By Jake Donovan
For Hernan ‘Tyson’ Marquez, 2012 has been all about visiting past demons.
The free-swinging southpaw prepares for one of the biggest fights in recent flyweight history. A unification bout is on tap as Marquez squares off against Brian Viloria this Saturday evening at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles.
The bout is the first unification fight in more than forty years, but the only type of history that interests Marquez is erasing a part of his own.
His first fight of 2012 – which came on the heels of a Fighter of the Year-like campaign in 2011 – was a revenge-fueled showdown with Richie Mepranum. The fight was a necessary evil for Marquez, who suffered the first loss of his career two years ago against the Filipino southpaw.
Things went much smoother this time around, with Marquez taking a well-earned decision.
“When that fight came about the first time, I wasn’t fully prepared. It was a lot of little things I wasn’t experiencing,” explains Marquez (34-2, 25KO), who prepares for his third fight of 2012.
The win was important, but the means was a bit dissatisfying. Marquez scored two knockdowns but was forced to settle for a wide unanimous decision, thus ending a five-fight knockout streak.
“He was a lot heavier than I was coming into the rematch. It was tough to knock him out since he came in heavier than me (the fight was flyweight, Merpranum came in three pounds heavy), but it felt good to beat him and to get it out of my system.”
The first fight with Merpranum marked Marquez’ first visit north of the Mexico border, his lone fight in any of the lower 48 states. His very next fight served as his lone trip to Puerto Rico, where he suffered a one-sided eighth round knockout at the hands of Nonito Donaire.
Given the weight disparity, Marquez knows that a rematch with Donaire – now a super bantamweight and still rising – is a longshot, to say the least. What is well within reach is the potential to post a win in the United States, a chance he is granted this weekend.
“I’m very motivated,” Marquez says of Saturday’s headliner, which airs live on Wealth TV (Saturday, 9PM ET). “This is a big opportunity for me, fighting in the U.S. and fighting the best flyweight in the world. This is the best training, the best prep I ever had.”
Marquez will have to be at peak condition to give himself a fighting chance.
Viloria (31-3, 18KO) is as erratic as they come, as the 2000 U.S. Olympic boxer has endured several ups and downs in more than a decade in the sport. At his very best, though, he’s one of the very best in the world. Marquez realized this much in watching his countrymen fall way short in Viloria’s last two ring appearances, scoring knockout wins over Giovani Segura and Omar Nino.
The knockout over Segura late last year opened the eyes of a lot of fans, Marquez in particular.
“I did get a chance to see the fight,” Marquez said of Viloria’s eight-round beatdown of Segura. “The fight is what I expected – that Viloria is too good for Gio and will find all of the holes. It proved how good he really is.”
Marquez had the chance to prove how good he really is in a terrific 2011 campaign, though the same could be said of the year that Viloria enjoyed as well. Chief among the year’s highlights was his to-hell-and-back knockout win over Luis Concepcion last April.
There was a large portion of 2011 when the bout served as the leading candidate for Fight of the Year. It had to settle for runner-up status, but Marquez instantly earned a reputation as a fierce warrior. That image was further enhanced with a pair of subsequent early knockouts, including a one-round drilling of Concepcion in their highly anticipated rematch last October.
Still, it was the lasting impression of his climbing off the canvas earlier in the year to stop Concepcion on the road in Panama which for the moment remains the career highlight. Not even the reputation as an action fighter means as much to him as what he accomplished that night.
“When you’re in the fight itself, you don’t think of it” Marquez says of the entertainment value to be found in most of his bouts. “You just do what it takes to win. It meant a lot for me to go on the road and beat Concepcion, and to come off the canvas to knock him out. It wasn’t until I got home and everyone was telling me what a fight it was.”
Similar buzz was nowhere to be found in either of his bouts in 2012, though Marquez admits that winning took precedence to leaving it all on the line. In addition to avenging a prior to loss to Merpranum, another points win came in his most recent bout, an awkward 10-round waltz with Fernando Lumacad this past July.
Marquez loves a good action fight as much as anyone else, but is also well-versed in the art of win today, look good the next time.
Lucky for boxing fans, the showdown with Viloria is one that Marquez views as the ‘next time’ part of the equation.
“Those fights were getting ready for Viloria. When you talk about the other fights – Viloria has been on our radar earlier. It was moved and postponed. I was trying to just win in those other fights. I didn’t take risks like in the past. This is the time I will risk it all. I want to show everyone how good I am. I’m giving my best in this fight and will do whatever it takes to beat him.”
A win this weekend would mark the biggest of his still promising career. The 24-year old still has a lot left to accomplish – like win a fight in the United States.
He has a chance this weekend to not just win, but finally separate himself from the rest of the pack. While Toshiyuki Igarashi is recognized as the lineal flyweight champ – his reign traces all the way back to Miguel Canto’s days as divisional king – the winner of Saturday’s bout will most likely gain universal recognition as the best flyweight on the planet.
There is no fool-proof plan in place for Marquez to carry out the mission. He just knows deep down in his soul that he’ll get the job done.
“To be honest, I don’t believe I’ve faced a fighter like him,” Marquez admits. “What gives me the assurance that I can beat him is that I believe it’s my time. I have the experience, the knowledge in the ring. Everything is coming together at the right time for the fight.
“I don’t know if it will come by knockout or decision. What I do know is I am getting that victory.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox