By Michael Herron - In anticipation of the July 18th clash between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez, many boxing fans and sports writers have become transfixed with the number 147. Of course 147 refers to boxing’s welterweight division where Mayweather reigned as lineal champion before retiring unexpectedly in 2008. Considered the best pound-for-pound fighter when active, Mayweather returns to face #2 ranked Juan Manuel Marquez; at stake is not simply a win or loss but a claim for the pound-for-pound title and perhaps a chance to face the current best fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao.
Though the boxing world is energized for Mayweather’s return the agreed upon weight of 143-144 has dominated the headlines. Throughout many online boxing communities which include websites, forums, and message boards, Marquez supporters have made their displeasure with the weight agreement heard. They argue that Marquez is too small for 144, he is too short, never fought above lightweight, unproven at welter, or that his power would be diminished at the higher weight.. In addition, boxing writers like Ring Magazine’s Michael Rosenthal has focused on the weight issue in the aptly titled article “Marquez's Disadvantages Are Increasing.” In the report he states that the fight will in fact be held at 147 however that could simply be a misinterpretation. His reasoning is that the fight will be held at welterweight which has a 147 lb. limit, however even if the fight were held at 143-144 it would still be considered a welterweight fight. The match was originally announced at a catchweight below 147 and that is where it likely will remain.
Mayweather Jr ESPN Interview:
Amidst the concern for Marquez’s perceived disadvantages boxing media has lightly considered his overall skill and abilities. Marquez has often been described as a natural 130 lb. fighter yet he moved up to lightweight (135) and scored knockouts of former champions Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz, two of the best fighters in the sport. In contrast, he did not stop and even struggled with Rocky Juarez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Manny Pacquiao, fighters he fought at his so-called natural weight of 130 lbs. It can be argued, based on these two impressive wins, that Marquez actually has more power at the higher weights and will likely carry his power with him to welterweight. In general, writers and fans are shortchanging Marquez and they have readily offered weight as the culprit for his fan anticipated loss. Perhaps a simple answer would be that Mayweather is just that good. Weight advantages have never been the secret to his or Marquez’s success and it is doubtful that weight will be the determining factor in this fight. Skill, ability, heart, and determination will always be the real reasons a fighter succeeds and though both guys possess a ton of skill, ability, and determination, only Marquez has consistently shown his heart.
So why have fans, writers, and reporters raised so many objections to the weight agreement? Would it be different if Marquez was moving up to face a different opponent? What if he was fighting Manny Pacquiao at 140 or moving up to fight Oscar De La Hoya at 147? What if he was chosen to be Ricky Hatton’s final opponent or landed a fight with Miguel Cotto at 144? How would the argument change? A cynical view suggests that weight is only an issue because he is fighting Mayweather and as mentioned in my previous article there is a double standard when it comes to him. Versus any other opponent the higher weight would be acceptable because Marquez would be seen as having a better chance against a less-skilled fighter. The reality however is regardless of opponent, Marquez from this point onwards will move up in weight. There are no more big fights or better yet, no big money opportunities left at lightweight and if he wants to stay relevant he moves up. He is not alone, former lightweight champions Nate Campbell, Joan Guzman, and of course his arch rival Manny Pacquiao have already made the leap.
For a fighter, jumping divisions and competing at higher weights is a personal challenge and fans, writers, and reporters can not save them from their boxing destiny. Whether they succeed or fail is up to how well they prepare and execute the task at hand. There have been many instances were the smaller man has been victorious and even in cases where they were not it is hard to target a fight where a catchweight has come under as much fire as this match-up. Pacquiao-De La Hoya initially comes to mind but Oscar moving down to 147 was viewed as a neutralizer. In most cases however, there is not a sustained attack on the heavier fighter as there has been on Mayweather. Bernard Hopkins was not vilified for fighting middleweight opponents Winky Wright and later Kelly Pavlik at 170. No one is criticizing heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko for significantly outweighing cruiserweight David Haye. Also no media proponents seemed to have had a problem with Mayweather being outweighed by De La Hoya at 154. What the majority of these fights have in common is that it is often the smaller fighter who voluntarily moves up and issues a challenge to a larger foe; Juan Manuel Marquez is no exception.
There are many examples of overcoming the odds decorating boxing history but in the end this is why pound-for-pound champions are celebrated and distinguished above the average fighter. Marquez understands that defeating Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will make him an all-time great and fans, writers, and reporters fixed on weight should realize that you can not stop, change, or prevent boxing history; let Marquez determine his own fate. The weight is over.
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Article posted on 20.05.2009