After knocking out Manny Pacquiao with one of the greatest counter shots in boxing history, Juan Manuel Marquez said definitively he was done with his longtime adversary.
That victory, in their fourth bout, came 13 months after what he felt was a clear win over Pacquiao in their third match.
Nothing left to prove, Marquez said repeatedly when asked about fighting Pacquiao a fifth time.
But now, Pacquiao holds the WBO welterweight title that Marquez believed he had won from the Filipino superstar in their third match. And well, Marquez is equivocating a lot more.
He's not too interested in discussing Pacquiao now because he faces Mike Alvarado in the main event of an HBO-televised card Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and one of the things he's learned in his magnificent career is to never get ahead of himself.
But he desperately wants the welterweight belt, which would make him the first Mexican-born fighter to hold championship titles in four weight classes. Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) already has belts at featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight. He won an interim title at super lightweight, but it wasn't the regular belt and he never defended it, so it doesn't really count.
That fourth title means enough to him that now he says he's at least willing to consider a fifth match against Pacquiao, and even do it in Macau.
"I'm interested in it, of course, but I have to get past Mike Alvarado on Saturday and that's not an easy fight," Marquez said. "Alvarado is a big, strong guy and he's going to be a challenge for me."
Marquez will turn 41 in three months, and one of the few goals he has remaining is to get a fourth championship belt. He's a slam dunk for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame five years after his career ends, but he has no plans to walk away any time soon.
He's still fighting at a high level – he's coming off a split decision loss to Timothy Bradley last year in what was an exceptional fight – and there have been few concessions to age.
He's training and, most importantly, fighting the same way he always did. He hasn't cut the pace or started trying to find ways to catch a breather during his rounds.
And so there is little reason for him to walk away when he's able to compete with the best of the best and make a lot of money doing it.
"The end could come at any time and maybe I'm at the beginning of the end," Marquez said. "But I don't feel that way. I feel good, physically and mentally. Bernard Hopkins is 49 and he's still fighting at a high level, and I'm young compared to him.
"It used to be, when you got to 40, you were way too old. But that's not how it is right now. I'm in great shape and doing the things I could do a long time ago."
Marquez is a solid favorite to defeat Alvarado, who is coming off a 10th-round stoppage at the hands of "The Siberian Rocky," Ruslan Provodnikov.
Marquez is a much different type of fighter than Provodnikov, and he's not expecting to overwhelm Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) the way Provodnikov did with power shots over the second half of that fight.
Marquez has been impressed with Alvarado's rise and his ability to box as well as brawl. Marquez is perplexed at the thought by some that Alvarado is a mere steppingstone to bigger and better things for him.
"He's a skilled fighter and I know he's going to be willing to come forward and engage, and I think it's the kind of style that is going to make for a great fight when combined with my style," Marquez said. "He's an aggressive guy and he's going to come at me, but he's got a lot of boxing skills, too. So I am expecting a great fight and a tough fight."
He'll assess his situation after the bout, but don't be surprised if he takes one more shot at Pacquiao.
Because Pacquiao has that welterweight title he so desperately craves, Marquez may be willing to ignore all of the reasons not to fight him a fifth time.
Their first three fights were exceedingly close, and a case could be made that Marquez won all three, just as a case could be made that Pacquiao deserved to win all three.
Marquez conclusively won the fourth fight with that devastating knockout of Pacquiao, but it was another barn burner until Marquez caught Pacquiao with the counter right in the waning seconds of the sixth round.
The official tally stands 2-1-1 in favor of the Pacman, though Marquez can't accept that.
Still, as badly as he wants that belt, he's not allowing himself to think ahead. That's when surprise upsets occur.
"We go through training camp and put so much work in to get ready for a fight, and it doesn't make sense to be thinking about anyone else but the guy you're getting ready to face," Marquez said. "The fans and the media can do that, because they don't have to get in there and fight.
"But if I've learned anything in my career, it's to not look past anyone. If he's in the ring with me, he has a chance to beat me and I don't think about records or titles or other fights or anything like that. All I think of is finding the best way to beat the guy I'm fighting now."
And if winning that fight leads to one last crack at a welterweight title and a fourth championship in a fourth different weight class, it's all the better for Marquez.
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