay."

Mayweather, who has not fought since his 10th round stoppage of Britain's Ricky Hatton in a WBC welterweight title bout in December 2007, felt his opponents always held one advantage.


"When you go out there with an undefeated record, there is no pressure on these fighters because they have nothing to lose," the flamboyant 32-year-old said.

"If Marquez gets beat in 12 rounds or he gets knocked out, they are still going to love him in his country because he had the chance to face the best. They will say: 'You lost but you lost to the best.'

"But in the U.S. it doesn't work like that so we have to work that much harder to stay on top. If I win, it's normal. If a guy gives me a tough fight or even comes close to winning, that's abnormal. Everybody expects me to dominate."

Mayweather, a five-division world champion who is already accepted as one of the greatest boxers of any era, shrugged off suggestions he might be ring-rusty after his 21-month absence.

"I don't think a two-year layoff is going to affect me," he said. "I feel fast and strong and my timing is there. We are in the gym every day and we are looking very sharp.

"I feel the same way as I felt before I left. Actually I feel a little better. I think the break helped because I haven't had a break since '87 so my body had a chance to heal. I feel really good."

Mayweather said he would not underestimate the challenge posed by Marquez, a Mexico City native who has a 50-4-1 record with 37 knockouts.

"He's one hell of a fighter with over 50 wins and champion in more than just one weight class. Believe me, Marquez is not going to lay down.

"There's going to be blood, sweat and tears on September 19."


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