In the latest example of the mushrooming trend of boxers coming out of retirement to face off in exhibition matches, former world champions Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto will fight an exhibition match against each other on June 12th.
Marquez, age 47, is only the third Mexican to win world titles in four divisions and is an International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee.
He last gloved up in 2014, when he bested Mike Alvarado. Marquez’ record stands at 56-7-1. Cotto, age 40, holds a 41-6 mark. He last laced up in 2017, when he lost to Sadam Ali.
Marquez recently sat down for an interview with Jorge Eduardo Suarez on ESPN’s boxing show “A Los Golpes” to talk about his upcoming match against Miguel Cotto. They discussed the details of the match, his training regimen, the possibility of the exhibition turning into a real fight, and his thoughts on this new craze of exhibition boxing.
Check out this Q & A between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jorge Eduardo Suarez.
JES: “Let's get right to it. What we came to talk about is your career. It's was a few years ago that we were at your last fight against Mike Alvarado. Shortly after, you were inducted into the IBHOF. There were talks of you fighting Miguel Cotto, but those talks subsided because of injuries you had in your knees. Suddenly, we start to hear your name and Miguel Cotto’s name mentioned again. This time in a possible exhibition match. Who better to answers those questions and clarify those details than you? What can you tell us about this matter?
JMM: In 2016, there were plans for a fight against Miguel Cotto and me. However, I had nagging injuries that weren't healing, and that's why I decided not to take the fight. But after seven years of rest and recovery, my body is rejuvenated, and I started to get the desire to want to return to the ring, start training and maybe fight again. This all started because Miguel Cotto’s team approached me, and we talked about the possibility of having an exhibition fight between us. The fight is scheduled for June 12th. The fight is comprised of 2-minute rounds with a one-minute rest period. We will be wearing 14oz. gloves, and we will not be wearing headgear. And we will have to wait to see if an exhibition will take place. Like I was explaining to the media, sometimes, when one is sparring all of a sudden, the action gets lit and heated; we will have to wait and see how this exhibition manifests itself.
JES: I understand that there isn't going to be a winner, scorecards, or judges?
JMM: No, there are not going to be any judges. This is an exhibition. Therefore, there will be no judges. This exhibition is so the fans can watch good quality boxing. The quality of boxing that Miguel Cotto is known for. He's a world-class fighter that is world-renowned around the world and beloved in his country. Of course, the fans know what I bring to the table and what I have accomplished throughout my career. I think this is going to be a great exhibition.
JES: At what weight will this fight take place?
JMM: 150 pounds, a weight I've never had to reach. I'm going to have to eat and eat so I can gain weight. No, no, I'm eating well and making sure I get the weight healthy. I love training, and I am training in a manner to help me achieve the extra weight. But we have a strategy, so we don't gain too much weight quickly and suffer fatigue because of it.
JES: On what media outlets will this fight be shown? I imagine that you are involved in the promotion. What is the plan for distribution, and where will I be able to tune in to watch this fight?
JMM: The promoters are working out those details. We will have to wait and see.
JES: Tell us about your current training regimen. What is the difference between how you train now and how you prepared when you were active and a world champion?
JMM: I'm doing the same thing. Nothing much has changed. The only difference is that we have to watch how we raise the level of training. We have to see how the body reacts when we increase activity level to avoid an injury. I don't want to suffer an injury during training.
JES: You are 47 years old and fought for many years. As you stated earlier, the possibility exists, or it may be inevitable that this fight will heat up at some point. What happens if a solid punch connects or someone suffers a cut? What happens then?
JMM: It can happen. I can't tell you exactly what will happen. We are prepared for anything; we have many years of fighting experience, so we will know how to react. We don't know what situations may arise during the exhibition, but it can get heated.
JES: It's going to get rough because we know the innate fighting nature of fighters and world champions. You each have four world championships in four divisions. Unfortunately, it's a dream fight that didn’t take place when it was supposed to happen. There are varying opinions about this fight. I don’t see a problem if it’s an exhibition. The issue is returning to the ring at such an advanced age and risking your health.
