LAS VEGAS — Working as a reporter earlier this week, Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. conducted interviews with Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in advance of their WBO welterweight title bout on Saturday at Thomas & Mack Center on HBO Pay Per View.
Calling Chavez his “idol,” Marquez said his 51-year-old countryman expressed support for him in his quest to dethrone Bradley, a feat that would make Marquez the first Mexican to win world titles in five divisions.
“The greatest Mexican fighter ever. I respect him a lot. He’s my idol. Just talking to him, you know, he throws me a little tidbit,” said Marquez of Chavez, who retired with an overall career mark of 107-6-2, with 86 knockouts, and was 89-0-1 before losing his first bout.
“I’m always listening to see what he’s got in there and what he’s thinking about. It’s been great. Just talking to him a little bit about this fight. He keeps telling me that he’s right behind me, and that he’s here to cheer me on. That’s great, to have someone of that stature to be telling me, you know, that he’s with me. Those are just the kind words that he’s given me. They’ve been very nice.”
Having turned 40 in August, Marquez (55-6-1, 40 knockouts) will no doubt use Chavez as motivation, if not, inspiration against Bradley, an athletic 30-year-old with a mark of 30-0 that includes 12 knockouts.
Bradley rose from a 12th-round knockdown to secure a unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov during a defense in March of the belt he won by disputed split-decision over Manny Pacquiao in June. Marauez, meanwhile, was last in the ring for December’s sixth-round stoppage of Pacquiao, against whom he is 1-2-1.
Bradley endured criticism for his narrow victory over Pacquiao, which Marquez agreed was a razor-thin fight, even thoug
h he sided with Pacquiao.
“I thought that it was a close fight, Bradley and Pacquiao, but I thought Pacquiao won by a couple of points. But you can’t do the judges’ job,” said Marquez, himself a critic of officials for his first three bouts against Pacquiao. “They have to do their job right. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Feeling he had something to prove, Bradley elected to engage Provodnikov more than he did Pacquiao, nearly to his own detriment. Bradley’s decision earned Marquez’s respect.
“To me, Bradley should be proud of that fight. He showed a lot of heart. Most guys would have been done with that fight. He was getting hit a lot, but he was there. I think that he won the fight. Not only was he in trouble in the fight, but he came out and he won the fight,” said Marquez.
“I’d be proud of that fight, too. I’d be talking about it, too, because it’s not every day that you get into a ring and come out victorious after that kind of a fight… I thought both fights with Pacquiao and Provodnikov left him with a lot of experience that he didn’t have before, and that’s good for him.”
Should Bradley wage war with Marquez, however, the Mexican counterpuncher said that would be to his advantage.
“Yeah, for me, that would be great. That’s the way I want him to fight me. I know what to do with a guy coming at me,” said Marquez. “But I don’t see him doing that. I see him moving and sticking and doing different things. But, yeah, I love a brawl I would love a brawl.”
Unlike Provodnikov, Marquez won’t let Bradley off the hook if he gets the younger man in trouble, perhaps bringing him closer to achieving Chavez’s legendary status.
“I think that Provodnikov got tired. I think that he could have finished him, but he got tired, from the early rounds. I think that he tried really hard,” said Marquez. “But Bradley’s a great fighter. He was coming back and he was taking everything. The way that I see it, if I can get him in trouble, I think I can finish him.”
So convincing was Marquez’s stoppage of Pacquiao, that he saw no need for a fifth fight. Would Marquez, similarly walk away from boxing should he emphatically defeat Bradley?
“You know, I don’t know. I’m thinking about this fight, but once the fight is over, you know, maybe it is time to go. But maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. We’ll have to decide afterward. Not right now. I’m not thinking about that,” said Marquez.
“I’ve been at this for 21 years, so, of course, retirement creeps into your head, you know, once in a while, thinking about, you know, ‘is this it?,’ and, ‘what’s going to happen next?’ I know that I’m near the end. That, I know. How close to the end? I don’t know. But I know that it’s coming.”
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com