“He’s not getting up Jim, he’s not getting up!”
Those were the words of Roy Jones with an iconic call on the December 8, 2012 HBO PPV telecast of Juan Manuel Marquez’s incredulous knockout of his biggest nemesis Manny Pacquiao. The historic knockout was the exclamation mark that cemented his standing as the 31st greatest fighter of the last 45 years.
Marquez’s career got off to an inauspicious start when he lost his first pro fight at the age of 19 in 1993. The Mexico City native, under the tutelage of one of the greatest boxing trainers of all-time, Nacho Beristain, rebounded to win his next 29 fights. This winning streak earned him the number one WBA ranking at 126 pounds and a shot at their champion Freddie Norwood. On September 11, 1999, Marquez completely dominated Norwood over the entire 12 rounds only to get fleeced by the judges. My father and I, who were huge fans of Norwood, were in complete shock after the decision was rendered. That night, my father predicted that Marquez would eventually become one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all-time. Unfortunately, my father passed away 11 months later. He didn’t live to see just how prophetic his prediction would become.
Marquez would win his next ten fights before securing his next featherweight world title fight. On February 1, 2003, the now 29-year-old Marquez battered multi-time 126-pound and fellow Mexican Manuel Medina in seven rounds to win the IBF version of the title. Exactly nine months later, Marquez would add the WBA 126 pound title to his ledger when he defeated Derrick Gainer via seventh round technical decision. In his next fight, he would defend that title against the hottest fighter in the sport at that time, Manny Pacquiao.
On the evening of May 8, 2004, Marquez stepped into the ring to defend his title against the Filipino whirlwind. Pacquiao was expected to continue on his mercurial rise since coming to America a few years before. The first round was exactly what people expected. Manny came out like a house on fire, knocking Marquez down three times before somehow the champion survived until the end of the round. Over the next few rounds, Marquez cleared his head and began to counter the aggressive Pacquiao with pinpoint right cross counters. The fight ended in a draw which showed just how great Marquez was in recovering from a seemingly insurmountable first round to capture a draw. That night Marquez proved to the boxing world that he was a great fighter in his own right.
After two more successful defenses of his featherweight titles, Marquez went to Indonesia on March 4, 2006 to fight their countryman Chris John. Marquez was thoroughly outboxed by the crafty Indonesian over 12 rounds in losing his WBA title (Marquez had abdicated his IBF title prior to the fight). The fight with John illustrated the type of fighter Marquez had extreme difficulty with; a slick, defensive fighter with great hand and foot speed.
A year later Marquez moved up to 130 pounds to challenge the WBC champion and fellow Mexican great Marco Antonio Barrera on March 17, 2007. In a tremendous action chess match, Marquez won a hard fought 12-round decision to become a two-division world champion. This reign, however, would be short lived.
Four years after their incredible first fight, Marquez and Pacquiao would square off in a rematch on March 15, 2008 for Marquez’s 130-pound crown. In another tremendous fight, it was Pacquiao knocking down Marquez in the third round that was the deciding factor in Pacquiao winning a split decision. That extra point for the knockdown kept the result from being another draw. Marquez, upset that he lost such a razor thin decision, couldn’t get an immediate rematch as Pacquiao decided to fight Oscar de la Hoya for the biggest payday of his career. With the Pacquiao immediate third fight a no go, Marquez moved up to 135 pounds and challenged The Ring lightweight champion Joel Casamayor.
On September 13, 2008, Marquez engaged in another tremendous action packed chess match. The southpaw Cuban Casamayor was the typical Cuban technician. The first six rounds of the fight saw Marquez befuddled by Casamayor’s technical gifts as a boxer. The second half of the fight saw Marquez, one of the greatest counterpunchers in boxing history, landing at will with his pristine counter right crosses. It was a counter right cross that finally knocked Casamayor down in the 11th round. Casamayor got up on wobbly and was knocked down again. When the Cuban great got up on even more unsteady legs, referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight. Marquez was now a three division champion.
