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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Marquez needs forceful win to attract Pacquiao

HOUSTON — Juan Manuel Marquez thinks that a victory over Juan Diaz will draw him closer to one more shot at Manny Pacquiao.

Of course, he first has to handle Diaz, who has lofty aspirations of his own.

The two highly regarded lightweights met with reporters on Thursday to promote their Feb. 28 fight at the Toyota Center in Houston, Diaz's hometown.

The 35-year-old Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KOs) isn't ducking tough competition while he keeps trying to convince Pacquiao's camp to set up a third bout between them. Marquez and Pacquiao fought to a draw in 2004 and Pacquiao won a close decision in the rematch in Las Vegas last March.

Marquez, who signed with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Productions, mostly blames Top Rank chairman Bob Arum for preventing another rematch from coming together.

"There is a reason he (Pacquiao) doesn't want to fight me again," the Mexican-born Marquez said through an interpreter. "But that's the fight I've wanted, I've made no secret of it."

Right now, Pacquiao's camp is close to securing a 140-pound (63½-kilogram) fight with Ricky Hatton on May 2 in Las Vegas. David Itskowitch, the chief operating officer for Golden Boy Promotions, said on Thursday that the Pacquiao-Hatton event was "still taking shape."

Marquez moved up to lightweight after the loss to Pacquiao and knocked out Cuban champion Joel Casamayor on Sept. 13. He wants to do the same to Diaz, a former three-time lightweight champion, to increase the pressure on Pacquiao, who holds the WBC lightweight belt.

"That's the intention," Marquez said in Spanish. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on Juan Diaz 100 percent."

The 25-year-old Diaz (34-1, 17 KOs), meanwhile, calls his matchup with Marquez a "dream come true." Diaz lost three lightweight belts to Nate Campbell last March, then beat Michael Katsidis in Houston last September.

Juan Diaz beat Julio Diaz on October 2007 to unify the WBA, WBO and IBF lightweight titles, but he's never faced an opponent as accomplished as Marquez, a former featherweight champion and a national hero in Mexico.

"This is the type of fight I've been waiting for my whole life," said Juan Diaz, who will graduate from the University of Houston in May. "Finally, I get my chance."

Diaz also has his eyes on Pacquiao's belt, and knows how much a victory over the well-respected Marquez would vault him up the list of contenders.

"By beating the man who a lot of people said beat the man, that will put me up there," said Diaz. "That's what is going to make this a more interesting fight, that if I beat him, my name is going to be up there with all the top guys."

Promoters also announced that 2000 Olympic silver medalist Rocky Juarez (28-4) will fight WBA featherweight champion Chris John (42-0-1) on the undercard.

The Indonesia-born John, who defended the title against Marquez in March 2006, will fight for the first time in the United States, while Juarez will try to win for the first time in five championship bouts. - AP


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