- Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing
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For much of his career, Juan Manuel Marquez was something of a forgotten man, waiting his turn in the shadows while his more celebrated compatriots Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales soaked up the plaudits and monopolized the main-event marquees. But in recent years, it's Marquez who has moved to the fore, securing a pay-per-view matchup with Floyd Mayweather Jr., moving to the top half of most pound-for-pound lists, and on Saturday likely concluding his storied rivalry with Manny Pacquiao.
In other words, he is now widely regarded with the same degree of admiration and appreciation as his contemporary countrymen, a status his promoter, Bob Arum, believes he fully deserves to occupy.
"Absolutely," Arum told reporters at the MGM Grand when asked if he thought Marquez belonged in the same conversation as his more famous rivals. "I don't think he has been as promotable as Barrera and Morales, and I think to that extent he has fallen behind. But as far as skill and career, I certainly think he belongs with those two guys."
Asked to elucidate on the comment about how promotable Marquez has been, Arum referred back to a time shortly after the first fight with Pacquiao when Marquez, refusing the money on offer for an immediate rematch, split with Arum's Top Rank.
"We had him, and we had problems with his trainer, who was also acting as his manager, and it was very difficult and he left us," Arum said, delicately. "And then he went to Golden Boy, and they did a better job than we did -- but still not a really good, good job, and he was a victim of that. So I don't cast aspersions on anybody, because we had him for a number of years, and we didn't do what I think was a bang-up job promoting him."
That said, Arum contends that Marquez has now elevated himself to a level where he has become a major draw.
"Seventeen to 18 percent of the population in the country is now Hispanic, and they love Marquez," Arum said. "There are a lot of Filipinos who are very familiar with Marquez because of his body of work with Pacquaio. So those two elements of the population -- plus Anglos who follow boxing and who are now intrigued by Pacquiao because of the mainstream programming -- mean that, without any shadow of a doubt, this will be the biggest Manny Pacquiao fight, from a pay-per-view standpoint, ever. The biggest ever."
Arum points to the readiness of cable providers to split costs for advertising -- a sign, he says, that they expect to recoup their outlays -- as well as indications that closed-circuit sales nationwide are on a record pace, to support his strong projections for pay-per-view sales for this Saturday's bout. Additionally, he points to the live gate: "The Mosley fight [with Pacquiao, in May, Pacquiao's current PPV record with an unofficial total of around 1.3 million buys] ultimately sold out. But it sold out at the end. This fight sold out at higher prices in two weeks. Absolutely sold out; you can't get a ticket any place."
A great reason -- indeed, the greatest reason -- for such likely success is, Arum readily acknowledges, the increasing mainstream popularity and fame of Manny Pacquiao. But helping to push it over the top, he says, is the man who has come out from the shadows:
"A lot of it has to do with the popularity of Juan Manuel Marquez."