Looking for a Fight of the Year? Try Marquez-Diaz

Feb 24, 2009 5:04 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

Little doubt Saturday’s HBO main event from Houston will add to the list of sure things (like Fight of the Year) that come true: Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz.

It’s more than a matter of styles – the brilliant counter-puncher Marquez against the busy aggressor Diaz. These are two of the best talents in the game. Marquez, for my money, is just a hair behind Manny Pacquiao, his great rival, in the pound-for-pound standings.

Diaz was already in the Top 10 before suffering his first defeat to the wily Nate Campbell last fall by split decision (the scoring should not have been that close). I am more than willing to give Diaz a pass. However, I believe he is about to embark on a losing streak.

Even though the fight is in Diaz’s home town, Marquez is a solid favorite at something like 7-5 or 3-2 with the buyback rate around 6-5. I like Marquez a lot in this matchup. That’s no disrespect to Diaz, whom I believe would beat most other lightweights – especially now since Campbell is moving up to junior welter.

The one caveat is that Marquez is 35 and has been a pro since 1993. He is spotting 10 years to the energetic Diaz. But Marquez beat another ancient warrior, finally stopping Joel Casamayor in the 11th round after a fairly even tussle last September. His other 2008 appearance was the narrow loss to Pacquiao in their rematch.

Until seeing different, we should assume that the best fighter in Mexico is still at the top of his considerable game.

Campbell prevented Diaz from going into drive, backing up the young veteran much of the fight. Marquez will do things differently, loving for someone to move at him. If he can pretty much handle the aggression of Pacquiao, he should find Diaz a bit easier.

There’s another intriguing match on the HBO card, also featuring a Houston fighter. Rocky Juarez, who has so far been unable to get over the hump in two losses to Barrera and one each to Marquez and Humberto Soto, all in title bouts.

Juarez gets another chance at the mysterious and undefeated Chris John, The Dragon from Indonesia, who holds one of the alphabet featherweight championships. John is 42-0-1, but there are only two victims in his dossier that ring a bell – Derrick Gainer and, in 2006, Marquez.

John is only 29 and may now be making his move to go after some bigger bucks. But laying 3-1 on him is not my idea of a wise investment. Juarez is annoyingly passive in the ring, but does possess startling power in either hand. If I had to bet, I’d take +220 on the local hero.

There are two other televised fights on Friday night. Glen Johnson tries to avenge a horrendous decision, a 2003 draw with Daniel (yes, he’s one of Zab’s brothers) Judah in an ESPN2 contest from Hollywood, Florida.

The Road Warrior may be 40 and you may lay 8-1, but he seems rather safe. Johnson has been in with much better, like losing a decision last year to the 175-pound title-holder Chad Dawson and splitting a couple of fights with Antonio Tarver.

Also, Tomasz Adamek puts the cruiserweight title he won in an upset against Steve Cunningham on the line versus undefeated, but virtually untested, Johnathon Banks.

The Polish fighter will have the hometown advantage in Newark for this Showtime bout, but I can’t take 9-2 or something close to that on a guy who can’t spell his first name.