For the fight fans who may be missing his regular apperance with Bert Sugar on HBO.com's Sweet Science, ESPN.com and Rueter's regular Kieran Mulvaney takes a break from his normal duties to file a fight week report for Marquez-Diaz II.
From the wreckage comes a revival.
If the past two weeks in boxing have been dominated by negotiations that may or may not have taken place, for a fight that may or may not ever happen, then this weekend provides an opportunity for a pivot and a more positive focus.
Few things wash away the foul taste of the boxing business better than the purity of the sport itself, and once the lights go down and the bell rings in the Mandalay Bay Events Center, recent bitterness and disappointment will be lost in the shadows cast by two fighters going about the sport's real business.
Or, more accurately, eight fighters.
Saturday's pay-per-view card is something of a throwback, each of the televised fights promising exciting action and offering intriguing back stories.
The seemingly irresistible rise of Jorge Linares was rudely interrupted last October by a man who hadn't read the script: Juan Salgado of Mexico, who knocked him out inside a round. To return to the top, Linares must first climb over Rocky Juarez, a veteran whose career has been spent peering over the wall and into the Promised Land, without ever being able to complete the journey. Juarez is 0-5-1 in world title shots; any lingering hope of a seventh tilt at a belt will evaporate with another defeat.
Unlike Juarez, Joel Casamayor has seen the view from the summit, but the former junior lightweight and lightweight champion is pushing 40. Hoping to help him on his way Saturday is another former champ, Robert Guerrero, whose career interruptions have been caused not by in-ring setbacks but by the need to spend time attending to his wife, Casey, as she battles leukemia.
Family is on the mind of Daniel Jacobs, too, as the undefeated Brooklynite dedicates his middleweight title challenge against Russian Dmitry Pirog to the memory of his grandmother, who died last Sunday after a battle with cancer. The loss is painful and raw: Even as he smiled at her memory, Jacobs, one of the most charismatic of men inside and outside the ropes, blinked back tears as he spoke with journalists on Thursday.
But the success or otherwise of a card depends on the main event, and while neither Juan Manuel Marquez nor Juan Diaz command the name recognition of those two boxing superstars who continually contrive to avoid facing each other, they demand the respect of anyone who appreciates quality in-ring combat.
As a crowd gathered to watch the fighters arrive at the Mandalay Bay on Tuesday, Diaz promised reporters that he would not make the same mistakes that had led to his knockout defeat when he fought Marquez in Houston last February. But his insistence that he would adopt a more calibrated approach flies in the face of the qualities that have made him a fan favorite: a fast-paced, all-action, face-first, swarming suffocating style that has overwhelmed 35 of his 38 opponents.
The loss is painful and raw: Even as he smiled at her memory, Jacobs, one of the most charismatic of men inside and outside the ropes, blinked back tears as he spoke with journalists on Thursday.
Even one of those who has turned back the onrushing Diaz tide paid tribute to those qualities this week.
"He was so fast," said Marquez of Diaz, sitting on the edge of a stage and speaking quietly with a pair of journalists. A keen crowd looked on, called out his name and offered posters, shirts and boxing gloves to be adorned with his autograph.
The first Marquez-Diaz clash was voted Fight of the Year; Marquez was asked whether he would prefer an easier evening on Saturday. He allowed himself a slight, knowing smile.
"I think this fight will be better than the last fight," he insisted. "To have a great fight, you have to have two men who like to fight. Juan Diaz is a great fighter and so am I. I like to fight."
That, in the end, is what boxing is about, and why, despite its constant efforts to shoot itself in the foot, it continues to attract waves of loyal fans. Recently, we've perhaps allowed ourselves to forget that. Saturday night should provide a reminder.
Photos: Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Posted 12:00 AM | Jul 30, 2010
HBO PPV - July 31, 2010