Talk of contrasting styles, opposing personalities and ubiquitous pre-fight trash talking has predictably enveloped what is arguably the biggest fight of the year. The hyperbole is fully justified for the Floyd Mayweather Jr versus Juan Manual Marquez bout in Las Vegas tonight. It has the makings to be an epic.
However, while the boxers' camps indulge in the generic before-the-bell preambles, there has been uncharacteristic respect shown by both fighters ahead of their catchweight bout. It is not surprising. Amazingly, 21 months have passed since Mayweather halted the Ricky Hatton express. Tonight at the MGM Grand - the same venue where a tenth-round stoppage of the British fighter confirmed his best pound-for-pound status - Mayweather returns from a self-imposed ring exile.
The American is eager to prove he remains the sport's prize attraction. To do so, only a tough opponent would suffice, and the Mexican's roughshod style should cause Mayweather problems. The undefeated Mayweather is 39-0, with 25 KOs, while Marquez - with 50 wins, four losses and one draw - is the man who even Manny Pacquiao, the enigmatic Filipino who inherited Mayweather's crown, struggled to stop, twice.
He is a strong, counter-attacker, but Marquez will need to produce the fight of his life to derail the man called "Money". "In the sport of boxing, if you want to go down as a legend you have to face the best in your era," said Mayweather. "At this particular time, Marquez is one of the best fighters in my era. "He's a hell of a fighter, but I've been around the sport and faced many styles. I'll adjust and adapt when I get in that ring."
Marquez seems intent on playing the humble underdog: "I don't like talking outside of the ring, I just want to say three things," he said. "One, I prepared myself very hard, physically and mentally. Two, I want to thank all the Mexican people for their support in me. Three, I want to dedicate this fight to all the Mexican people around the world." With the bout's competitors refusing to indulge in traditional verbal hostilities, the mantle has been hungrily swallowed up by trainers and promoters.
It makes sense, with the winner likely to secure a lucrative 2010 fight against southpaw Pacquiao - providing the "Pacman" does not lose to Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto in November. The stakes are high. "If he (Marquez) fights like a real head-first fighter, he's gonna get knocked out early. My nephew's the most skilled fighter in the world, period," Roger Mayweather, Floyd's trainer, predicted. Fending off the blow, Oscar de la Hoya, the Golden Boy Promotions chief who represents Marquez, countered with his own attack.
"Look, styles make fights," De la Hoya said. "Marquez has the best style to beat Mayweather, because he's smart. He's a counter-puncher, but he can also attack, and he hits hard." Never one to resist a pre-fight opportunity to up the ante, De la Hoya is so confident Marquez will defeat Mayweather he is already turning his attentions to the current undisputed pound-for-pound king Pacquiao. "I'm looking for victory and then I'll be looking for (Manny) Pacquiao," said De la Hoya.
"Whoever wins the fight, one thing is certain: boxing, for now, is back. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org