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fightnews.comMarquez, new king at lightweights
Houston, we have a problem: Marquez kayos Diaz in nine; John retains belt in draw with Juarez

Ringside by Byron Spurlock and Jose Reyes
Photos by Chris Cozzone - FightWireImages.com

Houston fans might not have been happy, but fight fans outside Texas witnessed a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate, and the best doubleheader televised in years, last night at the Toyota Center in Houston.

The bouts, televised on HBO and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, were witnessed by 14,571 fans who were rooting for hometown favorites Juan Diaz and Rocky Juarez.

In the main event, proving himself the new king of lightweights, Mexico City’s Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs) scored a spectacular ninth round knockout over former unified champ Diaz (34-2, 17 KOs) to claim the vacant WBA, WBO and IBO lightweight titles while retaining his Ring Magazine honors.

fightnews.comThe crowd was on the feet before the action even began as both fighters made their entrances to the ring. A visitor not knowing Diaz was from Houston would have mistaken that this was Marquez’s backyard just by the sheer eruption of the crowd chanting the name of their top Mexican fighter.

Diaz looked full of emotion as the opening bell rang, and he didn’t waste any time jumping on Marquez. Both fighters took their turns trading combinations back and forth with Diaz using his aggression to back Marquez against the ropes. Diaz finished off the round with a staredown of Marquez.

Fans didn’t have to wait long for the action to continue as it spilled into the second round, Diaz landing two early left hands back-to-back that sent Marquez against the ropes. Backed by chants of ‘DI-AZ! DI-AZ!’ the “Baby Bull” continued to charge at Marquez, pure youth and raw energy driving a punch output that had the veteran, for the most part, on the defense.

But as the third round opened, Marquez landed several thunderous right hands that, momentarily at least, worked to slow down the ever-forward Diaz.

fightnews.comMany ringside observers began to wonder if Diaz could continue this punching output; if he was going to be gassed by the time the later rounds came into play. Diaz, not known for his punching power, continued to trade punch for punch with Marquez but it appeared that the heavier-handed Mexican was now getting the best of those exchanges. Diaz’s aggression made the difference, though, and the action continued to go back and forth.

As the fight began to approach the middle rounds, the Houston crowd and,  perhaps, the boxing world, in general, might have felt that they could be witnessing the legendary fighter Marquez becoming just a bit slower for he was beginning to get outworked.

As the action continued into the fifth round, Diaz continued to pour out a sheer volume of punches against Marquez, sending him against the ropes.

Marquez began to bleed on the right side of his eye from a punch landed in the sixth round. Diaz knew that this was his time to step up his attack-if that was humanly possible. Cutting off the ring, Diaz continued his relentless attack to Marquez’s head and body. It looked like Marquez was trying to field off punches that were coming from every which direction.

fightnews.comBut as the fight progressed, instead of getting weaker by the “Baby Bull’s” charges, Marquez only got stronger.

In the seventh, he rattled off two sets of unanswered combinations to the head of Diaz. Warrior that he is, Diaz came right back, pinning Marquez up against the ropes—a familiar place for Marquez in the first half of the fight.

Both fighters showed cuts in the eighth, but it was a huge right from Marquez that signaled the turning of the fight. Diaz wobbled from a power shot. Seeing the younger fighter hurt, Marquez did not waste any time jumping on him. Diaz finished the round on shaky legs, somehow finding the strength to fight back when it appeared he could go down.

Marquez was all over Diaz in the ninth round, dropping him early with an accumulation of punches. Diaz made the count but Marquez continued his attack when the fight resumed, not letting him off the hook. Once again, Diaz went down, from a devastating left uppercut that stretched him out on the canvas at 2:40. –Byron Spurlock

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fightnews.comJohn survives scare in Houston

In a make-or-break fight and his fifth attempt at a world title, Houston’s Rocky Juarez (28-4-1, 20 KOs) challenged reigning WBA Featherweight Champion Chris “The Dragon” John (42-0-2, 22 KOs), of Indonesia, only to come out on the short end with a draw.

In his previous challenges, to Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez, Juarez had failed to clinch a belt. This time around, dropping down to featherweight from super featherweight, Juarez showed the stuff of champions, though he had to settle for a draw decision, all three judges scoring the bout even.

