LAS VEGAS -- If Juan Manuel Marquez retains the lightweight title by beating Juan Diaz again in their rematch of the 2009 fight of the year on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay, there's a good chance Marquez will step up to junior welterweight for a Dec. 11 fight with titlist Amir Khan of England.
Khan, who, like Marquez, is promoted by Golden Boy, is in Las Vegas for the fight. While the fight appeals to Marquez because a victory would make him the first Mexican to win a title in four weight classes, Marquez has a bigger dream fight.
He wants a third fight with Manny Pacquiao. They've fought twice and Marquez came away with a draw in their featherweight championship fight and lost a split decision in the rematch for the junior lightweight title. I was ringside for both outstanding fights and scored both for Marquez, as did many ringside observers.
Since then, Pacquiao and promoter Top Rank have never shown any interest in a third bout, but Marquez is hopeful that someday he'll get another shot at the Pacman.
"Manny Pacquiao, that's my desire; I want it so bad," Marquez said. "I want that third fight with him before my career ends. And maybe another one would be to fight Erik Morales or Ricky Hatton, but Manny Pacquiao for sure."
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is not optimistic that Marquez will ever get the third fight with Pacquiao.
"I pushed for the [third fight] and I was told [by Top Rank], 'well, it's not right, the timing is not right'," Schaefer said. "I can assure you that the timing is never going to be right. I don't think that Pacquiao is ever going to -- or maybe Bob Arum is never going to want to have another piece of Marquez because, even though I'm not a boxing expert, I have learned one thing: styles make fights and somebody might have somebody's number, and Marquez has Pacquiao's number. That's why I think that fight is never going to happen again. But that's OK, because there are so many great fights out there for the winner of Marquez and Diaz."
Linares back in spotlight
The first time Jorge Linares fought in the United States, he stopped Oscar Larios in the 10th round to win a vacant featherweight title. It was a sensational performance on the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright undercard at Mandalay Bay in July 2007.
Now Linares, 24, returns to Mandalay Bay to face Rocky Juarez in a lightweight bout on the Marquez-Diaz II undercard. But no longer is Linares the can't-miss future star. Instead, he's a talented young fighter with an uncertain future.
Linares, who eventually claimed a junior lightweight title, lost it in October when Juan Carlos Salgado scored a shocking first-round knockout in one of the biggest upsets of 2009. It was just a few weeks after Linares signed a heavily hyped deal with Golden Boy.
Linares rebounded with a shaky performance in a majority decision win in his native Venezuela against Francisco Lorenzo in March and is returning to a much bigger stage against Juarez.
Linares is confident he'll put the recent difficulties behind him against Juarez.
"You win and lose in this sport. That is part of life," Linares said. "I had some personal issues and they are behind me now. This is not a title fight, but it is a stepping stone to a title shot. All of my training and preparations have been great. I am ready for the fight."
Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya likens Linares' setback to that of Khan, who was knocked out in one round by Breidis Prescott, but rebounded to eventually win a junior welterweight title and become one of the top 140-pounders in the world.
"Linares actually reminds me of what Amir Khan went through," De La Hoya said. "If you recall, Amir Khan got knocked out in one round, and then he came back. People thought he was washed up and then he came back in a spectacular fashion and now is on top of the world. I feel the same way for Linares. Suffering a knockout in your career is not easy, and coming back from it is even harder, but this fight here, it's not going to be an easy one against Rocky Juarez. This is a true, tough test against a real fighter. If Linares is not going to pass this test, if he's not going to win this fight, then we have to re-evaluate his career. We have high hopes for Linares and, obviously, we still have high hopes for Rocky Juarez; that's what makes it so special."
Schaefer said he'll try to get the winner a title shot.
"I do think that the winner, if they decide to stay at lightweight, you have another name there that could fight the winner of Marquez-Diaz, or fight Michael Katsidis," Schaefer said. "If they decide to fight at junior lightweight, we'll have conversations with our friends and partners in Germany [at Universum] who are the promoter of Vitali Tajbert, the WBC champion, so there are definitely opportunities there for whoever might win."
• I talked to Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Thursday and got the list of purses for the main fights on Saturday's card. Here you go: Marquez ($1 million), Diaz ($540,000), Daniel Jacobs ($200,000), Dmitry Pirog ($50,000), Robert Guerrero ($75,000), Joel Casamayor ($50,000), Linares ($30,000), Juarez ($45,000), Sakio Bika ($18,000) and Jean Paul Mendy ($12,000). Keep in mind these are the official purses as per the Nevada bout agreements, but it is common for other revenue to be paid through other streams.