Thursday, February 26, 2009

HBO Preview: Juan Manuel Marquez vs Juan Diaz

This Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez defends the Lightweight Championship against plucky challenger, Juan Diaz. Since the fight was official, fans of both have been going back and forth on the outcome of this terrific match-up. The champion is favoured, but most think he's in for a taxing affair.

What's At Stake

For Marquez: The World's Lightweight Title. With Nate Campbell losing his belts at the scale, and moving up to the 140 pound division, there is no doubt who the lightweight champ is.

What is in doubt is Marquez' legacy. With his hall of fame credentials still in question, a victory over a respected young fighter like Diaz may put him over the edge. Some insist that he is overrated because he never actually won an official decision over Pacquiao. Those people will also remind you that Casamayor and Barrera had seen better days. Maybe he really is just a bad style match-up for the best in the world. Or maybe fighting Manny even, over 24 rounds, means he belongs at the top of the heap. We'll find out which side is right on Saturday.

For Diaz: This is a huge opportunity to wipe away the memory of what Campbell did to him. Really, with a win here, that fight becomes meaningless for anything other than the experience. As well as being able to pack the house with devoted fans, he'll be considered "the man" by all. If he pulls it off, his situation looks great next to Nate's, so a measure of revenge can be gained. Personally, I just want to see how the young man performs at boxing's highest level.

The Styles

Marquez is an offensive counter puncher. He stands in a classic, efficient stance that is the foundation for perhaps the most fundamentally perfect arsenal in boxing. His discipline in the ring is rivaled only by dedication he has shown to training throughout his many years as a professional fighter. What makes taking him especially scary, is his passion for winning. He's never been shy about trying to hurt the guy in front of him.

He's recognized as a quick, sharp puncher, who has stung everyone he's ever fought at one point or anther, though he's not thought of as a banger. Some think of him as a great defender, but I'm not sure that is the case. I see him setting up his attack, more than anything. Either way, he is definitely getting hit more these days.

Diaz is a hustling pressure fighter who keeps his chin tucked and his hands high. He's shown a belief in his jab, which allows him to get inside and do his best work. When you add his fighting heart and willingness to walk through fire, you've got a handy fighter, and a stern test for a 35 year old man.

Diaz' best attribute may be his combination punching. He is capable of bombarding opponents with salvos that make them more concerned with survival than winning. When winging shots up and down with a head of steam, he's a very difficult guy to deter.

What To Expect

First off, I think Diaz will be successful with his jab, and that says a lot, because that punch is the one that sets up his offense, and also goes far in dictating his comfort level. I've noticed that the Marquez brothers both eat quite a few jabs because of the way they set up, so I think it's a shot that the challenger can count on.

If he gets sucked into a jabbing contest though, he might be in trouble, because the champ depends on standing his ground and countering with short, stabbing blows. I think that's one area that could decide the fight. Marquez has the tighter technique, so I think he'll get there first with the harder punches. The fact that Diaz is always coming behind a high guard could mean he'll get beat to the punch quite often.

At his best, Juan Diaz wears guys down with his accelerated pace. I think his ability to win depends on breaking the older man down over 12 rounds. The only problem there is, Juan Manuel Marquez doesn't bend. In the past we've seen many examples of fun fighters throwing 100 punches a round, only to have that output brought down to something much more manageable by proven old pros.

I figure this pretty much HAS to be a close fight.