Every once in a while, debates about the fight game turn to which fighters over the course of history are underrated and deserved more fanfare than they received during their career. The paradigm of this discussion is a fighter by the name of Juan Manuel Marquez.
The Road Marquez Took
Over the course of his career, other Mexican stars like Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, as well as another fighter who you may have heard of named Manny Pacquiao, have consistently overshadowed Marquez.
Marquez was always the odd man out. While Barrera, Morales and Pacquiao got prime time HBO fights on a regular basis, Marquez was forced to toil away in relative obscurity. In 1999, Marquez got his first world title shot, live on HBO against Freddie Norwood, at the age of 26, much later than he should have.
He was robbed in a fight that most people believe he won relatively easily.
But unlike what is the case with most elite fighters, there was no immediate rematch, no major TV dates and no shot at another belt. Marquez was forced to grind out victories for small paychecks, until finally getting another shot and winning his first world title in 2003 when he was nearly 30-years-old.
Marquez had to take the hard road to get to where he is. Absolutely nothing was given to him, he earned everything that he's ever won through hard work and persistence. He never gave up even when the going got tough, tougher than it should've been for a guy with his talent.
His Skills and Technical Brilliance
What furthers Marquez's greatness is that if you watch him, you'll quickly realize that he's a very special and unique fighter. Marquez is one of the more intelligent boxers to ever enter the ring. If you watch the expression on his face, as Jim Lampley said in the attached video, you can almost hear him thinking his way through the fight.
Marquez mixes up his combinations to the head and body perfectly, which is something that very few fighters can do. He's without a doubt one of the best combination punchers in the entire history of boxing, which is saying a lot.
Marquez is also one of the best counter-punchers to ever lace up the gloves. This is owed largely due to his intelligence. Watch literally any Marquez fight, and you'll see his ability to counter his opponents at will. His ability to pick them apart when they make technical mistakes is almost without rival, save for some of the other all-time greats.
So, now that Marquez's skill and overall technical brilliance have been established, why is he underrated?
He's Almost Never Lost a Fight
If you look at Marquez's boxing record, he's 54-6-1 with 39 KO's (via Boxrec.com). But if you go down his record, you can very easily make the argument that aside from his ill-advised trip up to welterweight to face Floyd Mayweather—a fight in which he was clearly not at his best, and was very slow due to not correctly putting on weight—that he's never lost a fight.
He sports three losses to Manny Pacquiao, all of which are universally considered 50/50 fights. For the record, I have it all even at 1-1-1. He also lost to Freddie Norwood, a fight in which he was blatantly robbed. And he lost to Indonesian great Chris John in John's hometown, in a fight that could've gone either way.
His only other defeat was by DQ in his pro debut, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one. Quick fun and interesting boxing fact, Marquez and his brother Rafael—both world champions—lost their professional debuts, which is very strange and rare.
Anyway, the question has to be asked, what if Marquez didn't get the short end of the stick all those times and got the benefit of the doubt? What if Marquez was 2-1 or 3-0 against Pacquiao, as he easily could, and some say should be?
Juan Manuel Marquez will probably never get the respect he fully deserves. When Manny Pacquiao retires, whatever number he is ranked all time, Marquez should be right up there with him.
Marquez is an elite all-time fighter, one of the best that's ever stepped foot inside the squared circle. Most casual fans don't view him that way, but it's the truth. He's been overshadowed for his entire career and it's probably too late for him to ever get a chance to have the limelight to himself.
But honestly, Marquez probably wouldn't want it any other way. He's been an underdog his whole career, but he's shown his greatness time after time.
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