Juan Manuel Marquez will go down as one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time. He will also be linked to Manny Pacquiao for their rivalry that lasted for eight years. Marquez will also be linked to Juan Diaz due to their legendary battle that happened ten years ago.
Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez, of Mexico City, Mexico had already won titles in two different weight classes (Featherweight and Super Featherweight). In March of 2008, he lost his WBC World Super Featherweight title to Manny Pacquiao in their second encounter by a close and controversial split decision. In hopes of landing a third fight with Pacquiao that same year, Top Rank (who was Pacquiao’s promoter) had other plans. Top Rank moved forward with Pacquiao moving up to lightweight and challenge for the WBC title which was held by David Diaz. Pacquiao would defeat David Diaz and Marquez decided to make more of a statement. Marquez moved up to lightweight as well and defeated Joel Casamayor for the Lineal Championship. Marquez would stop Casamayor in the 11th round in a tactical but entertaining battle. Marquez was still chasing Pacquiao but couldn’t secure the third fight, so Marquez pursued a different option. He decided to challenge the next best lightweight in the division.
Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz, of Houston, Texas, started his professional career in 2000 after a successful amateur career. From 2000 to 2004, he went from top prospect to top contender keeping a very busy fight schedule. Diaz was undefeated at 24-0 when he got his title shot against Lakva Sim for the WBA World Lightweight championship in 2004. Diaz would win a hard earned unanimous decision and win the title in front of his home crowd. Diaz would make five defenses of the title against solid competition. Then in 2007, he fought the WBO Lightweight Champion Acelino Freitas in a unification fight. It was a spectacular performance from Diaz, as he made Freitas quit after the eighth round. In another unification fight the same year, Diaz added the IBF belt by stopping Julio Diaz at the start of the 9th round. In 2008, Diaz had a rough start when he lost to Nate Campbell by split decision in Mexico. Diaz did come back with a win later in the year with a split decision win over Michael Katsidis.
The fight took place at Juan Diaz’s hometown in Houston, Texas at the Toyota Center and was televised on HBO’s Boxing after Dark series. The fight had all the ingredients of a slugfest, due to the styles of both fighters. Diaz brought an exciting style of nonstop aggression throwing a high volume of punches. Marquez was the effective counter puncher that threw in combinations but liked to brawl as well. Marquez was 35 years old coming into the fight with a record of 49-4-1, 36 KO’s. He was considered one of the best pound for pound fighters at that time and was the number one lightweight. Diaz was 25 years old coming into the fight with a record of 34-1, 17 KO’s. Diaz was considered the number two lightweight. The fight was for the Lineal Lightweight title which was held by Marquez, as well as, the vacant WBA and WBO titles which were up for grabs.
These were the questions going into the fight. Was Marquez biting off more that he can chew by fighting a younger, stronger, and a natural lightweight in Diaz? Would the experience of Marquez be too much for Diaz? We were going to find out.
As round one started, Diaz as expected went right after Marquez. Marquez was already landing some counter punches but Diaz put on a lot of pressure and was landing some good shots backing up Marquez. At the final seconds of the round, both men exchanged punches with Diaz landing a left hook followed by a right hand that backed up Marquez against the ropes. Both guys gave each other a hard stare at the end of the round. This was a good round for Diaz. In the second round, both fighters picked up where they started. Diaz was pushing back Marquez against the ropes with power shots while Marquez was doing his best to counter punch in the inside. Mid way in the round, Diaz landed a crushing left hook that staggered Marquez to the corner. Marquez fought back and both men started to exchange power shots. It was a close round, but Diaz seemed to edge him out. In the third round, the pace slowed down just a little bit from rounds 1-2. Diaz still full of energy was applying pressure, but Marquez was starting to land more effective counter punches. I believe Marquez did enough to win the round but it was close. In round four, the pace picked up furiously again. Diaz went forward and landed some very effective hook shots on Marquez. In return, Marquez was forced to fight back hard and he score some hard shots of his own. The round was close again but it seemed to favor Marquez. In round five, both fighters did some great work. Diaz fought well when he had Marquez against the ropes and Marquez was more effective in the middle of the ring. During the round, Marquez was starting to land good body shots which would eventually payoff later in the fight. At the end of the round, Diaz went full force landing a flurry of punches on Marquez to finish the round. A left hook that landed by Diaz caused a cut right above Marquez’s right eye. Also Marquez was bloodied in the nose too. Good round for Diaz.
Round six was more of the same, with both fighters going toe to toe. Marquez started to land more punches than Diaz but it was still a close round. Slight edge for Marquez in the round. Sensing that Marquez might be gassing out, Diaz came out with a lot of pressure in round seven. Both fighters went back and forth with furious exchanges once again. Diaz had a good round seven, but once again it was close. It was becoming a war of attrition, but who was going to slow down? At the start of round eight, Marquez landed a nice uppercut that created a cut over the right eye of Diaz. Marquez started landing vicious combinations with uppercuts and body shots. Diaz gave as much as he could but was wearing out. Towards the end of the round, Marquez landed a left which staggered Diaz. A brave Diaz hung in tough and he finished the round. Marquez made the adjustments he was looking for and was determined to finish the fight. As round nine started, Diaz gave it one last stand. Diaz full of heart was still coming forward and gave it all he had. In the final minute of the round, Marquez landed a right hand that hurt and dropped Diaz. Diaz got up at the count of four and he was going to go out on his shield. As Diaz came forward, Marquez landed a left hook to the body followed by a right uppercut that dropped Diaz on his back. The ref waved the fight off and Marquez was awarded the knockout in a classic battle.
Marquez moved up to welterweight to challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a welterweight showdown later in 2009 and was unsuccessful losing a unanimous decision. Diaz would move up to the super lightweight division and fight Paulie Malignaggi twice for the remainder of 2009. Diaz went 1-1 with Paulie in those fights. This would lead to a rematch between Marquez and Diaz in July of 2010 as both fighters went back down to lightweight. There was a lot of hype for the fight, but the fight ended up being one sided with Marquez winning a clear unanimous decision. After the rematch, Diaz would leave boxing for almost three years and come back in 2013. Diaz won seven straight fights and finished his career in 2016 with a final record of 42-4, 21 KO’s. Marquez would fight for another four years. In those four years he would win a title at super lightweight and knocked out the great Manny Pacquiao. He finished his career in 2014 with a record of 56-7-1, 40 KO’s and will be inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame most likely next year.
Back to the Marquez Vs Diaz fight. This fight had it all: action, excitement, and drama. Both fighters showed courage and heart. The fight was a brawl for the ages but the fight also showed a high skill level of fighting from both fighters. At the end, it was the experience of Marquez that won the fight and he showed why he is a legend in boxing. Diaz is also a winner in my book for bringing the fight to Marquez and never giving up. Diaz made Houston proud that day. Also the biggest winners of the fight were the fans who were treated to a special night.