If there has been one constant throughout the Hall of Fame career of Juan Manuel Marquez, it’s that pride, more so than any other factor, has ruled his entire boxing life.
There’s been the professional pride that went into perfecting his craft, of course. Then, there was the pride that often saw him throw caution to the wind when truly challenged in the ring.
There’s also the often foolish pride that has seen him reject paydays on pure principle, like after his first bout with Manny Pacquiao, when he (and manager/trainer Nacho Beristain) walked away from $750,000 to avenge his draw on HBO and, instead, wound up losing a controversial decision to Chris John in Indonesia for $30,000.
And, in the present, to understand why one of the sport’s most respected names, fighting in one of the most jam-packed weight ranges in boxing, has apparently hit a dead end in the twilight of his career, it only takes a simple look at the Mexican legend’s burning pride to come up with an answer.
At 41 years of age and fighting above his optimal weight, Marquez would be, under normal circumstances, a target for every hotshot from 135 to 154. At this point in legendary careers, fighters are usually looking to cash-out and will risk passing the torch to a hungry, young lion if the price is right. Most legendary fighters are also delusional enough to think that they have one more great fight in them and will walk headlong into a battle most can’t see them winning.
But Marquez is as smart at the boxing business as he is skilled in the ring. The fighter originally from Mexico City knows where he stands in the sport and knows how tenuous his main stage status is in a welterweight division filled with bigger, stronger, younger talent.
His fight with Timothy Bradley was a calculated gamble against a another small welterweight. Bradley doesn’t have one-punch power and was coming off of a brain-battering brawl with Ruslan Provodnikov that very well could’ve sapped years off his career. Much to Marquez’s consternation, though, Bradley decided to use the one real advantage he had in the match-up– his speed– and box his way to a decision victory.
With much more money floating around a Pacquiao rematch, Marquez took the risk with Bradley because he felt it was a winnable fight and because Bradley had the one thing Marquez wants most– a world welterweight title belt.
By all accounts, Marquez is obsessed with becoming the first Mexican to win five world titles in five different weight classes. Recently retired Jorge Arce claims to have already met and surpassed that feat, but Arce and his people are including interim titles in the mix and that certainly takes away from the validity of the claim.
Marquez wants to have his name officially in the record books and wants to be mentioned alongside Mexican legends such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Salvador Sanchez. He’s certainly worked his way up into the all-time Mexican Top 10 and some will argue, Top Four or Five, but a solid win over an elite-level welterweight for a recognized world title would likely guarantee his all-time Mexican Boxing Holy Trinity status– at least that’s how Marquez seems to see it.
But time is running out and the reality is that his ability to pull off the big welterweight win gets slimmer by the moment.
Right now, the only realistic option for a welterweight title is via the UK’s Kell Brook, who recently beat Shawn Porter for the IBF belt. But Porter is rehabbing a leg wound from a machete attack in Spain and could likely be out until mid-2015. Even when he does return, there’s no guarantee that Brook would immediately want to sign on against Marquez.
Floyd Mayweather currently holds the WBC and WBA welterweight titles and nobody, not even Marquez, is eager to see a repeat of Mayweather’s 2009 one-sided decision over the Mexican star.
Then, of course, there’s Manny Pacquiao, who owns the WBO welterweight belt and suffered a one-punch knockout against Marquez in fight number four of their series, in December of 2012, before Pacquiao had a chance to regain his belt from Bradley.
And when it comes to Pacquiao, pride once again rears its ugly head in Marquez’s decision-making process. Marquez truly feels that he should be 3-0 in his first three bouts with the Filipino icon, instead of his official 0-2-1 tally. The one-punch KO finish to their fourth encounter was poetic justice and a proper closure to a frustrating chapter of his professional life.
So far, no amount of cajoling, public pressure, or monetary incentive has been enough to budge him from his stand. That chapter of his life is closed and it appears that it may stay closed.
So, what Marquez has left is a handful of possibilities and, perhaps, one more year of career.
Maybe Brook will entertain the idea of facing Marquez in a big-ticket UK event. Maybe Chris Algieri will upset Pacquiao on November 22 and opt for a Marquez bout right off the bat. Maybe Mayweather will vacate one of his belts and create a scenario where Marquez could move in for a shot. Maybe there will be enough money in it for the alphabets to simply create a new welterweight world title of some kind. Maybe Marquez will lower his standards and talk himself into going for a lesser title, like that of the IBO or WBU.
There are many “maybes” and “possiblys” for Marquez and his quest for a fifth world title. Unfortunately, none are immediately realistic at this point and, so, his career will remain in limbo.
It’s not shocking to see Marquez refuse to budge from a plan or professional stance. Pride compels Marquez to leave the sport on his own terms and in the right way. But while waiting to make this grand exit, worthy of an all-time great, the world is passing him by.