by Chris Robinson
For all of his greatness, it’s interesting to note that three-division champion Juan Manuel Marquez was actually a late bloomer in his career.
Having turned professional on May 29th, 1993, the Mexico City native often seemed to be fighting in the shadows of his countrymen Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, who began creating a huge buzz for themselves after their memorable February 2000 clash at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Around that same time, Marquez was still recovering for a unanimous decision loss to Saint Louis' Freddie Norwood months earlier in his first world-title attempt. In that fight Marquez was dropped early and seemed to be in a funk for much of the fight despite coming on strong late and appearing to do enough to win the bout.
But one thing you can say about Marquez is that he is extremely resilient and has always found a way to come back strongly from his defeats. It’s pretty remarkable, at age 38, that Marquez is coming off of one of the most impressive performances of his career as he was seen last month giving huge favorite Manny Pacquiao a life and death struggle at the MGM Grand.
And while the majority-decision would go against him, Marquez’s career still seems to have much life left it.
This past week in Las Vegas, one of Marquez’s former stable mates was present as former strawweight and junior flyweight champion Ricardo ‘Finito’ Lopez was present for the 49th annual WBC Convention at the aforementioned Mandalay Bay.
The two fighters both worked under head trainer Nacho Beristain at the Romanza Gym in Mexico City and Lopez instantly saw the talent in a young Marquez.
“We trained at the same gym and that’s how we met each other,” Lopez said. “When I retired I announced that Marquez, god-willing, would become a world champion if he kept working hard. He had great talent.”
Asked for his thoughts on Marquez’s third meeting with Pacquiao, Lopez could only shake his head in disbelief while offering up some kind of reasoning for how everything played out.
“They robbed him,” said Lopez. “Sometimes there is interest in a certain fighter winning and Marquez and boxing both suffered because of that. They wanted Pacquiao to win.”
With sixty fights under his belt and having endured another arduous training camp for the Pacquiao fight, it’s understandable that Marquez may want to lay low for a while. A fourth fight with Pacquiao is something that could be entertained but Lopez feels it’s ultimately up to how Marquez feels.
“He can continue. He’s still at a high level. But it’s his decision,” Lopez stated.
Special thanks to BoxingScene.com’s Ryan Burton for translating this interview…
[Reader's note: For more images of Marquez please visit 2011 in Pictures - Reliving Juan Manuel Marquez's 2011 campaign ]