For much of his 19-year professional career Juan Manuel Marquez had waged war against shadows. One of them was his own style, for his technical brilliance and ring savvy required a sharper eye and a more willing mindset than many fans were ready to bestow at the time. Add to that all the other issues that threatened to swallow him whole:
* In his pro debut, Marquez was disqualified in the first round for a butt-induced cut after a ringside physician – who Marquez later discovered had a piece of his opponent Javier Duran – recommended the stoppage.
* His inability to drag then-WBO featherweight titlist Naseem Hamed into the ring, even as a mandatory challenger for more than two years;
* His stumble against Freddie Norwood in his first world title shot, a fight in which he was favored to win;
* His less-than-scintillating performance in beating Orlando Salido on the Bernard Hopkins-Oscar de la Hoya pay-per-view undercard;
* His manager’s refusal to accept a $750,000 payday for a Manny Pacquiao rematch only to lose his belt to Chris John in Indonesia for $30,000;
* His losing battle to the more dynamic Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera for the hearts of Mexican fans.
Any one of these would have crushed a lesser fighter, but Marquez shrugged it all off and proceeded to make history. After the disappointing win over Salido, Marquez adopted a more fan-friendly style and ripped off victories against a gauntlet of high-quality opponents, picking up belts at 130 and 135 along the way. Along with the Klitschkos, Juan Manuel and his brother Rafael comprise the most successful brother act the sport has even known.
Marquez also was the oldest man ever to defend a lightweight title and if you believe his fans he owns three victories over Manny Pacquiao. His only decisive loss in the last six years came against Floyd Mayweather Jr., a very excusable defeat given Mayweather’s otherworldly boxing talents as well as “Money’s” refusal to scale the contracted weight of 144.
On Saturday, Marquez continues his chase toward a fourth divisional crown when he faces the 30-1 (13) Serhiy Fedchenko before his adoring fans in Mexico City. The fact that his fans can be described as “adoring” is a testament to the success Marquez earned during his inspirational late-career run, a run whose finish line is located in Canastota, New York. The reasons why will be detailed in the following paragraphs, which will chronicle one writer’s opinion of his 10 best performances.