Juan Manuel Márquez celebrates after knocking out Manny Pacquiao. Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

On Monday, June 13, Mexican boxing legend Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Márquez was finally inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, after more than two decades of dedicating his life to the sweet science and eight years since he fought — and won — his last fight against Mexican-American contender Mike Alvarado in 2014.

Joining Márquez in the Boxing Hall of fame are Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Andre Ward, Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko and the first female fighters — Christy Martin, Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Regina Halmich and Holly Holm — to be enshrined in Canastota.

Best known for his four fights against fellow boxing great Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao, Márquez knocked out Pacquiao in their final fight in December 2012 after settling for two losses and a draw against the Filipino in their first three fights. But Márquez actually made a name for himself first in the lower weights before moving up and figuring in big-money fights against Pacquiao, Mayweather and Timothy Bradley.

Born in Mexico City on Aug. 23, 1973, Márquez grew up in an impoverished area of Iztacalco in the central-eastern area of the capital, one of its smallest boroughs. While many of Márquez’s friends succumbed to gang violence and died young, he chose to box, accumulating an amateur boxing record of 82 wins and four losses, with 72 wins coming by knockout. His younger brother, Rafael, is a former world champion in the bantamweight and super bantamweight divisions, and is one of the most exciting boxers to ever come out of Mexico. The brothers both trained under legendary boxing coach Ignacio Beristáin, and at one time Juan Manuel and Rafael were both listed in Ring Magazine’s top 10 pound-for-pound list.

Márquez also went to school while boxing on the side, becoming an accountant after graduating from university, and ended up worked for several government agencies in Mexico City. He eventually gave up his accounting work and focused entirely on his budding professional boxing career.

Making his professional debut on May 29, 1993, in Mexico City, Márquez actually lost his first fight via disqualification. He then proceeded to rack up 29 straight wins — picking up several regional boxing titles along the way — before losing again, this time in his first attempt at a world title, in 1999, against American featherweight world champion Freddie Norwood.

Perhaps believing that he needed more time to improve his skills before competing for a world title again, Márquez decided to go back fighting for regional belts and won the WBO–NABO featherweight title. After four years, he again tried his luck in 2003 and finally won his first world championship at the age of 30, knocking out fellow countryman Manuel Medina for the vacant International Boxing Federation (WBF) featherweight belt.

Known for his cerebral boxing style and counterpunching prowess, Márquez figured in countless wars against the Who’s Who of lower-weight greats: Derrick Gainer, Pacquiao, Orlando Salido, Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor and Juan Díaz. He is also known for his toughness, which he regularly displayed against bigger opponents, especially the ability to bounce back from knockouts, cuts and a broken nose. Márquez is also one of the best in-fight strategists in boxing, owing to his superb ring IQ, excellent timing and unparalleled defensive skills.

“When I started my career, I wanted to be a world champion, and I did it seven times and in four different divisions,” Márquez said at his Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “That dream was fulfilled. I am excited to be here with the elite of boxing. This is especially for the fans, my family and for Mexico.”

Indeed, Mexico should be proud that one of its boxing legends has again reached the pinnacle of the sport.

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