Mayweather is giving Marquez too much credit

BY foxsports • September 19, 2009

A confession, before the prediction: on the eve of this keenly anticipated fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez, your correspondent finds himself unable to resist a couple of temptations. The first being scatological humor. The second, a pre-fight prophecy from our most favored trainer, Freddie Roach.

downlevel descriptionThis video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.

"I'm picking Mayweather to win," says Roach. "I make it a rule to always go with the guy who doesn't drink piss."

That would be Marquez, who gulped down a glass of his own on HBO's pre-fight reality show, "24/7." Marquez said something about urine as a great source of vital proteins, a remark to remind fans that pugilistic greatness confers no wisdom as a nutritionist, much less any common sense. Still, as pre-fight publicity, Marquez's choice of training beverage easily outdid Mayweather's standard tactic, which was to appear with that profane troupe calling itself the WWE. It was also proof, once again, that real life is stranger and infinitely more perverse than anything Vince McMahon's writers can script.

But back to the fight. Truth is, Freddie Roach isn't exactly going out on a limb. Nor am I, in endorsing his position. The sports books have Mayweather as about a 4-to-1 favorite, and it's not a wonder why.

The single presumption against Mayweather is his short-lived "retirement." He hasn't fought since December 8, 2007, when he knocked out Ricky Hatton with a devastatingly short hook in the eighth round. Other than that, he's bigger, stronger, faster and younger than Marquez, whom he will fight at a catch-weight of 144 pounds.

Mayweather, undefeated in 39 fights, is 32. He's been fighting at welterweight or higher — remember, he beat Oscar De La Hoya at 154 pounds — since 2005. At 72 inches, his reach exceeds Marquez's by almost half a foot. People talk about Marquez's skill with the jab, but five inches is a lot to make up for, especially against a fighter like Mayweather, universally regarded as the quicker of the two, with or without the layoff.

What I find more revealing, however, is Mayweather's uncharacteristic charity toward his opponent, as if he could even the natural, physical disparities between them with mere words.

Marquez is 36. But Mayweather quickly dismissed any age issue last month when I visited with him at his gym in Las Vegas. "We're both in our thirties," he said.

Sounds like you're building him up, I said.

"I don't have to build him up," said Mayweather. "His record speaks for itself."

His record? Marquez is 50-4-1, with great victories over fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Diaz, and a draw against Manny Pacquiao. But he's been a featherweight for almost his entire career, and didn't move up to lightweight (135 pounds) until last year.

In Marquez's defense — a curious case for Mayweather to make — Floyd cited the first fight between Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard. He's been banging that drum since, and it only fortifies my belief that he feels a need to build up the opponent, trying to make Marquez sound more dangerous than he is at this weight.

As it happened, Duran and Leonard first fought for the welterweight title in 1980. They were each 145 pounds. Duran, it is true, was best known as a great lightweight champion. But he had weighed between 151 3/4 and 141 1/4 in his eight previous fights.

What's more, he'd been fighting on and off at 140 pounds or more going back to 1975. And what happened? He won the first fight by decision, and famously quit five months later against Leonard in New Orleans. The "no mas" declaration was Duran's shameful way of acknowledging there was no way for him to solve an opponent who was a little bigger, a lot longer (eight inches in reach) and a lot faster. Maybe, if Duran had drunk his own ... nah ...

share story