by David P. Greisman

The fires within Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Marquez were fueled from within but fanned from afar, stoked by those who said that Marquez was shot and those who said that Lopez couldn’t take one.

Marquez’s is a flame that has not yet been snuffed. Lopez’s is a blaze that is burning strong. And a torch has been passed from old soldier to young gun, a torch passed, appropriately, via firefight.

They were opponents by circumstance, opposites by coincidence. Lopez donned blue trunks and shoes. Marquez was clad in red. Marquez’s offense is of orthodox origin. Lopez swings from a southpaw stance. Lopez represents Puerto Rico. Marquez fights out of that island’s longtime pugilistic rival, Mexico.

They had this in common: Both were featherweights with firepower who were determined to come forward.

That meant two things: Lopez and Marquez would both start out waiting for an opening and working to create one. And once the big punches started landing for one of them, the other would soon be responding with force.

Both worked behind jabs in the early moments, Lopez occasionally attempting to counter Marquez’s jab with a quick right hook. Marquez would lean forward, probing with a single shot and then pulling out of range. He had never been the kind of fighter who was afraid to get hit. But he didn’t need to take unnecessary punishment – unnecessary because he was not yet dishing it out himself.

Yet when Lopez landed a right hook on Marquez halfway through the second, there was Marquez retaliating with a straight right hand.

The punches were going to start flying. The only question then would be which man had the best answers for what was being asked of them.

It was one thing that Marquez, at 35, was already on the tail end of a career that had begun 15 years ago. He also was coming off three years of damaging action and deteriorating inaction.

There were the three brutal wars with Israel Vazquez between March 2007 and March 2008. There was a 14-month layoff before a comeback fight with Jose Mendoza. There was another year out of the ring before a fourth match with Vazquez, a brief bout in May 2010 that showed Vazquez to be finished as a fighter but was inconclusive when it came to revealing just how much Marquez had left.

Lopez, 27, had not lost a fight since turning pro in 2005, running off 29 victories and scoring 26 knockouts. But though he was winning, he was also showing himself to be neither impenetrable nor invincible. He would take power punches while sending out his own. And he would get hurt and knocked down when that happened.

Would Marquez have enough left to withstand Lopez’s onslaught? If he did, could Lopez stand up to shots that would be crisper and stronger than those that had damaged and dropped him before?

Both provided answers to those questions in the third round, and then again and again as the fight heated up, the fighters fighting fire with fire.

Halfway through the third, each planted their feet and swiveled around with hooks. Twenty seconds later, a Lopez left hook caught Marquez off balance, and Marquez backpedaled across the ring. Lopez charged in and ran straight into a Marquez right. The action returned to the center of the ring, Marquez and Lopez lacing hard shots between the other’s volleys.

This is what Marquez wanted. Though he was older and more ring worn, and though Lopez was faster and, possibly, stronger, Marquez could compensate for all of this with timing and technique and a target standing right in front of him.

This is what Lopez wanted, too, seemingly. After an exchange of flurries early in the fourth, he clapped his gloves together with intensity, inviting Marquez to bring more of the same.

Lopez was playing with fire.

With a minute to go in the round, both loaded up left hooks. Marquez’s got there first, hitting Lopez right on his questionable chin. Lopez stumbled backward. Marquez followed forward, landing a left hook, a right cross, and then another hard right.

Lopez responded in the fifth as he always had: with more offense. As he pressed the attack, Marquez often stepped back and landed counters, but Lopez occasionally thudded punches to the body and upstairs.

Marquez had the momentum. Lopez was still dangerous.

Lopez had survived a brutal brawl with Rogers Mtagwa in October 2009 and won a decision. He had traded first-round knockdowns with Bernabe Concepcion in July 2010 and gotten off the canvas to score a stoppage in the second round.

He was taking some of the hardest shots Marquez could throw. He was still standing.

Soon he would be back in control.

Lopez worked his way inside in the sixth, placing himself in a perfect position. There, he could dig hooks and shoot uppercuts. There, he could smother Marquez’s offense, which needed more room to be effective. There, Lopez often ducked down or pulled away from counters, then strafed Marquez. Marquez, meanwhile, took to these trenches as the right spot to look for a fight-changing shot.

