By Lamar Sparkman
After a somewhat lackluster summer, the fall boxing schedule will heat up starting this weekend with the Showtime televised featherweight showdown between WBO Champion Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico against Mexico’s Rafael Marquez from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Marquez (39-5, 35 KOs) is coming of an impressive third round knock out of Israel Vasquez in May to go 2-2 in their four fight series that begin in 2007. Many discount his last win because Vazquez was clearly diminished from the previous fights between the two which were brutal. Lopez will arguably be his toughest test and he admitted it’s “the most important fight of my career” during a conference call this week. The perception is that Marquez at age 35 is past his prime and doesn’t have enough left to deal with the size and youthfulness of the 27 year old Lopez. He too hears the whispers but isn’t buying it, “I tell them that they’re wrong. As long as you take care of yourself, and as long as you prepare well fight, that shouldn’t be any problem…I think that age doesn’t matter.” He will have to draw from his vast ring experience to prove his point Saturday night.
Lopez is just as motivated for this fight, the former WBO super bantamweight champion and current featherweight champ has a perfect 29-0 record with 26 knockouts. Although he is well known in his native Puerto Rico and has a large following in New York with the Puerto Rican population he has yet to break out in America. “At this point in my career, I don’t think there’s a bigger fight I could be in…This is the one that takes me to the next level.” It could also propel him to bigger fights with the likes of undefeated
WBA and IBF featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa and WBA titleholder Chris John from Indonesia. Outside of a life and death struggle with Rogers Mtagwa last October in his last fight at super bantamweight he has had impressive performances from fairly decent opposition.
Marquez is an underdog in this fight and I couldn’t find one boxing scribe that’s predicting him to win and many feel it won’t go the distance. I think this will be more competitive than the odds would have you believe. Juan Ma is a talented fighter with impressive physical attributes for the weight but has shown flaws in past fights. He has a tendency to be overly aggressive at times which opens him up to be countered. He can be hit and has shown vulnerability which was exhibited in his last fight this past July when he was knocked down in the first round by Bernabe Concepcion before earning a TKO in the second round. Marquez has lapses in defense also but is a very smart technical fighter who will capitalize on Lopez’s mistakes so he will have to tighten up his defense and not go for an early knockout. I think if Lopez catches Marquez early with one of his quick right hooks he could finish him early but if the fight gets into the later rounds it will its either mans fight to win. I predict Lopez by 8th round stoppage or split decision but either way it will be good one while it lasts.
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