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Marquez vs. Bradley tonight in Vegas

DSC_6360(Photo credit: Steve Lopez) By Rachel Aylett: The big card of the weekend takes place at the Thomas & Mack Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday, 12 October 2013. The fascinating main event pits the last two fighters to have defeated Manny Pacquiao against each other in one of the major showdowns of the year. If anyone’s still counting, Bradley’s WBO welterweight title belt is on the line. In fact, Marquez is definitely counting, as victory here would make him the first Mexican boxer to win major championship belts in five different weight classes.

Looking first at Marquez one is led to wonder how much desire and drive he can have left now that he has exorcised the demon of Pacquiao from his system. For those who have been living on Mars, Marquez finally got a victory over Pacman at the fourth attempt when he knocked him out in the sixth round in December 2012. That was Marquez’s last appearance in the ring. The above-mentioned record attempt will at least give him some incentive to beat Bradley but, at 40 years of age, he must be nearing the end of his wonderful career.

Marquez has always been considered a master boxer who can dig a bit. However, in that last fight against Pacquiao he suddenly looked like he was carrying grenades in his fists. He floored Pacquiao heavily in the third round and then lowered the boom in the sixth round with a crunching short right which rendered Manny unconscious. Was this really Juan M. Marquez we were watching or a doppelganger?

In fact, a lot has changed about Marquez over the last couple of years. Prior to his third match with Pacquiao, he employed strength and conditioning coach Angel Hernandez who, it later transpired, was really Angel Heredia and had been involved in a scandal concerning athletes Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, amongst others, in which they were found to have taken performance enhancing drugs. It was an appearance on HBO’s 24/7 show prior to Pacquiao-Marquez III that brought Hernandez’s true identity to light. Whatever Hernandez has been doing with Marquez appears to have worked. I remember gasping when Marquez disrobed prior to his April 2012 fight with Ukrainian Sergey Fedchenko. The change in his physique and his new-found musculature was astonishing. Suddenly he looked like The Incredible Hulk. Well, for sure Pacquiao didn’t like him when he was angry in their last fight in December 2012 and suffered the consequence of his first knockout defeat for 13 years. The big question now is whether or not that was a one-off, or are we going to see the new, improved Marquez devastate Tim Bradley?

On that note and turning to Bradley, his last performance was also out of character with everything that had gone before. He was involved in one of the most exciting slugfests of this and many other years, when he just nicked a points decision over Ruslan Provodnikov in his last defence of the WBO belt in March. Bradley had gone into that fight predicting a knockout victory and certainly tried his hardest to produce the same. However, he was rocked to the core on at least five occasions in that fight by the Russian. It was very worrying for Bradley fans as, prior to that fight Provodnikov had boxed exclusively at light-welterweight and had been considered a heavy but certainly not a devastating puncher. However, on numerous occasions in the fight Bradley seemed just one punch away from a stunning knockout defeat. Indeed, he finally went to the canvas in the 12th and last round, which cut his lead on the final scorecards to just one point.

So, who’s going to win on Saturday? I think we can discount a knockout victory for Bradley, whose knockout percentage doesn’t cut it at top level. We also have to take into consideration the fact that Marquez has suffered numerous facial injuries in the past and if Bradley reverts to his close-in, head down style, we all know that he is a menace to his opponents’ facial features. Marquez will be aware of this and will have trained accordingly to counteract these tactics. A Bradley points win is not out of the question, after all he did outpoint Pacqiuao – didn’t he? Joking aside, I did have that fight somewhat closer than most people seemed to, as I thought Bradley nicked some rounds in the second half of the fight. However, this was not because of anything Bradley did but more due to to what Pacquiao failed to do. He failed to complete the job and eased off the pressure allowing Bradley into the fight.

In reality Marquez has the edge in all the main departments; he has more experience, he punches harder, he takes a punch better and, ultimately, he is more skillful than Bradley. Unless he seriously takes his eye off the ball therefore, he should win this fight. I go with Marquez on points in a gruelling fight, but it might be very close.

On the same card and generating almost as much interest as the main event, is the highly anticipated pro debut of double Olympic and double world amateur champion, Vasyl Lomachenko, from Ukraine. People who haven’t seen him yet will doubtless have read about his domination of the amateur game and how he is one of the finest amateur boxers in the history of the sport. Having followed Lomachenko for years I can testify that everything written about him is true and that fans are in for an absolute treat – not just tonight, but in the next few years, as we follow the Ukrainian’s pro career. He is up against a tough Mexican, Jose Ramirez, 25-3 (15), who is ranked no. 7 in the world by the WBO. This is a highly misleading ranking and contrastingly has him rated at no.47, which is about right. His only victory of note was in his last fight against Rey Beltran, an up and down Filipino featherweight, in April. Both fighters were down in that fight before Ramirez was awarded a split points decision over 12 rounds. Beltran has subsequently retired from the sport, which indicates that Ramirez caught him at the right time. Ramirez is very limited – when he attacks he comes forward winging wide punches leaving an unprotected head. Lomachenko will feast on this with his hard and fast counters. Ramirez does look tough though and I think Lomachenko will likely have to go the distance for a landslide points win, thus taking the first step in what is unlikely to be a long journey but rather a short hop to world championship honours.

Another fight of interest on the card pitches the first openly gay boxer, Orlando Cruz, of Puerto Rico, in with tough Mexican Orlando Salido, for the vacant WBO featherweight title. Salido used to hold this title and is a heavy favourite to take possession of it again. Cruz has to be given credit for what he has done for gay rights and, thankfully, he says that his coming out has gone down well in the boxing world and that he has not been vilified for it. Indeed, it may be that his fascinating back story has contributed in getting him this championship fight, as nothing he has done inside the ropes has earned it. He has only stepped up in class twice before and on both occasions, against Cornelius Lock and Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2009 and 2010, respectively, he was found wanting and stopped well inside the distance. Salido, on the other hand, has fought at top level since 2004 which makes him one of the most experienced fighters in the world at any weight. He is capable of poor performances, as when he struggled mightily to overcome Weng Haya in a non-title fight in December 2011, inexplicably being floored twice before finally overcoming his virtually unknown opponent and stopping him in the eighth round. Aside from this one anomaly though, he has shown himself to be a highly consistent performer and has to be favoured to reclaim his old title. Cruz will go down in history – it won’t be for anything he achieves in the ring though, but rather for his out of the ring crusading pronouncements.


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