There were new questions that needed to be answered:

What happens when you throw everything you have at your opponent, and yet your opponent is still standing? What happens when you’ve taken so much punishment in order to give back, and your opponent is getting stronger?

The story of a fight is not just in the answers a fighter gives to such questions, but also in what questions he asks of the man in front of him.

Lopez had gone toe-to-toe with Marquez, had gotten hurt but had gotten the best of those exchanges. Marquez had shown that he could still give as well as take, but he was doing too much taking.

The bell rang to end the eighth round. Immediately after, Marquez looked at his trainer and pointed to his right shoulder. From his stool, he said he couldn’t move his right arm. He remained seated as the bell sounded to begin the ninth.

The fight was stopped. Marquez rose from his seat. Lopez dropped to his knees in celebration.

Marquez had once been on the opposing end of such a situation. Israel Vazquez had quit in the corner following the seventh round in the first Vazquez-Marquez bout, a broken nose obstructing his breathing, taking an already difficult war and making it even harder. That had proven to be the right choice for Vazquez – leave with your health, return for your honor.

They had said Marquez was a shot fighter, that his best days were past, that his career was flickering out. On this one night a phoenix rose from those supposed ashes, only to find out that he could not soar with a damaged wing.

They had said Lopez couldn’t take a shot, that he didn’t belong among the best, that his chin would betray him and he wouldn’t be able to take the heat. This one night was his baptism by fire, a young gun proving himself against an old soldier, an introduction and an initiation to the ways of the warriors.

The 10 Count – “A Whole Bunch of BS” Edition

1.  It’s a whole bunch of BS that boxing reporters will parrot when it comes to the announced attendance this Saturday at Cowboys Stadium for Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Antonio Margarito.

Eight months after the fact, major boxing media outlets (such as and THE RING magazine) still continue to put forth the falsehood that Pacquiao-Clottey drew 51,000 people.

So, what should deadline reporters write this weekend when it comes time to refer to what will nevertheless be a legitimately huge crowd?

“Promoters said attendance for Pacquiao-Margarito was xx,xxx, but that claim should come with a major caveat. They also claimed Pacquiao-Clottey, held in March in Cowboys Stadium, drew a crowd of 50,994.

“In reality, that bout drew 41,841 – selling 36,371 tickets with an additional 5,500 seats given away for free, according to the Sports Business Journal – still a significant amount, but far less than the monumental figure of 51,000.”

2.  It’s a whole bunch of BS when you realize that news media are smart enough not to listen to event organizers when it comes to estimated crowd sizes, but boxing media are gullible enough to believe promoters when it comes to the number of people in attendance.

There are big differences between saying 51,000 people, having 42,000 people and selling 36,000 tickets.

Heck, Vic Darchinyan’s fight with Joseph Agbeko last year had 11,772 people in attendance. Only 757 paid. The first number is impressive. The second number is depressing.

Boxing promoters are renowned for their propaganda. It’s long past time for boxing reporters to defuse that with skepticism.

3.  It’s a whole bunch of BS that Paul Briggs got fined $75,000 for his dubious one-punch knockout loss in July to Danny Green – a kayo that came when Green bounced a jab off the top of Briggs’ head.

There were accusations that Briggs had thrown the fight. And there were revelations that Briggs was never in the type of neurological shape to be allowed back in the ring in the first place.

This is the BS that came from the Western Australia Professional Combat Sports Commission:

“The commission is satisfied [that] Paul Briggs, by not disclosing at any time to the examining doctors, his opponent or the Professional Combat Sports Commission the complete picture of his medical condition in relation to his nervous system and his ability to mount a credible defense, has participated in a sham contest.”

In other words, Briggs is being fined for not telling the commission why he shouldn’t fight. Even though it’s the job of the commission to protect the fighters from themselves.

That’s why the fight even took place in Western Australia. Green-Briggs had to be moved there because the commission in New South Wales had concerns about Briggs’ health and the three-and-a-half-year layoff he’d had from the ring.

How is it that the Western Australia commission has cleared itself of any wrongdoing? How did it neglect to find out any problems with Briggs that should’ve kept him from stepping into the ring? How did it neglect to contact New South Wales’ commission about why the fight was being moved?

The answer: This was a grand money grab by the Western Australia commission, both then and now.

