Lightweight Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs) scored a spectacular ninth round KO over Juan Diaz (34-2, 17 KOs) to claim the vacant WBA super and WBO lightweight titles, on Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston. It was a fierce all out war in which Marquez absorbed Diaz’ heavy pressure early, then broke down the “Baby Bull,” dropping him twice in the ninth. Time was 2:40. A definite fight of the year candidate.
The crowd was on the feet before the action even began as both fighters made their entrances to the ring. A visitor not knowing Diaz was from Houston would have mistaken that this was Marquez’s backyard just by the sheer eruption of the crowd chanting the name of their top Mexican fighter.
Diaz looked full of emotion as the opening bell rang, and he didn’t waste any time jumping on Marquez. Both fighters took their turns trading combinations back and forth with Diaz using his aggression to back Marquez against the ropes. Diaz finished off the round with a staredown of Marquez.
Fans didn’t have to wait long for the action to continue as it spilled into the second round, Diaz landing two early left hands back-to-back that sent Marquez against the ropes. Backed by chants of ‘DI-AZ! DI-AZ!’ the “Baby Bull” continued to charge at Marquez, pure youth and raw energy driving a punch output that had the veteran, for the most part, on the defense.
But as the third round opened, Marquez landed several thunderous right hands that, momentarily at least, worked to slow down the ever-forward Diaz.
Many ringside observers began to wonder if Diaz could continue this punching output; if he was going to be gassed by the time the later rounds came into play. Diaz, not known for his punching power, continued to trade punch for punch with Marquez but it appeared that the heavier-handed Mexican was now getting the best of those exchanges. Diaz’s aggression made the difference, though, and the action continued to go back and forth.
As the fight began to approach the middle rounds, the Houston crowd and, perhaps, the boxing world, in general, might have felt that they could be witnessing the legendary fighter Marquez becoming just a bit slower for he was beginning to get outworked.
As the action continued into the fifth round, Diaz continued to pour out a sheer volume of punches against Marquez, sending him against the ropes.
Marquez began to bleed on the right side of his eye from a punch landed in the sixth round. Diaz knew that this was his time to step up his attack-if that was humanly possible. Cutting off the ring, Diaz continued his relentless attack to Marquez’s head and body. It looked like Marquez was trying to field off punches that were coming from every which direction.
But as the fight progressed, instead of getting weaker by the “Baby Bull’s” charges, Marquez only got stronger.
In the seventh, he rattled off two sets of unanswered combinations to the head of Diaz. Warrior that he is, Diaz came right back, pinning Marquez up against the ropes—a familiar place for Marquez in the first half of the fight.
Both fighters showed cuts in the eighth, but it was a huge right from Marquez that signaled the turning of the fight. Diaz wobbled from a power shot. Seeing the younger fighter hurt, Marquez did not waste any time jumping on him. Diaz finished the round on shaky legs, somehow finding the strength to fight back when it appeared he could go down.
Marquez was all over Diaz in the ninth round, dropping him early with an accumulation of punches. Diaz made the count but Marquez continued his attack when the fight resumed, not letting him off the hook. Once again, Diaz went down, from a devastating left uppercut that stretched him out on the canvas at 2:40.
Photo: Chris Cozzone, Fightnews.com