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Pacquiao priority for Marquez
Lineal lightweight champ defeats Diaz; wants Pacman next

Story & photos by Chris Cozzone

“When he’s ready to knock on my door, I’m right here,” says lineal lightweight champion Juan Manual Marquez, of pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.

“There’s no hiding. No running. I’m waiting for him.”

Last night, in front of 8,300 people at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Marquez (51-5-1, 37 KOs) defeated Juan Diaz (35-4, 17 KOs) for the second time, to secure his reign as lightweight king.

With the Diaz chapter closed for good, the man Marquez wants next isn’t the No. 1 contender for one of his belts, Michael Katsidis, who called him out last night at the post-fight press conference. Nor was Marquez referring to Amir Khan, one of the 140-pound champions, against whom Marquez could become the first four-division world champ from Mexico. And he wasn’t acknowledging Robert Guerrero, who solidified himself a threat to all 135-140 pounders last night after defeating Joel Casamayor in one of the co-features.

“My priority has always been Manny Pacquiao,” said Marquez. “No ifs, ands or buts – I want to fight Pacquiao.

“That’s what boxing wants and what boxing needs.”

In 2004, Marquez fought a draw with Pacquiao. Four years later, in a fight many thought Marquez won, Pacquiao edged his way to a split decision. Now, Marquez wants one more chance.

“Everybody saw what happened in our first fights,” Marquez said, holding a bag of ice to his nearly-closed eye at the presser. “He needs to fight someone who can beat him, and I’m right here.”

“Right here” was also where Australian Michael Katsidis was, last night. Beating out reporters with questions, Katsidis stood up from the third row of seats and respectfully asked Marquez if he would be interested in fighting the mandatory challenger.

“If we want to defend my title with honor, than Katsidis is the No. 1 – I just want the best fights possible,” said Marquez with a non-committal reply.

Though several “Ghost” fans yelled out “Guerrero!” from the back of the room, reporters returned to name Pacquiao and Amir Khan as possibilities for Marquez’s next showdown.

“There’s a lot of possibilities in front of me,” said Marquez. “The doors are wide open – I have to look at what’s mandatory, the Pacquiao situation and making history.”

“Making history” would mean moving up to 140 pounds to fight Khan to become the first Mexican to win four titles in four weight divisions.

Marquez also talked about returning his defective WBA belt – the one he’d been given had five gems missing.

“Right now, first is first,” said Marquez. “I have to take it easy, put some ice on my face and enjoy the victory.”

Despite stating that Diaz had thumbed him in the fourth and eighth rounds, Marquez was all about respect for his gutsy opponent.

“Diaz came in with a different strategy but I was prepared for anything,” he said. “He pressed more in the first fight, and was thinking more, boxing more, in this one. I have nothing bad to say about Juan Diaz.

“I’m happy with my performance.”

The message for the night?

“Age doesn’t matter,” finished Marquez. “It was a tough fight, getting poked and Diaz changing his style, but I proved that when you prepare the way I do, age doesn’t matter.”

Ten minutes after Marquez left the room, Diaz arrived, wearing sunglasses that did not hide the welts on his face.

“Tonight was not my night,” Diaz stated the obvious. “But it has been a great honor to fight Juan Manuel Marquez, and to give the fans two great fights.

“I gave my all.”

Diaz said he had a bit of regret about not going to war with Marquez, like he’d done in the first fight, but said his strategy had been to box and outthink Marquez.

“When you prepare for two months one way, it’s hard to do something else,” said Diaz. “But it was a great fight – he’s a smart fighter.”

Diaz said he would consider his options, but next on his list, Oct. 7, is the LSAT exam for the aspiring attorney.

. . . .

Daniel Jacobs (20-1, 17 KOs) did not appear at the post-fight, but his knockout conqueror, newly-crowned WBO Middleweight Champion Dmitry Pirog (17-0, 14 KOs) was there soak up the congratulations.

“I thought maybe he would start running and fight defensively,” Pirog said of Jacobs. “But he stayed in there and fought with me – it was a great fight because of that.”

. . . .

Surviving a tenth round knockdown and dropping former mentor Joel Casamayor (37-5-1, 22 KOs) en route to a lopsided decision win, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 KOs) said he would return to lightweight.

“There are things I could’ve done better, but against a crafty guy like Casamayor, I stuck to my game plan and it worked,” said Guerrero.

“Hopefully I will get a fight with Marquez.”

Casamayor was not present at the presser.

. . . .

Both, Jorge Linares and Rocky Juarez, opened up the session.

“I gave a great performance but hurt my hand in the middle of the fight,” said Linares (29-1, 19 KOs), who dropped Juarez in round five, going on to win a lopsided decision.

“Rocky Juarez is a great fighter and he’ll be back stronger than ever.”

Juarez was, understandably, down.

“Tonight was a big opportunity for me, to put myself in line for a world title, but I blew it,” he said. “I didn’t fight the fight I trained for.

“What can I say? Jorge Linares fought a great, smart fight, boxing and moving . . . I will continue my career, until I win my world title, even if this takes me back a couple steps. There is no quit in me.”


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