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Marquez and Diaz meet tonight for lightweight supremacy!

Lightweight "Supremacy" will be on the line tonight at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX, when world lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez defends his title against former lightweight titlist and top contender Juan Diaz. Originally, the The Ring Magazine lightweight championship was the only title on the line in this fight, but after Nate Campbell was stripped of his WBA and WBO belts, both of the organizations agreed to sanction this fight. Belts or no belts, what fans can anticipate this evening is a stylistically brilliant match up between the division's universally recognized champion and his consensus number one challenger.

I'll begin by noting that HBO subscribers are fortunate that a fight of this magnitude is on HBO. This match up is a great one that has the potential to be a fight of the year candidate, so there should be fireworks between these two gladiators. Golden Boy Promotions could have easily put some of those lightweight fights from their upcoming Lightweight Lightening PPV card on the under card of Marquez vs Diaz and made this is a legitimate PPV telecast, but thankfully this fight is on regular HBO.

Marquez is an old Mexican warrior, known for his swift boxing and counter punching ability, who has won world titles in three different weight classes. In 2003, he won the vacant IBF featherweight title by dominating and stopping former featherweight champion Manuel Medina in nine one sided rounds. Later that year, he unified the IBF and WBA belts by winning an eight round technical decision, after the fight had been stopped due to an accidental headbutt, over defending WBA champion Derrick Gainer.

In the first of their two memorable encounters in May of 2004, Marquez and Manny Pacquiao met for the universally recognized featherweight championship of the world. Pacquiao had just upset featherweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera in dominating fashion his previous fight, so the showdown with Marquez made the legitimacy of the featherweight championship that much more significant than just two governing body's title belts being on the line. In the first round, Pacquiao hurt and dropped Marquez three times. Marquez, however, was able to survive the round and managed to box his way back into the contest and fought Pacquiao to a twelve round draw.

After losing in highly controversial decision to Chris John in Indonesia, Marquez moved up to 130lbs for a title shot in March of 2007 against then WBC champion Marco Antonio Barrera, who had since defeated Erik Morales for the title. Marquez seized the title from Barrera with a close unanimous decision. One year later, Marquez defended his 130lb title against Pacquiao, in what was a hotly anticipated rematch of their May 2004 featherweight encounter. The fight was fought on even terms, with Pacquiao's third round knockdown of Marquez making the crucial difference in a one-point split decision win for Pacquiao. Moving up to the lightweight division, Marquez would claim a world title in his third weight class in September of 2008 by knocking out defending champion Joel Casamayor in eleven rounds.

Diaz became the WBA lightweight champion early in his career, winning a unanimous decision over Lakva Sim in July of 2004. Diaz would go to win two more title belts, stopping Acelino Freitas in nine rounds for the WBO crown in April of 2007 and Julio Diaz in eight rounds for the IBF title later that year in October of 2007. Undefeated with thirty three professional fights and three titles, Diaz would defend his title in Cancun, MX against Campbell in March of 2008, in what would turn out to be Diaz's first loss as a pro. Campbell showed resilience and the zeal of a seasoned veteran, as he pressured Diaz and beat him en route to split decision.

Rebounding well from his first loss, Diaz returned to the ring in September of 2008 against Michael Katsidis. Katsidis, himself, was attempting to come back from his first professional defeat at the hands of Joel Casamayor in the same month Diaz had lost to Campbell. Diaz won a split decision over Katsidis in a fight that one-sided enough for the decision to be unanimous. With Marquez winning the lightweight championship from Casamayor and Diaz looking impressive defeating Katsidis, along with Campbell's recent departure from the division, that brings us to tonight's lightweight championship fight between the two best lightweights in the world.

Hours away from the start of the fight, the time has come for me to break down this intriguing and highly significant match up.

Marquez almost beat Pacquiao when they last fought each other in their rematch at 130lbs, and many thought that he should have gotten the decision [Boxing Chronicles scored the fight 114-113 for Marquez]. Diaz lost to Campbell one week before Pacquiao vs Marquez II, so that is a major factor as to why Marquez is a considerable betting favorite going into the fight. Styles make fights though. I'm sure Diaz has learned and perhaps even matured from the experience with Campbell. Diaz is a young pit bull who happened to run into another more seasoned, experienced, and hungrier pit bull who bit just a little harder on that fateful night in Cancun. Marquez, currently one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, is not getting any younger himself. His style is completely different from that of Campbell's. Campbell attacks; Marquez is a conservative counter puncher.

At certain points in this fight, I believe Diaz is going to outwork Marquez in spots and it's going to look really good to the judges, even if Diaz is not connecting a whole lot. Diaz is a guy who is accustomed to throwing five or six punch combinations at a time and he does a little better against boxers than he does against somebody who also fights with a pitbull-like, aggressive style similar to his own. Both Julio Diaz and Freitas came into the ring with intentions of outboxing young Diaz, but Diaz steamrolled both of those guys. Obviously, Marquez is classes above those two. Nobody in this match up has a clear edge from what I can see. I think it will be a close fight right down the wire, but Diaz gets a little hometown cooking from the judges.

Predictions:

Juan Diaz by UD.

Official cards will produce three drastically different looking scores. It'll be something like 115-114, 118-110, and 116-112, in a very close fight, all in favor of the hometown fighter.

In the co-feature tonight, featherweight champion Chris John defends his title against Rocky Juarez. John and Juarez both have a common opponent - Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez sounded defeated Juarez in September of 2007, while John won a controversial decision in Indonesia over Marquez.

Chris John by SD.

This on the other hand, will be a fight that should be unanimous. Juarez will get a little hometown cooking from one of the judges, but I expect John to outbox him enough to get credit from at least two of the judges.

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