Through an amateur career that took him to the 1992 Olympics for Team USA and a 47-fight pro career that saw him win a world title and fight the best of the best at 154 and 160 pounds, Raul Marquez never got rattled. Sure, he had his ups and downs like anyone who competes in this sport long enough, but did you ever see him sweat? Nah.
But let’s see what happens on Friday, when his 21-year-old son Giovanni Marquez makes his pro debut. Then, we just may see dad be a little bit nervous. And Giovanni knows it.
“He does get nervous, but he tries to hide it because I'm not nervous,” laughs the younger Marquez, who faces Nelson Morales on this week’s edition of ShoBox in Deadwood, South Dakota. “But I know he's nervous on the inside. At the end of the day, though, he has faith in me because we put in a lot of hard days in the gym and tough sparring. But him as my father, of course it's nerve-wracking for him.”
That won’t ever change. But ask those in the know about the former National Golden Gloves winner from Houston, and they’ll tell you that dad need not worry about a young man with a big upside in the hardest game. That doesn’t mean Giovanni was all-in on the sport from the start. He admits that he doesn’t even remember the later stages of his father’s career, and was really more interested in making a mark in a sport that’s religion in Texas.
“Early on, my first love was football, so at a young age I had dreams of the NFL, but changed after I broke my collarbone in middle school,” Marquez said. “At the time I was also boxing, but I realized that I'm better at boxing. I was a bit small for football, so I said I'm gonna just focus on boxing a hundred percent.”
What followed was a 75-12 amateur record, the aforementioned National Golden Gloves at 152 pounds, and plenty of eyes on him from the start. So if he sounds too cool, calm and collected for a 21-year-old about to become a professional prizefighter, consider that he’s been around this world with a lot of expectations on his shoulders for a long time.
“I think that comes from just being around the sport for so long, attending the big fights, being around all the media guys, doing interviews from a very young age, and being around my dad and a lot of the big names in boxing, from the fighters to the promoters and managers,” he said. “It all just seems normal because I've been around all these people for so long.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the pressure of being the son of Raul Marquez, expected to do big things in the pro game and add another world title to the family’s trophy case. But where Giovanni differs from most in that position is that he thrives on being the one who is supposed to succeed.
“It definitely is a lot of pressure, but, for me, I used that pressure as motivation and it gives me a feeling that I've got to prove something to the world, and when I feel that way, I'm able to perform better,” he said. “I feel I perform better under pressure.”
The 2-0 Morales, who turned pro in 2019 and has only fought once since, isn’t expected to be the one to push Marquez to the brink. Few top prospects get that type of test in their debut. But the Dominican Republic native has to know that with the boxing world watching on Showtime, a win changes his career trajectory as much as it would Marquez’ should he lose. And that will be the case from here on out for Marquez because everyone he faces early on, from prospect to journeyman to opponent, will fight him with their best.
Again, Marquez enjoys that part of it, because he knows what the reward is in the end, and it’s a lot different than anything he would have gotten on the gridiron.
“Boxing is an individual sport, for one, whereas in football you had to depend on teammates, but I think the most rewarding feeling is after going through a long training camp, staying dedicated, tough sparring, all the tough days in the gym, there's no better feeling than having your hand raised on fight night and just being great,” he said. “That's what motivates me to continue to work hard and stay dedicated to my craft. And that's my plan - I just continue to work hard, stay focused, stay in the gym and perform on fight night.”
But will he make it quick because dad has some commentating to do for the rest of the ShoBox card?
“That definitely is the plan,” Marquez laughs. “Go in there and get the guy out of there and have an impressive performance.”
And save dad’s voice.