The first began as a tactical round with both combatants exchanging jabs to create openings. John landed crisp jabs using his distance and reach advantage over the shorter Juarez. It was close round to call but the edge had to be for the champion.

The tempo and rhythm of the fight picked up in the second round with the crowd chanting “ROCK-Y! ROCK-Y!”

Juarez obliged the crowd by applying relentless pressure on John, landing well-placed body shots. John attempted to land his own but was sidetracked by Referee Lawrence Cole who warned him for what he thought was a low blow.  In a round more decisive than the first, Juarez appeared to hold the upper hand.

In the beginning of the third, John landed some good combinations, then hold, thereafter employing a strategy to nullify Juarez’s pressure style of fighting. Juarez, undeterred, continued to pressure while attacking and landing a looping right. John, unfazed, caught Juarez with an uppercut coming in.

fightnews.comJuarez continued to press forward and make the fight as the energy in the arena gathered more momentum. At the end of the round, Juarez connected with a two-punch combination.

At the start of the fourth, Rocky, again, got caught coming in with straight rights and uppercuts that would start to swell his right eye. But just when it seemed that John had solved the puzzle, Rocky would land a right that revved up the crowd. The champion, however, shoed poise, and he continued his countering style, setting up punches and moving side-to-side from harm’s way. A one-two connect formula worked well for John as the fourth came to a close.

In the fifth, John was warned for hitting behind the head by Ref Cole. Jabs, one-two’s and the occasional clinches continued to work for the champ, keeping Juarez at bay and nullifying the Houstonian’s pressure.

Rocky landed a right hook that seemed to faze John, who returned with his own assault by way of an overhand right that opened up a cut on Juarez’s left eye. When the bell rang, Juarez’s cutman, Joe Chavez, went to work on the left eyebrow—a trouble spot in the past for Juarez, who’d undergone two surgeries already.

Chavez stopped the bleed and Juarez came out without a drop of blood. Fighting in close proximity, the two hit and clinched at one another. Toward mid-round, Juarez’s eye cut opened again. Spurred on, John landed an opportunistic overhand right on the back of Rocky’s head that dropped the former Olympian. ‘No knockdown’ was declared by the ref, who ruled it a push or slip. The bell ended with Juarez heading back to his corner showing a look of concern and discomfort.

fightnews.comAs the seventh round began, John was back on his bouncing toes with a look of confidence. Sensing victory within grasp, John put on a boxing clinic, connecting at apparent will and slipping Rocky’s punches while countering effectively. John displayed a great exhibition of head movement while using his distance with a snapping jab and straight rights galore that would start to back up Rocky. John had appeared to be on a three-consecutive round sweep.

Heart can not be measured outside of the ring and Rocky was showing his hometown crowd a full plate of what he was made of in the eighth round. This was, by far, was one of Rocky’s best rounds, and he backed up John to the ropes, connecting and wiping the smile off John’s face. Rocky let his hands go, sensing the fight had gotten away from him. The momentum now shifted back to Juarez.

In the ninth, Juarez returned the favor, opening up a cut on John’s left eyebrow, with a solid shot. Rocky was reenergized upon seeing the blood drip from his opponent’s face. Sensing the turn of tides, Rocky continued to apply relentless pressure with a true warrior’s mentality. John did not back down, however, and Juarez’s face started to show the evidence of a hard-fought battle, his cheekbones and eyes swollen. John landed effectively towards the middle and end of the round, possibly taking the round with his counterpunching.

The see-saw battle returned in the center of the ring for the tenth round as Rocky began the round backing up his opponent. His back to the ropes, John was on the receiving end of two- and three-punch combinations. Sticking and moving, John moved the fight to the center of the ring, landing flush, clean punches. At the end of the round, John seemed to be in control and his conditioning was a key factor going in to the championship rounds.

fightnews.comWith two rounds to win a world title, Juarez connected with a big straight right at the beginning of the 11th. But showing why he was unbeaten in 42 fights and 12 defenses, John displayed a rock-solid chin off of which Juarez’s punches ricocheted—until a big left hook to the body appeared to have the champ in trouble. Sensing that finally a dent was created in the armor of John, Juarez pressed the fight, finding more success closing the round with right hooks. The champion backpedaled, in apparent trouble as the bell rang.

