COMMENTARY | Four-division world champ and future Hall of Famer, Juan Manuel Marquez has been around the block more than a few times. After twenty years in the sport and sixty-two professional fights, the Mexican ring technician has learned a thing or two about the psychological aspect of big time prizefighting.
One of those lessons is how to subtly control how the fight is officiated by casually tossing out a few select phrases into the public discourse.
Of course, there's little doubt that Marquez is more than willing to apply this knowledge to his upcoming bout October 12 with WBO welterweight titlist, Timothy Bradley.
"He is a crafty fighter who uses his head, but it's the referee's job to [warn him and hand out penalties], Marquez told Boxingscene. "I'm focused on what I have to do in the ring. I have to be strong, work the speed, use intelligence, use my legs. The fight is a challenge, but not impossible."
The subtle message to referee Robert Byrd is that Timothy Bradley and his head need to be watched.
While this may be a Marquez mind game used to influence the officiating, it also could be considered a valid point. Many of Bradley's fights have been affected by headbutts. Bouts with Devon Alexander, Nate Campbell, and several other opponents have been greatly influenced by clashes of heads.
"I told the referee before the fight that Bradley's last six opponents have been cut by head-butts," Kevin Cunningham, trainer of Devon Alexander told USA Today after Alexander's 2011 fight with Bradley was stopped due to cuts caused by headbutts. "I told him. I told him. I told him."
Whether this propensity to headbutt is intentional or part of a rather sloppy, hard-charging offense remains to be seen, but for Marquez's purposes, it doesn't really matter. Getting inside the referee's head is the important part.
A Robert Byrd with an overly critical eye could nullify one of Bradley's key advantages by preventing some of the bull rushes that characterize the Palm Springs native's offensive game. This could help negate some of Bradley's edge in the area of raw athleticism and speed.
A Bradley with a few warnings for leading with the head will be more cautious and more deliberate. And this would play perfectly into the strengths of the more cerebral 40-year-old counter-puncher, Marquez.
While some see these psychological games as pure posturing and game-playing, it's often little things like this that make the difference between victory and defeat-especially at this level of the game where both fighters are struggling to find even the slightest hint of a defect in their opponent.
Expect more to be made of Bradley's head as fight night approaches. It's a reasonable concern and, for Marquez, the perfect exploitable pre-fight strategy.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Sources: Boxingscene, USA Today
- Sports & Recreation
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Timothy Bradley
- Devon Alexander