It's too bad that the sport has fallen out of favor. There are a variety of obvious reasons—the emergence of pay-per-view, the alphabet soup of belts, the lack of an American heavyweight champion—but perhaps the aesthetic of the sweet science has fallen of fashion. While not a classic, Saturday's fight proved that boxing can have its compelling and appealing moments.
Baby Bull, clad in black shorts with baby blue trim, began the bout by jabbing Marquez and then circling out from his reach. It was smart, but there was the slightest bit of predictability to the strategy, especially against a boxer with the caliber of three-time world champion Marquez, who adjusted quickly, came inside at tricky angles, and hit Diaz with a variety of combinations. The Mexican outlanded Diaz in every round. Despite holding the fight on American soil, the MARQUEZ! MARQUEZ! chants tended to be louder and more consistent than cheers for Diaz. Each round was relatively equal, but Marquez was just a little better, a little craftier, and more of a master of the intricacies of the sweet science. By my calculation Marquez won nine of the 12 rounds, and the judges agreed giving him the unanimous decision. After the fight, Diaz contemplated retirement—and law school—while Marquez stood on a neutral corner rope and saluted the crowd. "Like every true Mexican warrior we fought with our hearts and left it all in the ring," he would say. He was once again the lightweight champion of the world.
He told the crowd that he wanted to fight Manny Pacquiao, who is considered the best pound-for-pound champion in the world, a Congressman in his native Philippines, and one of the more compelling stories in the beleaguered sport. The two men have fought twice: once a draw, and another fight that Pacquiao won in a very controversial split decision. Said Marquez: "The trilogy with Pacquiao is what I want. It's good for all fight fans, for Mexicans, for the Filipinos. Everyone wants to see it." Post-fight, Richard Schaefer, who promotes Marquez, told me that he would "love" to see Marquez take on Pacquiao in a mega-fight, but thought it was highly unlikely. Of course, a brawl between two great champions makes sense, but in boxing, unlike most sports, promoters must agree to get two superstars together. Pacquiao is promoted by a rival outfit, and both sides are feuding over the Mayweather-Pacquiao non-fight. As always lately, boxing just can't seem to get out of its own way.
Marquez and Diaz were finished for the night. The two men, blotchy faced, sore, and facing different fates, left the press conference, as the time neared midnight.
"There were no losers here tonight," said Schaefer.