JMM: Of course, we are taking all the necessary precautions. As I said before, I don't know what will happen once we get in the ring. We don't know if things will heat and up, and this can turn into an actual fight. But we are not fighting with 8oz. gloves, we are using 14 oz gloves. The blow may not knock you out, but the heavier gloves can land heavier on the head because of the added weight. The rounds are only 2 minutes. The idea is to have fun and demonstrate what we can do in the ring. I can't tell you how things will turn out; the bell hasn't rung yet. Wait until the bell rings and we start to fight. We have to wait until the first punches are thrown. Until then, we don't know what's going to happen.
JES: I imagine that you will be sparring in preparation for this fight. Have you bought in anyone, in particular, to help you get ready for this fight?
JMM: No, in trainer Nacho Beristain’s gym we have excellent fighters that have a similar style to Cotto’s. We are going to pick the best from that group so we can have quality sparring sessions.
JES: Juan, let's take a brief pause and bring in David Faitelson, who has his own opinions on fighters coming out of retirement and fighting these exhibition matches.
David Faitelson: Thank you, and I'm happy to be able to see him fight again against Miguel Cotto. For me, the subject of great boxing legends coming out of retirement to fight in these exhibition matches-as is the case between Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto-boils down to one simple reason. This era of boxing lacks excellent fighters. I’m not saying that there are not good fighters. There are outstanding fighters throughout the many weight divisions. But there aren't any idols right now in boxing. There is a lack of boxers that are recognized by the “casual fans.” As a result, the fans ask for, demand, participate, buy, and watch these exhibition fights between these legendary and glorious fighters. I don’t have anything against it. Ultimately, it’s a way to watch and appreciate boxers that fought at an extremely high level. As is the case with Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Julio Caesar Chavez, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield, we welcome it. However, it’s evident that these exhibitions are flourishing because there aren’t elite fighters in today’s boxing. Mayweather is gone, Manny Pacquiao is gone; therefore, there is an absence of an identifiable superstar in boxing today. Thank you.
JES: What do you think about David Faitelson’s comments? What do you think about him saying that there lacks a legendary boxing figure in today's boxing? And for that very reason, you are appealing to the fan's nostalgia as a way for you guys to stay relevant and, of course, make some financial earnings.
JMM: It's plausible what he says. I think there is a need for the fans to watch the quality of boxing that they were used to. Even if it is an exhibition, the fans want to see great boxing. The quality of boxing that Cotto and I bring to the ring is what the fans want to see. We know that boxing is lacking elite-level fighters today. If you're going to analyze this, each division had at least ten quality fighters in the past. That is not the case today, and the fans deserve a quality fight like this. We deserve it, too; we left it all in the ring—everything we did with passion, love, and pride for the country. The people want to see quality fights, and I agree with the fans. I like boxing to go back to the time when fans were cheering, applauding, chanting Mexico, chanting Puerto Rico. I agree with David.
JES: Coming back to the subject of nostalgia, in Mexico during the same era, we had Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Orlando Salido. We had Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Oscar De la Hoya in another period. We can go back decades, and several notable fighters were famous. Solid fighters that fought each other, and I think it will be challenging to get back to that kind of boxing. I don't know why, nor do I think we even have a reason why it is this way. Even Saul Alvarez had to fight for 15 years before he was able to be a marketable brand. What are your thoughts about the state of Mexican boxing, the different organizations, rankings, and anything that is contributing to the lack of Mexican boxing stars?
