Marquez, Rios on collision course?

Juan Manuel Marquez is the consummate “pro” boxer. Brandon Rios is the consummate “I don’t care what you think," badass fighter. While the two Mexican fighters (Marquez being Mexican and Rios Mexican-American) are very different individuals at very different points in their career, they share one common bond. Both are action fighters who make for crowd-pleasing bouts.

The two will share a stage Saturday night from separate venues on a quick-fix HBO/Top Rank PPV. Both were gunning for bigger fights, but when those fell through Top Rank Promotions threw together what they could for each fighter to stay busy.

While Marquez is a sure thing for the Hall of Fame and on the tail end of his career, the upstart Rios is just starting to make a name for himself. Assuming both win on Saturday as they are expected, this could be a prelude to a very interesting crossroads bout between these two later this year.

Marquez is coming off yet again getting the short end of the stick in a very tight bout with superstar Manny Pacquiao. For the third time, Marquez fought on even or better ground with the Filipino star, but did not get the nod from the judges. He now has a draw and two losses against Pacquiao, but arguments can be made that he won all three fights. Marquez may want a fourth shot to defeat Pacquiao, but the Filipino takes on Tim Bradley on June 9 so he will have to probably wait until late 2012 for the opportunity.

Meanwhile, Rios was slated for a much anticipated showdown with speedy Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa, but the bout fell through due to contractual issues. Rios is coming off a 10th-round knockout of John Murray, where he won the fight, but lost his lightweight title on the scales due to not being able to make the 135-pound limit.

So, left without big names or big fights, each man chose to take what was available and stay active instead of sitting around waiting for a better opportunity, with an eye toward bigger things later in the year.

Marquez will battle Serhiy Fedchenko in a junior welterweight bout at the New Mexico City Arena in Mexico City. Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs) had hoped to become the first Mexican to win titles in four weight classes, but was beaten to the punch when Erik Morales was gifted the WBC 140-pound title last year against Pablo Cesar Cano.

Marquez fights Fedchenko (30-1, 13 KOs) for the interim WBO 140-pound strap to get a piece of hardware in a fourth division. Whether winning the interim title makes him a four-division champ is up for debate and a topic that won’t be tackled in this column. At least it places Marquez in a position to stay busy and relevant while waiting for a better opportunity.

Meanwhile, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) will meet Richard Abril (17-2-1, 8 KOs) for the interim WBA lightweight title that Rios lost on the scales before his last outing. Abril earned himself a shot at the tough Rios when he appeared at the scheduled Gamboa-Rios press conference. Abril began making comments to Rios and physically pushed the easily agitated brawler, setting the stage to be “Bam Bam’s” opponent when Gamboa dropped out.

Both Marquez and Rios are expected to handle their business and walk away with wins on Saturday. The payoff for everyone is probably not this Saturday, but what could transpire if everyone follows script. The PPV likely will not do overly well considering neither fighter is expected to be challenged and fans may be tight with their cash with Mayweather-Cotto and Pacquiao-Bradley PPV’s on the horizon. The fact that Marquez and Rios both make for exciting fights no matter what will attract some hardcore followers, but don’t expect this to break the bank.

But if both win and they choose to meet each other in the summer, they will headline a card that will do far better in numbers. Marquez vs. Rios presents a fascinating style match and a true crossroads bout that would have hardcore fans licking their chops. Top Rank chief Bob Arum has stated if both men win Saturday, a PPV of Marquez vs. Rios at Cowboys Stadium on July 14 is a possibility.

The two Mexican fighters would certainly draw a crowd in Dallas and also do well in PPV buys for several reasons. Boxing fans want action — especially when they are going to shell out their hard-earned money on a PPV. Rios does not know how to be in a bad fight. He comes forward, defense be damned, and looks to separate his opponents from their senses. Marquez was knocked early in his career for being too technical, but for the past five years he has become a fearless fighter that will stand and trade with opponents while using his technical skills to get the better of the action. These two sharing a ring is sure to provide fireworks.

The fight presents intriguing style contrasts that make it difficult to predict. One could easily argue the bigger, stronger, more physical Rios would be able to bulldoze Marquez and wear him down. If Juan Diaz had Marquez in trouble several years ago with relentless pressure, then surely the stronger Rios would be able to finish the job.

But not so fast. Marquez has proven time and time again that it is simply not that easy to run him over. Everyone thought for sure that Pacquiao would blow him out of the ring, yet there he was, the Mexican warrior-technician, standing his ground and delivering the pound-for-pound star a series of right hands. In fact, it would be easy to argue that Marquez’s superior skill, ring IQ, experience, and numerous other intangibles would allow him to easily pick apart the rudimentary Rios in an easy middle-rounds stoppage. Miguel Acosta had Rios hurt. Marquez might do far better and finish the job.

The scripts are endless and the result is uncertain. Youth vs. experience. Intelligence goes against strength. The old adage skill vs. will. Marquez’s brilliant counterpunching playing the immovable object while Rios’s pressure plays the irresistible force. Let them both win on Saturday. Then let them get it on July 14. A win-win for all involved, especially the fans.