First, it ignored Briggs’ condition so it could get the Green fight within its jurisdiction. Now, it has fined Briggs for its own negligence, adding an extra $75,000 to its coffers.

4.  It’s a whole bunch of BS that Joe Tessitore – the ESPN “Friday Night Fights” blow-by-blow man who also works horse racing broadcasts for the network – didn’t have Teddy Atlas alongside him at the Breeders’ Cup Marathon last week when jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano started trading punches.

Actually, it’s just unfortunate. And amusing that Tessitore had a fight break out while working his other gig.

What’s actually BS is that some lazy media members still say that boxing is dying but never write anything like that about what remains of the “sport” of horse racing.

5.  It’s a whole bunch of BS that James Kirkland keeps getting himself into.

Kirkland was back in jail last week for a minor but silly violation of the terms of his work release. He had been living in a halfway house and was being allowed to train for a Dec. 11 fight.

But he left his gym one day last week to pick up a customized mouthpiece. “The probation officer came by [the gym] and he wasn’t there,” Kirkland’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, told Dan Rafael of

Par for the course for Kirkland.

Convicted felon? Lemme go buy a gun. What could go wrong?

On work release from a halfway house? Stray away from where I’m supposed to be without informing my probation officer. What could go wrong?

6.  It’s a whole bunch of BS that the sanctioning bodies in boxing don’t understand the idea of a rising tide lifting all ships.

In some cases, the title belt lifts the status of the fighter, who then goes on to become a star. But in other cases, it is the fighter who, as an established star, lifts the status of the title belt.

Why, then, has the IBF stripped Devon Alexander of his junior-welterweight title? And why, then, is the WBC saying that it will only recognize Alexander (its current titlist) as its 140-pound beltholder if he beats Timothy Bradley, but will not recognize Bradley if he beats Alexander?

The IBF stripped Alexander because he’s facing Bradley and not his mandatory, South African fighter Kaizer Mabuza. Mabuza beat Kendall Holt in February in an elimination bout.

(South Africa, by the way, seems to be a favorite of the IBF when it comes to random mandatory challengers and title contenders. Even more so for the IBO.)

The WBC will not let Bradley have its belt because of a grudge that is a year-and-a-half old. Bradley had been the WBC beltholder when he beat the aforementioned Holt in April 2009, unifying the WBC and WBO titles.

But then the WBC told Bradley that he had to choose one title to hold, and Bradley chose the WBO belt rather than face the WBC’s mandatory challenger, a then-unproven Devon Alexander.

7.  It’s a whole bunch of BS, too, because the WBC will invariably change its mind. HBO has the option of paying for a rematch between Alexander and Bradley, according to fight scribe Thomas Hauser.

Which would the WBC rather have: a percentage of another HBO payday, or a percentage of some lesser fight?

8.  It’s also a whole bunch of BS because the WBC is inconsistent (not like that’s a surprise).

Chad Dawson had the WBC light heavyweight title.

Dawson dropped the WBC title in order to face Antonio Tarver for the IBF belt.

Dawson, after facing Tarver twice, was able to fight Glen Johnson for the interim WBC title.

Dawson was then able to fight Jean Pascal for the actual WBC title.

9.  It's a whole bunch of BS that went on with WBC President Jose Sulaiman at the sanctioning body’s convention last week in Mexico.

Sulaiman announced he was quitting immediately because of a disagreement over whether to allow Vitali Klitschko a voluntary defense of his heavyweight title (presumably against Tomasz Adamek) before his mandatory defense (against the winner of – yawn – Odlanier Solis vs. Ray Austin).

…and then he un-quit.

The issue, according to Bob Newman of, is that the WBC still owes money to pay former light heavyweight Graciano Rocchigiani. If you don’t recall, the WBC screwed Rocchigiani, so Rocchigiani sued the WBC. Allowing Klitschko an additional defense would bring more sanctioning fees to the WBC.

For once, Sulaiman actually wanted something that’s better for boxing: Klitschko-Adamek.

Still, what a drama queen.

What’s his next act? Sending pictures of his genitalia to Jenn Sterger?

10.  It’s a whole bunch of BS that Sulaiman received a Guinness World Record last week in recognition of being “the longest serving president of a global sports organization.”

Yeah, and Moammar Gadhafi is the longest serving dictator…

David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on

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