JMM: The stars are there. The fighters are there. What is lacking are quality promoters. Promoters need to market fighters and bring them to the spotlight. Especially the good fighters that leave it all in the ring. Promoters only focus on one fighter. For example, for a long time, Bob Arum's focus was only Manny Pacquiao, and if you go a few years back, his only focus was Oscar De La Hoya, Bob Arum with Floyd Mayweather. Promoters only focus on one fighter and disregard the rest. I think that is what is needed. Promoters need to focus on all the fighters and make the best fights and create rivalries. The organizations are doing their job, but we know that there are too many paper champions, like the interim champion, the gold champion, the silver champion, and the super champion. I think that this, too, has affected boxing and tarnished its credibility.
JES: If everything goes well with your exhibition with Miguel Cotto, do you think you will return to competitive boxing?
JMM: No, we are not crossing into that frontier. We are conscious and aware that our best moments and years are past us. I'm doing this from the heart; it's simply an exhibition, but let's see how it plays out. I'm not saying this is going to be an all-out war. What I'm saying is that the bell hasn't rung yet. Let's wait for the bell to ring and see how the fight develops. Then I would tell if it was indeed an exhibition or a “fight-like” sparring session.
JES: The concern is that you two don’t know how to hold back punches!
JMM: No, you're right. We don't know how to hold back. That's why we have to focus on defense and show up in shape. Because if this turns into a fight, then what a treat for the fans, because they will see a display of great boxing.
JES: What do you think is going through the minds of active fighters watching all of you come back doing these exhibitions and maybe you guys taking away some of the focus off of them and maybe stealing the market?
JMM: I don’t think they are thinking that way. I think the sun shines on everyone, and I think everyone has a fair share of the market. If we can do it, they can do it. The doors are open, so we are taking advantage of it. Boxing is my passion as it is for Miguel Cotto. So, if this opportunity presents itself, what not take advantage of it and do something good for boxing? I think they would be grateful because that means we are also creating exposure for the sport and them.
JES: Would you consider doing an exhibition with Erik “El Terrible” Morales?
JMM: I don’t think so. Let’s see how this exhibition goes, but I don't think so. If the fight didn’t happen when it was supposed to happen, then it's not happening now. I believe that fight won’t stay an exhibition and it’ll turn into a fight. I would have loved to have fought him when the fight was supposed to happen; I don't take anything away from him. He's a great fighter, a fighter that gave the best of himself and fought in some great fights. But right now, I'm not interested in doing an exhibition with him.
JES: Juan, I wish you the best and much success and that this fight turns out great, and that both of you and Miguel triumph.
JMM: Thank you. It's going to be a great exhibition, and the fans will not be disappointed.
My Take: When Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. started their talks about fighting their exhibition fight, I wasn't a fan. I didn't want to see two old fighters reliving their yesteryears thinking they were giving us a show with their delusional and severely diminished boxing skills. On a more serious note, I believed Mike Tyson or Roy Jones Jr. wouldn't keep their competitive nature suppressed and would end up trying to rip each other’s heads off. I revered them and didn’t want to see either one of them get hurt. However, to my surprise, when I saw them fight, they looked good, fought good, and kept it friendly. And most of all, I was truly entertained and could relive a part of my boxing memories for a few minutes.
I'm afraid I disagree with Faitelson saying that the craze for these legends fighting exhibition matches comes from a lack of talent or superstars in today’s boxing. For Faitelson to suggest so is preposterous, asinine, and downright irresponsible as a sports journalist. Today's boxing has its share of great fighters and world-recognized superstars. I’m pretty sure Saul “Canelo” Álvarez, Roman “Choclatito” Gonzalez, Tyson Fury, Vasyl Lomanchenko, and Anthony Joshua would beg to differ with Faitelson. I suppose following the success of Tyson vs. Jones Jr, many fighters found themselves saying, “Hey if they did it, why can't I?”
Nostalgia keeps us connected to our past, especially our happiest moments. That’s why so many of us go to high school reunions, attend theater releases of old movies, hold on to our prom and wedding dresses, and keep an array of collectibles that remind us of our childhood. In my opinion, the popularity of these exhibition matches amongst the boxing legends has more to do with the fans seeing their favorite fighters dance one more time. And whom better to do it than Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto?