Juan Manuel Marquez has long been one of boxing's finest fighters. The problem has been, until recently, much of the world didn't realize it.
Rich Marotta, the outstanding Los Angeles-based television and radio boxing analyst, was touting Marquez as one of the world's top 10 fighters as far back as 1999.
Marquez, No. 5 in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10, has himself to blame in large part for that problem. Along with his trainer/manager Nacho Beristain, he's made questionable business decisions that have impacted his recognition.
But if he successfully retains his WBC super featherweight title on Nov. 3 in Tucson, Ariz., on a Showtime-televised card against Rocky Juarez, he'll once again be on the precipice.
He'll become the front-runner for a bout against Manny Pacquiao – No. 2 on the Yahoo! Sports list – should he dispatch Juarez.
It's the same position he was in in 2004 after a scintillating draw with Pacquiao in Las Vegas. Pacquiao had Marquez down three times in the first, but Marquez fought on and earned a split draw in one of that year's finest fights.
But when a rematch was offered, Marquez, acting upon Beristain's advice, declined. Pacquiao then went on to extraordinary heights by facing a much higher profile Erik Morales instead, while Marquez toiled in anonymity.
After lifting the WBC belt from Marco Antonio Barrera in March, though, Marquez is back to where he was more than three years ago. He's on the precipice of a big-money showdown with Pacquiao.
But he says he doesn't feel pressure to do anything out of the ordinary against Juarez. "Obviously, I'd just like to tell you that I would like to have a spectacular win or a knockout," Marquez said. "I'm motivated right now because I'm going to fight an opponent who is a great fighter with a great name. That is what's going to make a great fight.
"I cannot tell you how it's going to end up, but, obviously, I'd like to have a spectacular knockout. Rocky Juarez is not the type of fighter who will allow you to get a knockout in any round or something. It's going to be a great fight. I hope I win in a spectacular way. I know that I need to win, and I'm going to win. I am going to win."
The fight was supposed to have happened on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas. It had to be canceled, though, when Marquez cut his right hand and it became infected.
He said it is no problem but has given him a side benefit.
"I was trying to master my left hand like many good boxers have," Marquez said. "(If) you have a great, great left hand and you are right-handed, that's how you impress people. That's what I was trying to do. Now that I'm boxing and using my two hands, I feel great. I feel nothing is affected."
Andre Ward was the only American boxer who won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. But Ward has been under a much lower profile as a pro than previous gold medal winners such as Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Now a super middleweight, the unbeaten Ward (13-0, 8 KOs) will meet Roger Cantrell on Showtime on Nov. 16 in St. Lucia.
David Reid, who in 1996 won gold in the Atlanta Olympics, won a world title in his 12th pro fight.
Ward's promoter, Dan Goossen, concedes that winning a gold medal doesn't have the impact now that it did as recently as 1992, but said he's pleased with Ward's progress.
"You have to take each fighter individually and the pace Andre has been at has been correct for him," said Goossen, who promoted Reid when Reid turned pro and led him to the title. "Andre was out for nine months with an injury, but other than that, he's had steady progress.
"David's situation was different in that he had the problem with his eye and we knew we had to move quickly with him. The urgency to move Andre like that isn't there. We just want to advance him when he's ready."
The bout with the unbeaten Cantrell will be Ward's fourth at super middleweight, which Goossen thinks is the correct weight. Though Ward didn't have problems making the 160-pound middleweight limit, he was drained enough by the weight cut that he wasn't as strong as he should be.
Ward, 23, has scored three knockouts in his three bouts as a super middleweight and was the most impressive he's been as a pro in his last outing, when he stopped Francisco Diaz on July 14 in the third round in Carson, Calif.
"Down the road, it's inevitable he'll be a light heavyweight, but he's a super middleweight now and I think you'll see him develop into an excellent one," Goossen said. "Andre has all the things you look for in a kid you think can develop into a champion."
If Ward gets past Cantrell, Goossen said he'll fight on the undercard of the WBO-IBF welterweight title unification bout between Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron on HBO on Feb. 2.
Former heavyweight champion James Toney is serving out the remaining days of a steroid suspension that ends Nov. 17.
Toney was suspended for six months by the California Athletic Commission after testing positive for boldenone and stanozolol following a May victory over Danny Batchelder. Toney was originally suspended for a year, but had his penalty reduced upon appeal.
Goossen said he wants to get Toney back into the ring in either December or January.
"We just need to keep James busy and James wants to stay busy," Goossen said. "And if he's active, it will be easier to get him a big fight. That's what we want."
Joe Calzaghe has a score to settle with Mikkel Kessler when they meet for the super middleweight championship on Nov. 3 in Cardiff, Wales.
But Kessler gave Calzaghe a little extra motivation if fighting for the WBA, WBC and WBO belts isn't enough.
Kessler's promoters, the father-daughter tandem of Mogens and Bettina Palle, have been declining most interview requests for Kessler. Kessler failed to appear on a conference call last week with Calzaghe and then failed to follow through on scheduled telephone interviews with numerous reporters.
Calzaghe, who has been exceptionally gracious with his time, is angered by Kessler's reticence to promote the fight. And Kessler's team has raised the ire of HBO Sports officials, who went to great lengths and expense to land the fight.
"I just hope he shows up next week and takes his medicine like a man," Calzaghe said in a statement. "Every reporter who interviews me tells me the same thing, they can't reach Kessler. Is he in training camp or a witness protection program? I expect Kessler to be elusive when we meet inside the ring, but what the hell is he hiding from now? Even a groundhog pops his head out of his burrow occasionally. He's boxing's version of 'Where's Waldo?' Poor Mikkel, on Nov. 3, he'll have nowhere to hide."
Kessler did a brief telephone interview with Yahoo! Sports on Thursday and laughed at the suggestion he may be dodging Calzaghe.
"I've done my job, what I've been asked to do," he said. "But this isn't about talking. It's about two champions getting in and deciding who's the best. And I have worked hard so that I can get ready to prove that."
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Manny Pacquiao