COMMENTARY | Is Juan Manuel Marquez the best Mexican boxer of all time?
A few years ago, Marquez would never have even been in the discussion. However, his devastating knockout victory over arch-rival Manny Pacquiao tops off a string of late-career accomplishments that puts Marquez right near the top of the heap of the best Mexican boxers in history.
First, let's take a look at the career statistics and highlights for Marquez, before moving down to seven of the best Mexican fighters in history for comparison.
Juan Manuel Marquez: 55-6-1, 40 knockouts, *still active
Marquez has been a titleholder in four weight divisions, including his interim WBO Junior Welterweight title win from earlier this year against Sergiy Fedchenko. Has a 12-4-1 record in title fights across those divisions, with losses coming to an undefeated Freddie Norwood, an undefeated Chris John in Indonesia, and two controversial decisions to Manny Pacquiao. Other losses include a disqualification in his first career fight, and a decision to Floyd Mayweather. Has never been stopped.
Crushing knockout win over Manny Pacquiao finally caps off career. Other highlights include his late-career stint at Lightweight, with two dominant wins against Juan Diaz, and another defense against Michael Katsidis, and wins against Marco Antonio Barrera, Orlando Salido, Terdsak Kokietgym, Derrick Gainer and Manuel Medina, in his time at 126 and 130 pounds.
Julio Cesar Chavez: 107-6-2, 86 knockouts
One of the most accomplished fighters in history, with an astonishing 31-4-2 record in title fights. Three division champion with wins over Meldrick Taylor, Hector Camacho, Jose Luis Ramirez, Rocky Lockridge, Ruben Castillo, Roger Mayweather, Edwin Rosario, Juan Laporte and Greg Haugen. Draw against Pernell Whitaker regarded rightfully as a loss. One of the best body punchers and fiercest attackers in the sport's history. Late career losses piled up, going 8-4-1 in final 13 fights after amazing 99-2-1 stretch to begin his career.
Salvador Sanchez: 44-1-1, 32 knockouts
Spectacular resume in a tragically short career after being killed in car crash at the age of 23, just weeks after defeating undefeated future Hall of Fame fighter Azumah Nelson via stoppage. Other wins include a stoppage of an undefeated Wilfredo Gomez, another Hall of Famer, two victories over Danny "Little Red" Lopez, and decisions over Ruben Castillo and Juan Laporte. Undefeated 10-0 record in title fights in two and a half years. Potential left unfulfilled, but resume already amazing in that brief period of time.
Ricardo Lopez: 51-0-1, 38 knockouts
One of the very few champions to retire undefeated with his title still around his waist. Never got as much attention as he deserved, fighting at Strawweight - the 105 pound division -- while defending his title an astonishing 22 times. Won a championship at Junior Flyweight before finishing his career. Great combination of toughness, skill and power.
Ruben Olivares: 89-13-3, 79 knockouts
Two-division champion with true concussive power. Holds victories over Jose Luis Ramirez, Bobby Chacon, Alan Rudkin, Jose Medel, Jesus Pimentel, Chuco Castillo and Lionel Rose, amongst others. Began career undefeated in first 57 fights before late-career skid and ill-advised comebacks led to a 20-12-2 mark in his final 34 fights.
Carlos Zarate: 66-4, 63 knockouts
Longtime Bantamweight champion during the late '70s. Only one of his losses came at natural weight -- and that's a highly disputed Split Decision to Lupe Pintor which led to a 7-year retirement -- the other three in title challenges against great Super Bantamweight fighters. Sensational power, winning by knockout in 90% of the fights he competed in.
Erik Morales: 52-9, 36 knockouts, *still active
Absolutely dominant as a Super Bantamweight, with knockout victories over Daniel Zaragoza, Junior Jones, Angel Chacon and others amidst nine title defenses. Lost his trilogy to hated rival Marco Antonio Barrera. Holds other wins over Wayne McCullough, Kevin Kelley, Paulie Ayala and Jesus Chavez. Was last man to defeat Manny Pacquiao prior to Pacquiao's controversial loss to Timothy Bradley, and subsequent knockout loss against Marquez. A 5-8 record at the end of his career, including his latest comeback in the Junior Welterweight division. Technically a four-division champion, although, like Marquez, his title at 140 pounds is somewhat dubious.
Marco Antonio Barrera: 67-7, 44 knockouts
Three division champ has the edge over arch-rival Morales in their fantastic trilogy. Best as a fast and fierce Super Bantamweight, where he defeated Kennedy McKinney, Daniel Jimenez, Agapito Sanchez and others. Besides the wins over Morales, career-highlight is thumping the unbeaten Naseem Hamed. Was the unfortunate sacrifice to the altar of the still-unknown Manny Pacquiao in 2003.
So is Marquez the best Mexican boxer in history?
The late-career victories and championships for Marquez have vaulted him from a top 10-15 all-time Mexican fighter, into certainly the top five, and perhaps the top three. He passes Olivares and Zarate, as well as Salvador Sanchez, who was never offered the chance to continue fighting past the age of 23. However, falls short of the extended dominance and tour de force careers of Lopez and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Never had the early stretch of excellence and string of title defenses that defined El Terrible and the Baby Faced Assassin; however, held up in a vastly superior way before all was said and done. After being out-shined for so many years by the Morales-Barrera tandem at the end of their careers, Marquez holds a higher position than both men.
Sources: Fighter records and statistics from Boxrec.com
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.