By Lee Payton
Photo © Marty Rosengarten / Ringsidephotos.com
Saturday night's HBO PPV main-event between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez is only 72 hours away, and while the match-up may not have captured the imagination of the average sports fan, just about every hard core boxing fan I've spoken to is pumped for it. For me, this is as good as it gets and I can't wait to see how these two ring marvels play off of each other.
I've broken down the preview down into 10 questions surrounding the match-up. Let's get to it...
1. What effect will Mayweather's retirement have on his performance?
This is the most obvious question heading into the fight. In the past we've seen top fighters have trouble finding their old form after a year or more out of the ring, but I think Floyd is a special case because he is obviously a gifted athlete, a boxing natural and a very hard worker. This is no couch potato. He's not a big drinker or smoker, and just seems to be a hyperactive person. If there is any surface rust maybe it might show in his defensive timing, but it should come together once he's lathered up. I don't think it's as big a deal for him as it would be for other fighters.
2. What does the weight mean for both fighters?
Mayweather should be able to make the weight with ease. When he was active, he was one of a very tiny group of fighters who don't dehydrate to make an unnatural number. Welterweight was no sweat, so you have to assume that making 144 will be easy as well. He'll probably skip breakfast on the day of the weigh-in and that's about it.
Marquez is a bigger mystery. My thinking on this subject is a bit unconventional so bare with me. I actually think he'll be fine at 144, as long as he hasn't overdone it, pumping iron, trying to bulk up artificially. From what I have seen and read, they did it the right way- eating right, but upping the calorie intake and doing some resistance exercises for strength.
When achieving the best results of his career, JMM has been 140 lbs in the ring, so another 4 lbs isn't huge. Being able to eat like a normal person who doesn't have to make weight should make him stronger in a natural way, and it's not enough of a gain to seriously mess with his quickness. Not having to dry out will be a welcome change for his 36 year old body.
People say that the move up to welter will be too much for Marquez, and I would agree... if he was fighting Mosley, Clottey, Cotto, Berto... all of whom have come into the ring as middleweights. He's not fighting a guy that size though. No one knows for sure yet, but I'd bet that the difference in weight will be around 5 lbs once they step into the ring. That's not insurmountable.
3. Is Marquez the best fighter Floyd have ever fought?
Yes. There is no doubt about that. I'll take it a step further...
I would confidently pick Marquez to beat anyone Mayweather has bested at 140 or 147.
4. What role will the crowd play?
You don't hear a lot about this, but it could be a meaningful variable in the fight. In this case you have two patient fighters who are extremely comfortable working at a 40 punch per round pace. In close, slowish rounds the pro-Marquez crowd may just make enough noise that the judges have a hard time taking it away from the Mexican warrior. Especially if it looks like he is the one trying to land the harder punches. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened in a big fight. JMM's promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, knows all about it.
5. Who holds the mental edge?
Call me crazy, and I'm sure many will think that this stuff means nothing inside the ropes, but I think Marquez has the advantage here.
Let me start off with a question? Can you picture Juan Manuel Marquez crying at a press conference because people were being mean to him?
Exactly. If you don't know why I posed that question, it's because Floyd did just that when the writers were less than impressed with how he handled Carlos Baldomir in 2006.
Personally, I don't have any doubt who the more secure man is. Marquez doesn't have to surround himself with other men to pump his ego. He doesn't have to buy flashy crap to feel validated. And he's never been afraid to take on any challenge.
As for the boxing stuff, Mayweather has a habit of retiring after just about every fight. There must be something about boxing that he doesn't like. I think he fears losing more than anything in the world. Losing his O would turn his world upside down and he knows that the danger grows each time out. There's a lot of baggage there when compared to Marquez who has officially lost, but probably feels like he's undefeated. He has nothing to lose. The pressure is all on Floyd.
Speaking of pressure...
There are rumors that his finances aren't in fantastic order, which is why he's come back in the first place. Apparently the IRS is looking for their cut of his next payday. That pesky investigation involving his ride and bullets fired is also probably lingering somewhere in the back of his mind if he did play a part in the whole thing.
If you want to talk strictly about ring IQ, JMM compares favourably there as well. We know for a fact how he handles adversity and extreme pressure. We can't say the same about his opponent, can we?
6. Is Marquez too old?
It seems like we have been waiting for the 36 yeard old fighter to act his age for awhile now, doesn't it? As far back as the Chris John fight fans have been saying that his legs are going and he's lost his speed, and yet he's somehow managed to go on this impressive late run. Those fans have a bit of a point though. He's not as fresh as he once was. There's no denying that. However, he might be a better fighter now than he was when he was supposed to be enjoying his prime because of his vast experience and grit. I'm sure that in his mind, old JMM beats the crap out of young JMM. This is his biggest moment. He'll be 100%
7. Why are the odds so heavily in Mayweather's favor?
Because he is seen by many as a much larger man. It's not the case, but officially he's 12 lbs bigger, and that can mean a lot in boxing. Another reason is that no one has ever seen Floyd lose. Many people don't believe something is possible until they see it with their own eyes. Well, I saw him lose the first Castillo fight, but apparently it has to be on paper for it to mean anything. They've also never seen him in a war. Marquez appears to be the more vulnerable fighter because he sticks his nose in there, but also because he's fought better fighters. That skews things. When did Mayweather prove he was a better fighter than Marquez though?
8. Will it end in a KO or a decision?
This is an easy one for me. I think this fight is a lock to go 12 rounds. I'm not saying they can't and/or won't hurt each other, but finishing the job is quite another matter. Neither man has been stopped before, and it says here that if JMM can stand up to Manny Pacquiao's offense for 24 rounds, he can handle Floyd's for 12.
9. Is the PPV worth buying?
Absolutely. The main event sells itself, and for once there is a very solid undercard. It's a high quality night of boxing from top to bottom. If you don't want to throw down the cash, get some buddies together. There should be something for everyone.
10. What is the single most significant advantage each fighter carries into the ring?
For Mayweather, it's defense. He's a master of "don't get hit". Marquez had better be ready to whiff way more than usual.
For Marquez it's his natural combination counter punching. You just don't see guys counter in 3's and 4's like he does. It's hard to prepare for a patiently aggressive power counterpuncher who isn't looking for the single shot.
That's my best effort at providing answers for some of the questions surrounding this very intriguing fight. Tune in this Saturday night to see how it all plays out, and if you can't watch live, make sure to check out our round by round blog which will include coverage of the under-card bouts as well.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
By Lee Payton