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September 1, 2014

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Boxing:

Spoiling for a good fight

Marquez camp wants to see Mayweather in top form

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Steve Marcus

Juan Manuel Marquez prepares to speak Wednesday at a news conference at the MGM Grand. The boxer, expected to weigh in at 143 pounds today, had to bulk up for Saturday’s fight.

One for the "Money"

Floyd Mayweather Jr. talks with the media as he prepares to come back to boxing for the first time in two years. Mayweather Jr. fights Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday, September 19th at the MGM Grand.

It Is a Family Reunion

After a nine-year estrangement, Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have reunited for Junior's September 19 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.

Mayweather, Marquez press conference

Floyd Mayweather Jr. stares down Juan Manuel Marquez during a press conference at the MGM Grand hotel Wednesday. Launch slideshow »
Marquez's trainer, Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, says the boxer has worked hard to retain his speed while bulking up to face Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Marquez's trainer, Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, says the boxer has worked hard to retain his speed while bulking up to face Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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If You Go

  • What: Mayweather-Marquez weigh-in, open to the public
  • When: 2:30 p.m. today (doors open at 1 p.m.)
  • Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • On the scales: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez; undercard fighters Chris John, Rocky Juarez, Michael Katsidis, Vicente Escobedo, Orlando Cruz, Cornelius Lock
  • Emcees: Comedian D.L. Hughley, radio personality Piolin

Boxing insiders who try to make a case for an upset victory by Juan Manuel Marquez in Saturday night’s showdown against Floyd Mayweather Jr. invariably point to Mayweather’s absence from the ring of nearly two years.

Mayweather might have to shake off some rust, particularly during the early rounds, as he readjusts to world-class boxing competition. Maybe Mayweather aged as a fighter during his temporary retirement and his stamina will fade late in the scheduled 12-rounder. Or maybe Mayweather’s timing, a crucial component of his game plan, will be off.

Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, Marquez’s trainer, hopes none of those contingencies come to pass.

Beristain desperately wants his fighter to test himself against the best Mayweather has to offer.

“I have actually prayed to God, and I hope that Mayweather comes into it in the best shape of his life,” Beristain said at the MGM Grand, where Mayweather and Marquez will square off in the main event of Saturday’s pay-per-view card. “Mayweather is a great athlete and he looks to be in tremendous shape.

“I would hate for any excuses to come out later and rob Juan of a great victory.”

Beristain, while expressing confidence in Marquez, was full of compliments for Mayweather. He said he considers Mayweather the best boxer in the sport, pound-for-pound. He said Mayweather’s athleticism places him on the level of someone who transcends his sport, the way Michael Jordan did in basketball.

A victory for Marquez will hinge on his ability to break through Mayweather’s defense, built around an unorthodox shoulder-rolling, backward-leaning, safety-first style.

“When we first came to the United States (from their native Mexico), we faced fighters with speed and different awkward styles,” Beristain said, speaking in the first-person plural form common among boxing trainers. “Obviously not to the level of Mayweather. He’s a gifted athlete, a unique athlete.

“If we can beat Mayweather in this fight, Juan will become a huge superstar, like (Manny) Pacquiao, like Oscar De La Hoya.”

Boxing fans have come to view the two big fights remaining in 2009 — Mayweather-Marquez and Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto in November — as a de facto four-man tournament, with the winners destined to meet.

Beristain said although he doesn’t like Pacquiao personally, it would make sense for Marquez to fight him a third time if both men win their next bout. Marquez and Pacquiao fought to a draw in 2004 and Pacquiao eked out a split-decision victory in a 2008 rematch.

As Beristain sees it, Pacquiao got lucky on the score cards in the second fight and has ducked Marquez’s overtures to make a third match.

“I don’t care for Pacquiao, but my fighter, I think so. I think he might have an interest in him,” Beristain said in dry understatement.

Pacquiao “has been prolonging this, putting up so many blocks and excuses and obstacles to make (a third) fight. He’s supposed to be a superstar. He’s not acting like one.”

Instead, Pacquiao has acted like a “beldad,” Beristain said in Spanish.

The term was almost lost in translation, until it was explained that in this context Beristain was likening Pacquiao to a pretty woman, possibly a female dancer or a ballerina. It was intended as a put-down, in other words, especially in the eyes of someone like Beristain, long immersed in the machismo of Mexican boxing.

Beristain expressed no worries about Marquez’s ability to move up in weight class for the Mayweather fight. Primarily a featherweight (126 pounds) and super featherweight (130) throughout his career, Marquez, 36, fought his past two bouts at lightweight (135). He is expected to weigh in at about 143 today at the MGM Grand.

“He’s gained all muscle mass,” said Beristain, who has worked with Marquez since the fighter was 14 years old. “He worked very hard in conjunction with me and the doctors and the nutritionists on the training team.

“It’s obvious that when a fighter gains weight, he’s going to lose speed. But the work that was done here, with the specialists, was to ensure that while you’re adding the muscle you’re also working on the speed, so as a result you don’t lose the speed.”

Beristain described Marquez’s mind-set as calm and confident on the eve of the fight.

“He knows of the great responsibility he has,” Beristain said, “but he is looking forward to it for himself and for his country.”

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