It’s been almost two years since Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez stepped into a boxing ring and got paid for it. The last occasion in which that happened he put on a boxing clinic against a badly outmatched Mike Alvarado.
Marquez, who has seen plenty of hard battles in a career spanning almost 23 years, has been dealing with knee problems ever since the Alvarado fight, and even underwent surgery to try and sort them out. However, to this day he still doesn’t know whether he’ll ever step into a ring as a prizefighter again. But given that throughout all this time he has never completely shut the door to a possible comeback, we have to assume the competitive flame is still flickering in Marquez.
A few days ago fans received further proof that Dinamita’s desire to fight again remains alive and well, as the Mexican laid out a (somewhat vague) plan for a 2016 comeback, and even spoke about a possible big name opponent for the second half of the year. Several sources report Marquez’ team have communicated with the people of Miguel Cotto about staging a potentially very lucrative fight in September or October. But before that, Marquez would allow himself a tune-up around May, preferably in his native Mexico City, in an event that under the right circumstances could draw close to 100,000 people. Marquez’ standing as one of the best Mexican boxers to ever lace them up–a status validated in large part by his stunning KO win over nemesis Manny Pacquiao–firmly secures his drawing power among his countrymen.
Nonetheless, many obstacles clutter the road to Cotto vs Marquez, number one on the list being whether Dinamita’s aging body will allow him to even have a decent training camp for his tune up bout. That is to say nothing of his battered knee, which these days “sometimes makes a cracking sound, but doesn’t hurt,” according to Marquez himself. Even if Marquez finds a way–and the motivation–to put himself through two more tough training camps and to emerge victorious from the aforementioned tuneup, it remains to be seen whether a fight with Cotto is indeed as easy-to-make as Marquez makes it sound. Let’s not forget the Boricua has become increasingly demanding–a euphemism for “high-maintenance”–ever since signing up with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and is likely to ask not only for the lion’s share of the purse, but also for all kinds of concessions which Marquez may or may not be willing to grant.
It’s sad to admit of one of the best and most exciting fighters of this era, but at 42 years of age Marquez is old by any athlete’s standards, and particularly so for boxing, not for nothing called The Cruelest Sport. So other than the obvious financial incentive to stage a comeback, what exactly would Marquez’ motivation be for undergoing yet more arduous training, not to mention a potentially grueling battle against a man significantly bigger than himself?
That last point is worth exploring, especially in light of Marquez’ comments about another big-money fight that was announced recently. Of the lucrative Canelo vs Khan matchup announced just days ago, Marquez had this to say:
“It’s a contest in which the Mexican fighter will get a good advantage due to the weight. However, Khan can win with his mobility and speed–but there is a decent size difference in the weight, and Canelo can knock him out at any time.”
It’s obvious the counterpunching maestro has a fairly good read on Khan’s chances against the Mexican redhead: he will either find a way to box circles around Canelo, or he’ll get KTFO trying. This is consistent with Marquez’ work as fight analyst on ESPN Deportes, where his comments are usually rational, unbiased and on-point. All of which makes us wonder, why did Marquez and his legendary trainer Nacho Beristain land on Cotto as a potential opponent for Dinamita’s last hurrah? Surely they’ve noticed that Khan’s size disadvantage vis-a-vis Canelo is almost as bad as Marquez’ with respect to Cotto. Are Nacho and his pupil aware of something the rest of us are not?
Perhaps they believe Cotto would severely drain himself in coming back down to 147-pounds for the contest, a weight class in which he hasn’t competed since getting trashed by Manny Pacquiao in 2009. Or maybe they place enough faith in the work of their “strength and conditioning coach”, Angel Heredia, to believe Marquez could pull off the feat of defeating a former middleweight king. Or just maybe, Nacho’s and Juan Manuel’s self-confidence in their work ethic, boxing knowledge and vast experience is enough to make them believe they can earn victory against Cotto. Either way, the one thing that is clear is Marquez’ team was the one who came up with the idea for the Cotto clash, and the Boricua’s faction is so far taking the bait.
In some ways Marquez’ choice of Cotto as a (possible) last big fight echoes his countryman’s Erik Morales challenge of Marcos Maidana five years ago. Back then, most people believed Morales was in for a bad beating, and while “El Chino” did bust up “El Terrible”, Morales gave back almost as badly as he got that night, in the end heartbreakingly dropping a close majority decision that would’ve netted him a fourth world title in as many divisions. In the buildup to that fight, Morales told everyone willing to hear that he had discovered weaknesses in the Argentinean’s game, and that’s why he decided to take on such a dangerous puncher.
Perhaps Marquez and his trainer find themselves in a similar situation with respect to Cotto. While many would expect the bigger Puerto Rican—a strong puncher in his own right—to cause damage on an aged, much smaller, Marquez, perhaps the Mexican brain trust has a plan to neutralize Cotto’s weapons relying on nothing more than Marquez’ skills and ring nous. This in spite of the fact the Mexican would find himself at a physical disadvantage on every category that matters: Marquez would not only be smaller than Cotto on fight night, but also older and slower.
In the end, while #CottoMarquez won’t start trending anytime soon, its mere possibility tingles and titillates. This can’t come as a suprise, considering the Mexican and the Puerto Rican are two of the most exciting fighters of their era. Would fans be willing to overlook the apparently uneven playing field their fight would present in order to partake in one big final fight between two bona-fide warriors? If the response to Canelo vs Khan is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding yes.