Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios: Prelude to War?


By Hans Olson

War is coming.

But before that, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios each need to take care of business this weekend in their respective bouts.

It’s no secret that Top Rank’s Bob Arum would love to match the two warriors against one another, likely this summer. ESPN’s Calvin Watkins reported last month that Arum plans to stage the potential bout at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas–a plan contingent on Marquez and Rios both winning on Saturday night.

For Marquez, a fight with Rios would be the next best thing to what he truly wants—a fourth fight with Manny Pacquiao.

Standing in Juan Manuel’s way from all of the above is Ukrainian Serhiy Fedchenko (30-1). Fedchenko, fighting in North America for the first time, comes to Mexico City riding a 7-fight win streak that includes a decision victory over American journeyman Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley.

Although many see Fedchenko as a mere “stay busy” affair for Marquez, Marquez himself sees certain difficulties in the fight.

“With Fedchenko, who I know is from Ukraine, I have a very strong fighter who is always looking to get a knockout,” Marquez told Boxing Scene last month.

“He has a good punch, and his history reflects that. He has faced the best in the world, he’s a very strong fighter and he has shown resilience. I’m definitely going to have a very dangerous opponent.”

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Weight and See

The contest is for the WBO’s “Interim” jr. welterweight belt. Its “regular” champion, Timothy Bradley, moves up in weight in June to take on Manny Pacquiao for the WBO’s 147 lb. strap.

It will be interesting to see the comfort level of Marquez going into Saturday, for there is differing evidence as to just which weight is best for a Juan Manuel Marquez who’s on the business end of his 30s.

Woeful against pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather in September 2009 where he weighed 142 lb., Marquez returned to form in his next two bouts at lightweight, defeating Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis.

After a one-round knockout of Likar Ramos a weight class north to 140 last July, Marquez returned to welterweight last November against Pacquiao, again at 142 lb–but this time considerably more effective at the weight.

Much of this is thought to be contributed to Angel Hernandez, the strength and conditioning coach Marquez hired in preparation for the Pacquiao fight who remains on board for this camp.

Speaking of weight issues, Brandon Rios is no stranger to such struggles. The former WBA lightweight champ lost his title on the scale last December, failing to make the division’s 135 lb. limit in what was to be a defense against the UK’s John Murray.

Although Rios fought valiantly and stopped Murray late in the fight, not being able to keep what he had worked so hard for was a disappointment.

The weight issues, Rios now assures us, are behind him.

“I feel like a beast,” Rios told Boxing Scene last week.

“First of all, I’m at home training. I train better when I’m home. And second of all, it’s not cold so I’m sweating more. Third of all, I have a nutritionist. He’s helping me out a lot. When I went to Mexico, I didn’t have a nutritionist. Now I have a nutritionist and it just helps me out a lot. Man, I feel great. I’m going to make 135 and show the world that what happened in New York was a fluke and that I’m ready to regain my title and then move up as a champion.”

Moving up, one assumes…to fight Juan Manuel Marquez.

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First Things First

Before Marquez though, Brandon Rios finds himself in a grudge match of sorts with Miami’s Richard Abril. Originally slated to face Yuriorkis Gamboa in a fight fan’s dream, promotional and contractual issues saw Gamboa pull out of the fight.

When Gamboa no-showed a Top Rank press tour in Miami last month, Abril took it upon himself to challenge the now opponent-less Rios.

Not long after, the fight was signed and sealed.

Saturday night, we hope it delivers.

It will be a chance for Rios to win back that belt he lost on the scale. The 17-2-1 Abril won his version of the interim title back in October, in a sensational outing against Miguel Acosta.

Against Rios, Abril will find himself in with a grueling volume puncher with a mean streak darker than the night’s sky, a foe that he hasn’t seen the likes of yet in his 20 professional fights.

If all goes to plan for Bob Arum and Top Rank, we’ll soon see Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios on the same telecast again, but against each other.

Then again, this is boxing…and as Larry Merchant famously said, “Boxing is the theater of the unexpected.”

We expect to see certain things this weekend, but don’t be surprise if they wind up being unexpected.

Maybe war is indeed coming.

And maybe sooner than we think.

Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected]

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