by Cliff Rold
There are few things more exciting than fighters that fans know can be knocked down going into a big fight.
There is one thing though.
Knowing they get back up.
This Saturday on Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 9 PM EST/PST), a pair of proven hearts will step to ring center for a belt, the championship of each other, and a safe place as the next best Welterweight in the world after Floyd Mayweather. Both have been through bumps in the road and still to some degree fight in the shadow of a bigger superstar.
Manny Pacquiao won’t be in the ring this time.
For this night, the stage is all theirs.
Let’s go the report card.
Title: WBO Welterweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Welterweight (2008-09, 2 Defenses; 2011); WBO Light Welterweight (2009-2012, 4 Defenses)
Weight: 146 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 143.8 lbs.
Hails from: Palm Springs, California
Record: 30-0, 12 KO, 1 No Contest
Rankings: #2 (BoxRec), #3 (BoxingScene, ESPN), #4 (TBRB, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 8-0, 1 KO, 1 NO Contest
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Miguel Vazquez UD10; Junior Witter SD12; Kendall Holt UD12; Nate Campbell NC3; Lamont Peterson UD12; Devon Alexander Tech. Dec. 10; Joel Casamayor TKO8; Manny Pacquiao SD12)
Juan Manuel Marquez
Previous Titles: IBF Featherweight (2003, 1 Defense); WBA/IBF Featherweight (2003-06, 3 Defenses); WBC Super Featherweight (2007-08, 1 Defense); WBO Light Welterweight (2012-13)
Weight: 144.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.4 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 55-6-1, 40 KO
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, Ring, BoxRec), #2 (TBRB, ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-4-1, 4 KO
(13-4-1, 6 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 15 (Julio Gervacio KO8; Agapito Sanchez UD12; Alfred Kotey UD12; Freddie Norwood L12; Daniel Jimenez RTD7; Robbie Peden RTD10; Manuel Medina TKO7; Derrick Gainer TD7; Manny Pacquiao D12, L12, L12, KO6; Orlando Salido UD12; Chris John L12; Marco Antonio Barrera UD12; Joel Casamayor TKO11; Juan Diaz TKO9, UD12; Floyd Mayweather L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bradley B+; Marquez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Bradley B-; Marquez B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bradley B; Marquez B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bradley A; Marquez A
The shadow of Pacquiao is at least there in common results against the man. Bradley got a ton of grief for getting a decision many thought he didn’t deserve in 2012. Marquez, always a good puncher, landed the A+ shot of a lifetime against Pacquiao at the end of the same year. Since that bout, Marquez has laid in wait while Bradley got himself in what might still be the 2013 Fight of the Year with Ruslan Provodnikov.
Bradley showed a lot of what makes him good in that fight. He showed courage, boxing ability, and speed. He also showed vulnerability. Bradley, who can sometimes come wide with his shots, was caught between and dragged into a brutal affair. Provodnikov doesn’t have the speed or precision of Marquez but he showed the patience to wait for opportunities.
Marquez can be a lethally patient man. Arguably the game’s best offensive counter puncher, Marquez is always in position and throws a technically beautiful array of punches. His jab, left hook, right hand, and uppercut, are all thrown as if delivered from an instruction manual. As he has aged, he’s been hit more but it’s a product of conserving his legs and confidence in his ability.
The bane of Marquez’s existence over the years has been purer boxers. Win (versus Derek Gainer) or lose (as he did close to Freddie Norwood and Chris John and lopsided to Mayweather), it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t look as good as he does when defusing bombs.
A big exception was his fight with Joel Casamayor on the night he won the Lightweight title. Casamayor was a fine boxer but he, like Marquez, looked to engage while boxing and that created a fantastic fight.
Bradley’s best chance in this fight might be to try and box, even if the result draws some boos. He’s shown he can, winning ugly against Devon Alexander and Luis Abregu. It’s not his common, or best, form. The best Bradley is sort of a mesh of boxer and brawler. He’s not a tall man so he stays in range, uses his jab, and works combos. He overwhelmed Lamont Peterson that way, outworked Junior Witter, and kept the rounds close with Pacquiao. Against Kendall Holt, he came off the floor twice, early and late, and just flat outhustled him.
Both men have shown the whiskers. Marquez’s career is dotted with knockdowns but he’s never been stopped. The same is true of Bradley. Of the two, it can be said he has appeared more often a genuinely injured man when dropped. That is a possibly a result of the way he presses.
Bradley likes to engage. Inactivity and a couple blah nights obscured for a while what the sum total of his career has exhibited. They haven’t all been like the Provodnikov war, but there have been more than enough Peterson nights to describe his ring character.
Can he win a fight where he stays in range of Marquez and engages?
The thinking here is probably not. Bradley struggled to survive Provodnikov and has admitted to lingering affects. Marquez is smaller than Provodnikov but more complete. As has been noted by this scribe before, he’s the answer to what might have been if Ricardo Lopez had been born a bigger man. They are similar fighters of similar longevity. Even at 40, Marquez appears to still have some game and is in tremendous shape. The motivation to become the first Mexican to win belts in five weight classes will matter to him. His precision will eventually be too much because Bradley will ultimately engage. That favors the Mexican legend strongly. The pick is Marquez on a late stoppage in a fight that might be uglier than expected in spots but still fulfilling at night’s end.
Report Card Picks 2013: 40-22
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com