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LAS VEGAS – As Juan Diaz trudged back to his corner after the sixth round of his lightweight title bout Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center with Juan Manuel Marquez, he looked to the floor and shook his head.
He was doing everything he had trained 11 weeks to do and yet he was still being schooled by Marquez.
It was a case of a good fighter getting drilled by a great fighter.
Marquez retained the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization lightweight titles with a wide unanimous decision victory in the main event of a Golden Boy Promotions card before 8,383 raucous fans.
Logic and economics would dictate that the win should propel Marquez into a third bout with Manny Pacquiao, but this is boxing and in boxing nothing is ever easy or makes much sense.
And just as Floyd Mayweather Jr. is clearly ducking and dodging Pacquiao, Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum is doing a bit of ducking of his own. He's made it clear he wants no part of a third fight between Pacquiao and Marquez, who fought a pair of sensational fights in 2004 and 2008. Instead, Arum is moving ahead with a plan to have Pacquiao fight Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13 and is only open to matching Pacquiao with other Top Rank fighters.
Margarito is still suspended in the U.S. for being caught with a hard object in his hand wraps in 2009 and a Pacquiao-Margarito fight won't happen in Las Vegas because the Nevada Athletic Commission is reticent to license him. Such is not the case with Marquez.
"Juan Manuel Marquez is ready, willing and licensed," said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer in taking a none-too-subtle dig at Margarito and Top Rank.
Marquez drew with Pacquiao in 2004 and then lost a razor-thin split decision in 2008. Unlike Mayweather, whose heart rate must double at the mention of Pacquiao's name, Marquez is eager for another try.
"I'm not hiding and I'm not running," Marquez said of Pacquiao. "I'm here and I'm waiting for him. Everybody saw what happened. That's the fight that boxing wants. That's the fight that boxing needs."
A third Pacquiao-Marquez fight would have more suspense than Saturday's bout, which quickly fell into a pattern in which Marquez made Diaz miss and shook him with big counter shots. Marquez won by scores of 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110, but there was never any doubt about the outcome. It was clear from the early moments of the fight who the better man was and what the outcome would be.
Diaz wanted to jab and move more than he did in their Feb. 28, 2009 bout in his hometown of Houston that was chosen Fight of the Year. He accomplished that for the most part on Saturday, throwing 336 jabs according to CompuBox and rarely standing flat-footed in front of Marquez.
Yet Marquez showed his versatility by picking Diaz apart. He raked him with straight rights from outside and landed the left uppercut whenever the fight moved to close range.
"I started the fight by throwing single jabs and he countered me really well with right hands," Diaz said. "[Trainer] Ronnie [Shields] was telling me to double jab and triple jab and it wasn't until the fifth, sixth, seventh round that I started listening. My jab started working in those rounds, but you have to give it to him. He's a great fighter; he's going to be in the Hall of Fame for sure one day and there's a reason for that."
The first round of their first fight was a sensational pitched battle, a toe-to-toe slugfest that had the crowd in Houston on its feet roaring. The rematch was much more of a tactical battle and Marquez's innate boxing skills made his night easy.
He walked Diaz into his punches consistently and avoided getting into exchanges where a big punch might have turned the tide of the fight. The biggest issue was in one of the middle rounds where Marquez was thumbed in the right eye and it quickly shut.
"It was causing me a few problems, but I have a lot of experience and I knew what to do," Marquez said. "This is boxing and that kind of thing happens."
Marquez is less than a month from his 37th birthday and was coming off a terrible beating at the hands of Mayweather, yet he looked as fresh as he did when he was 27. He wasn't breathing hard even when the fight was heading down the stretch and Diaz was trying to push the pace.
"Juan Manuel Marquez is a complete fighter and he is good in every facet of the sport," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya said. "And he's always in shape to not only go 12 rounds, but to go 12 hard rounds."
With an eye on a Pacquiao fight, Marquez said he'd be ready to fight again in November, but given the bitter feelings between Golden Boy and Top Rank, it's a pipe dream now.
It's why, despite many great fights and courageous fighters, boxing is still widely regarded as a second-rate sport. The best teams and the best athletes compete against each other regularly in every other sport, be it baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, golf or tennis. It's only in boxing where fights like Pacquiao-Marquez or Mayweather-Pacquiao are talked about but not made because one side dislikes the other.
Marquez was drubbed by Mayweather in September, but he took the challenge. It's too bad others, notably Mayweather and Arum, didn't have the same attitude.
"I want to give the fans the best fights," Marquez said. "They want to see great fights and you want to give it to them."
For more than a decade, that's what he's done on a regular basis. It's time some of the sport's power brokers took notice.