The twelfth and final round saw Juarez pressing and John on his bicycle. Juarez landed—John continued to show a solid chin. With less than a minute left, the two exchanged heavily, with Juarez having the edge.

The elusive world title was not meant to be, for when the scores were announced, all three judges had it 114-114.

Fightnews had the fight scored for Juarez, 116-112 to 115-113, depending upon the writer.

“I started off late, I guess,” said Juarez. “I gave up the middle rounds. But I was able to box Chris John, regardless the fact that he was the boxer. I felt that I was able to outjab.

“He caught me with some good right hands and cut me. But the cut didn’t affect me. I knew the cut was deep and I just felt I wasn’t going to let the cut bother me. I was going to continue, to fight my heart out and win the belt.”

The defending champion John wore a smile from ear to ear at the postfight press conference, apparently satisfied with the draw.

Promoter Oscar De La Hoya brought up the possibility of a rematch, congratulating both fighters. – Jose Reyes

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Garcia goes distance with Favela

In an eight-round welterweight bout, Danny Garcia (11-0, 7 KOs) defeated Cristian Favela (15-18-6, 9 KOs) by unanimous decision.

Garcia pulled out what looked to be a tougher fight than he bargained for as he battled Favela for eight full rounds. Both fighters traded shots back and forth the entire fight with each fighter having his moments in the ring. The longer the fight continued, Favela, despite being the underdog in the match, looked to gain some hope of a puncher’s chance against the undefeated Garcia.

Garcia still managed to come out ahead, the cards reading 80-72 twice and 79-73 –Byron Spurlock

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Jacobs KOs Cruz 

Super middleweight Daniel Jacobs (14-0, 13 KOs) had absolutely no problem with Jose Cruz (12-16-3, 4 KOs), knocking him out at 2:59 of round one.

Jacobs made quick work of his opponent Cruz, overpowering the older, smaller fighter with power shots to the head and body. Jacobs unleashed punishing power shots that sent Cruz down to the canvas twice in the round with Cruz not wanting to get up from the second knockdown.

Referee Robert Gonzales tolled off a 10-count as Cruz sat on the canvas with a look of defeat. –Byron Spurlock

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Williams TKOs Partillo 

Lightweight Hylon Williams Jr. (8-0, 3 KOs) defeated late sub Edgar Partillo (3-1, 2 KOs) by TKO in round six.

The two undefeated fighters put on quite a show, but Williams’ slick, elusive boxing style and hand speed proved too much for the frustrated-but-determined Partillo. Alternating attacker and counter-puncher, Williams controlled the action in the ring the entire night. Amazingly, Williams made Partillo quit on the stool at the end of round five, even with coming into the fight with sore hands. –Byron Spurlock

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Charlo defeats Serrano

Junior middleweight Jermell Charlo (6-0, 3 KOs) defeated Juan Serrano (2-5-1, 2 KOs) by unanimous decision, with scores of 40-36 x 3.

In a workmanlike fashion, Charlo outboxed Serrano in each round of their four rounder. Once Charlo began to establish his jab, he clearly took command, putting his opponent in trouble while trying to avoid his straight lefts. –Byron Spurlock

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Vazquez upset

In the sole upset of the night, junior welterweight Hector Vasquez (1-1) lost by TKO at 2:55 of round one, to Ramon Flores (3-4-1).

The Texas native was rocked since the opening bell by Flores who landed clean hooks. Vazquez tasted the canvas twice in the first round. Unable to fully recover, Referee Bobby Gonzales stopped the bout. –Byron Spurlock

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Opening bouts

Jr. middleweight Michael Anderson (4-0-1, 2 KOs) defeated Oscar Rosales (4-4-1, 1 KO) by KO at 1:60 of round one.

In a four-round jr. welter bout, Darryl Hayes (1-0) won his pro debut against Gerardo Carillo (0-4-1) by unanimous decision. Scores were 40-36 twice and 39-37. –Byron Spurlock

Bonus photos

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2008 by Fightnews.com.