MANILA, Philippines - Juan Manuel Marquez is threatening to retire because of family considerations but nobody believes he’s hanging up his gloves anytime soon, especially since his marketability as a marquee fighter took a major boost after knocking out Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas last month.
Marquez turns 40 in August but age isn’t slowing him down, at least not yet. With conditioning coach Angel Hernandez by his side, the Mexican has found the Fountain of Youth and turned back the hands of time to shock Pacquiao who is five years younger. Marquez is bigger and stronger than ever, arousing suspicion that he’s on performance-enhancing-drugs (PEDs). Certain PEDs wash out from the body less than 24 hours after use and are virtually undetectable. Marquez, however, tested negative for drug use in a urinalysis supervised by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after the Pacquiao fight.
Marquez insists his body was “reconditioned” by Hernandez through “hard work” in the gym. “I’m working with Angel, I’ve changed everything,” he said. “I feel great because I’ve had a 20-year career and I did it the same way for 18 years. But now, Angel has changed everything. I have never done this type of work before. That’s why my body has changed. I’ve been working very hard, specifically to get more strength. Angel is a professional and knows how much weight I am putting on. I am getting more speed and getting stronger at the same time.”
While Marquez bulked up, his power went up several notches. Hernandez, who used to be known as Memo Heredia, has confessed to employing PEDs in training track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery but said he went clean all the way with Marquez. Hernandez wouldn’t divulge what his training secrets are now.
“In the heavy stages of training, we went through phases called ‘maximum effort,’” said Hernandez. “The (training regimen) is my secret and I don’t intend to tell so all trainers can copycat. It’s all legal, all within the law. You have to understand, I’m a scientist and not just a strength coach. Weight training has changed a lot and evolved. In the past, it was just the boxer and manager. Now, you see more strength coaches around boxers. Nothing illegal. I think the accusations are unfair.”
For as long as Marquez doesn’t test positive, he’ll continue to use Hernandez’ methods in the gym. Hall-of-Fame coach Nacho Beristain, who has worked the corners of at least 25 world champions, said it’s a matter of strategy. Marquez knew what he had to do to beat Pacquiao – he wouldn’t be able to match the Filipino’s speed, agility and volume punching so his only hope was to counter with power. Pacquiao fought like he used to in his 20s when he bowled over opponents with his relentless aggressiveness. But without lateral movement, Pacquiao was an easy target for Marquez’ counters. Pacquiao didn’t fight his age while Marquez did. Beristain said Marquez is too smart to fight Pacquiao’s fight.
Marquez’ contract for the fourth Pacquiao encounter stipulated a purse of only $3 Million but he was guaranteed $6 Million by Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. Adding up his share of the pay-per-view income, Marquez could end up with about $2 Million more. Since turning pro in 1993, Marquez had never earned a bigger paycheck.
Marquez comes from humble roots. One of eight children, Marquez held a full-time job as an accountant until he decided to concentrate exclusively on boxing 12 years ago. He grew up in a two-bedroom home in a dangerous neighborhood of Iztapalapa in Mexico City. “It was dangerous to walk out the front door (with) drugs, gangs, the Mexican mafia,” said Marquez. In the Marquez home, the eight kids were packed in three sets of bunk beds in one room while their parents were in the other 3-by-3 meter bedroom.
With his ring earnings, Marquez has invested in real estate. He owns some rental properties and a sports bar. But Marquez realizes that with his new-found notoriety as Pacquiao’s conqueror, there will be bigger paydays. He’ll want to provide for the future of his wife Erica and their three children, Aldo Manuel, Juan Emilio and Allison Natalia.
Age won’t deter Marquez from pursuing bigger paydays in the ring. His idol Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. was 43 when he retired in 2005 after logging 115 bouts in a 25-year career. Former WBC lightwelterweight champion Saoul Mamby compiled 85 fights in a career that spanned nearly 40 years and was 60 when he retired in 2008. Roberto Duran, George Foreman and Archie Moore engaged in at least 25 fights after they turned 40. Bernard Hopkins, Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones, Jr. are still active in their 40s.
“People tell me all the time you’re getting older,” said Marquez. “Well, people like Hopkins serve as an example of how to keep going forward and how to keep achieving. To be 43 and to give a whipping to (Kelly) Pavlik, to be able to give a boxing lesson to a fighter of Pavlik’s caliber, an undefeated 26-year-old who had been beating the best fighters out there is an example of how, if you take care of yourself, the experience can help you and compensate for some other things.”
No doubt, Marquez will make himself available for a fifth meeting with Pacquiao whenever and wherever it happens.