Marquez followed up his title win against Casamayor by defending his title on February 28, 2009 against the rugged Juan Diaz in Diaz’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Throughout the entire first six rounds, Diaz jumped on Marquez and battered him with a fuselage of combinations to the body and head. I was shocked to see Marquez able to adjust and beginning in the seventh round, he had enough left to begin battering Diaz with his famed counter right crosses. In the ninth round, Marquez dropped Diaz with a sizzling right cross. The game Diaz got up but seconds later, Marquez landed a wicked right uppercut that put Diaz to sleep. Referee Rafael Ramos immediately stopped the fight and once again, Marquez had escaped an absolute war. Unable to once again get a third fight with Pacquiao, Marquez instead got his biggest payday moving up to 147 in his next fight versus Floyd Mayweather.
As great as Juan Manuel Marquez was, there was never a scenario in which he could’ve defeated Mayweather. Mayweather was all wrong for Marquez. Although Floyd at 5’8 was only an inch taller than the Mexican legend, physically he was much bigger, stronger and faster. On September 19, 2009, Mayweather put on an absolute boxing clinic against Marquez, winning every minute of every round in gaining a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision.
Marquez immediately went back down to 135 and successfully defended his title twice, including a rematch against Diaz. Marquez would finally receive the much sought after third fight against Pacquiao. It would be for Pacquiao’s WBO 147-pound title and a chance to not only win a fourth world title, but finally gain an official victory against his biggest rival. On November 12, 2011, Marquez put on what I believed was the greatest performance of his career. Unfortunately, once again, the Filipino great Pacquiao won, this time via majority decision. Both men decided right away that they need to fight a fourth time in order to decide once and for all who the superior fighter was.
Before Marquez and Pacquiao would fight a fourth time, they both took an interim fight in between. On April 14, 2012, Marquez defeated Serhiy Fedchenko to win his coveted fourth world title, the WBO 140-pound crown. Two months later, Pacquiao would lose his title in one of the worst decisions in boxing history to Timothy Bradley. Despite the highway robbery loss, the fourth fight would still be held on December 8, 2012. It was the most memorable fight of the four fight series.
As great as the first three fights were, the fourth and final fight between the two legends was easily the most action packed fight of the series. Marquez gave Manny hell because of his innate ability to counter Manny’s relentless southpaw style with his accurate and punishing right cross. Finally, Marquez knocked Manny down for the first time in their series with a crisp right cross in the third round. Manny was able to get up and survive the round. The fifth round was the single most scintillating round of the series. Pacquiao landed his signature left cross early in the round to score a flash knockdown. Marquez came roaring back and slugged it out with the Philippine legend for the rest of the round. Then came the iconic moment in the fight.
Round six saw Manny dominate for the entire round until right before the end of the round he walked into one of the greatest right crosses ever landed in boxing history. Marquez’s right was so accurate and potent that Manny was unconscious the second he was hit and fell face first to the canvas. Referee Kenny Bayless immediately stopped the fight as Pacquiao laid unconscious for several minutes. It was one of the most momentous knockouts in boxing history because of the rare occurrence of a legendary fighter like Manny getting put to sleep in that fashion.
Marquez would lose his next fight to Timothy Bradley for Bradley’s WBO 147-pound title on October 12, 2013. Marquez was now 40 years old and the years of being in so many wars showed in him losing very convincingly to Bradley over 12 rounds. After struggling to defeat Mike Alvarado the following May, Marquez disappeared from the sport before finally announcing his retirement in 2017, three years after his final fight. Marquez would retire with a record of 56-7-1 with 40 knockouts. Marquez throughout his illustrious career never once ducked anyone and fought any and everyone, not to mention his incredible one-punch knockout of Pacquiao. All the reason why he’s the 31st greatest fighter of the last 45 years.