SPORTS> North America
Marquez quietly confident against Mayweather
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-18 10:15

LAS VEGAS: While Floyd Mayweather Jr scorned their fight's promoter and his uncle Roger ripped every other boxing trainer in the world, Juan Manuel Marquez made the biggest statement of fight week so far when he took the podium on Wednesday and spoke in clear, confident English.

Marquez is a major underdog in Saturday's comeback fight for the unbeaten Mayweather, yet the longest odds of the Mexican three-division champion's career don't seem to shake his growing confidence, both in front of cameras and in the ring. Although Marquez is solidly bilingual, he has rarely used English in public until recently.

"I feel as good and happy as I can," Marquez said. "I always put forth the effort and now I see the reward. I don't want to be the Mexican No 1 fighter. I want to be the global No 1."

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With a huge payday awaiting him after the highest-profile bout of his career, Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs) might feel he has validation in a tumultuous career that has included frustrations and triumphs in almost equal numbers - most notably his failure to win two agonizingly close fights against Manny Pacquiao.

Marquez has spent much of his career with a chip on his shoulder from those bouts, which propelled him in strange directions. After famously turning down a $750,000 rematch for his 2004 draw against Pacquiao because he felt insulted, Marquez ended up traveling to Indonesia to fight for $30,000 against Chris John, who claimed Marquez's 126-pound (57-kilogram) title with a hometown decision.

Now, John is fighting on Marquez's undercard at the MGM Grand Garden.

"He's had some tremendous knockout fights and he's just beginning," Oscar De La Hoya said of the 36-year-old Marquez. "He's just getting started. We haven't even seen everything Juan Manuel Marquez is capable of doing and (Mayweather) is about to find out."

Although Marquez is widely respected, he's never even been considered Mexico's greatest active fighter until the past few years. Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera were quicker to fill the vacuum created by Julio Cesar Chavez's decline but Marquez has proved to be the best and most enduring of the trio.

"It doesn't bother me any more," Marquez said. "I don't worry about any of that any more. I've been behind Morales. I've been behind Barrera and now they're done. Now is my time."

Indeed, De La Hoya pointed out that Marquez isn't the prototypical Mexican warrior, willing to take three punches to deliver two before an early finish to a brutal career. Marquez is a skilled counterpuncher who can apply pressure when necessary but still has defensive skills that some of his contemporaries lacked.

Marquez got his biggest American exposure during the weeks leading up to the fight when he allowed HBO's cameras into every aspect of his training camp near Mexico City for the network's "24/7" series, which documented his unorthodox strength-training strategies - and his belief in urine recycling to restock his body with proteins and vitamins.

"I train very hard for each fight," Marquez said. "I don't like to drink. I don't like to smoke. I don't like to go to sleep late. And my style is different. I try not to get hit and I try to be smart about what I do."