In this era of “superstar showcases,” Juan Manuel Marquez has blazed an old-school trail. Since stopping the 26-8 Hector Javier Marquez (no relation) in June 2002, his ledger boasts future Hall of Famers (Mayweather, Barrera, Pacquiao), credible champions (Casamayor, John, Gainer, Diaz, Salido, Medina) and rugged contenders with excellent records (Jaca, Jandaeng, Juarez, Polo). In his mind, why take lay-ups when there are three pointers to try?
Hard-charging Aussie Michael Katsidis is the 37-year-old wonder’s latest challenge. Will youth prevail or will experience carry the day? Marquez, the oldest fighter to hold a lightweight title, is a better than 2 ½ -1 favorite. The CompuBox statistics offer the following insights:
A stylistic day of reckoning: The nadir of Marquez’s career transpired in March 2006 when, after turning down a $750,000 purse to rematch Pacquiao, he controversially lost his WBA featherweight title to Chris John in Indonesia for $50,000. Convinced he was robbed, and knowing he needed to rebuild his reputation, Marquez adopted a more fan-friendly style. The results were dramatic.
In nine CompuBox-tracked fights that included the John fight, Marquez threw 45.9 punches per round, 20 percent below the 57.3 featherweight norm. He connected on 37.5 percent of his 27.3 power shots and 23.7 percent of his 18.5 jabs. On defense, he faced 42.4 punches per round and enjoyed a plus-8.4 on total connects, a plus-9.8 on jab connects and a plus-3.3 on power connects.
After the John disaster, Marquez managed to increase his offense without undue suffering on defense. He upped his output 17 percent to 55.5, attempted 23 percent more jabs (23.8), landed 28 percent more (6.1) plus tried 14 percent more power shots (31.7) and landed 25 percent more (13.6). While he faced 21 percent more punches (53.4) and felt them at a 40 percent higher rate (16.7 connects from 10.0), his opponents’ power punch success increased from 34.2 percent to 35.7 – a little more than four percent more than the pre-transformational baseline.
Brawlers Beware: The bad news for Katsidis is that the counter-punching Marquez fares far better against brawlers than boxers. In eight fights against aggressors, Marquez thrived with a plus-9.9 in overall connects (36.9-27.0), plus-8.4 in landed jabs (28.8-20.4) and plus-9.5 in power connects (43.3-33.8). Against boxers, those ratios shrunk to plus-1.2 overall (30.6-29.4), minus-2.6 in landed jabs (19.7-22.3) and plus-0.7 in power connects (37.5-36.8).
Imposing His Will: When Katsidis draws his opponents into a firefight, they end up getting burned. In four fights against those who swapped with him, Katsidis threw 64.8
punches per round (a shade above the 63.8 lightweight norm), landed 42.3 percent of them and connected on 46.4 percent of his power shots. Although he drew more fire than he faced (69.2 per round), they landed nearly five fewer blows (22.6 to 27.4), attempted 18.2 more jabs (31.0 to 13.2) but landed 4.8 percent less of them (21.6 to 26.4) and enjoyed less success in power connects (41.7 percent to 46.4). In other words, this more aggressive version of Marquez shouldn’t bang with this banger.
Less is more: The more punches one throws at Katsidis the better he gets. Graham Earl averaged 80 punches per round and landed 42.3 percent of his power shots (107 of 253) but Katsidis countered with 81.4 punches and an ungodly 45.0 connects per round (55.3 percent) as well as 57.8 percent of his 67.8 power punches (196 of 339). Vince Escobedo lost a wide decision despite throwing more punches overall (889-900). Trouble was, Katsidis threw 172 more power shots (644-472) and landed 85 more (278-193) to offset Escobedo’s 102-57 jab connect edge.
Joel Casamayor used his defensive prowess to limit Katsidis to 46.8 punches per round, a 30.8 percent overall connect rate and 31.2 percent power punch accuracy. Meanwhile, “El Cepillo” threw 51.9 punches per round and out-landed him 166-144 (overall) and 61-22 (jabs) while staying within striking distance in power connects (105-122). Juan Diaz, one of the sport’s best volume punchers in his prime, wisely operated behind the jab to capture a split decision that should have been unanimous.
By boxing, Diaz and Casamayor dramatically limited Katsidis’ offense success as compared to his numbers against brawlers. The Aussie landed nearly half as many punches in terms of percentage (21.9 to 42.3 overall), 11.4 percentage points less in jabs (15.0 to 26.4) and, most importantly, 21.4 percentage points in power shots (25.0 to 46.4).
Prediction: Katsidis is in a Catch 22. His best hope is to draw Marquez into a shootout, but the stats show that Marquez fares best against all-out aggressors. Marquez’s versatility will prevail via commanding decision.