February 21, 2003

Rafael Marquez Makes History For Mexico

By Fiona Manning

Rafael Marquez made history on Saturday night in Las Vegas by stopping IBF bantamweight champion Tim Austin to become world champion within two weeks of his brother Juan Manuel Marquez becoming the featherweight champion for the same sanctioning body.

“This is a big night for my family and a big night for all of Mexico,” Marquez told La Prensa San Diego immediately after the fight at Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino pavilion.

“I knew I would beat him because I felt I was stronger and more focused but when I knocked him out and he went through the ropes in the eighth round, I could hardly believe it myself,” he said.

The Marquez brothers of Mexico City became the fourth set of Mexican brothers to win world titles. The others are Rene and Ricardo Arredondo of Apatzingan, Michoacan, Mexico; Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico; and Erik and Diego Morales of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.

Marquez also became the first Mexican in 12 years to win the bantamweight title, considered in Mexico to be the most prestigious title because it is the belt that most Mexicans have won and a division they once dominated for years. Victor Rabanales was the last Mexican bantamweight champion.

“I knew I had to just keep the pressure on him and I would have him. I came looking for the belt and I am taking it to Mexico. I am so happy that both my brother and me are both champions. Our dreams have come true.

“Many reporters felt I would not be able to beat him but I have made a career of surprsing people.”

Indeed he has. In controversial circumstances, he first lost a fight to former feather champ Mark Johnson last year. Johnson had left the casino and Marquez was playing poker when ringside officials came and told him they had added the scores wrongly and Marquez had actually won.

When the two men met for a rematch, there could be no question of who was the victor. Marquez said he trained for a knockout and got one. In the fifth round, he landed such a big right to Johnson’s head, Johnson fell flat on his back on the canvas and was unable to lift his head for the 10 count.

“I feel great this is such a tremendous feeling, I am very emotional and happy right now. I give all thanks to the Lord for this moment and that I came out victorious,” he said.

The pace of the fight was classic; give and take with both men respecting each other’s power for most of the encounter.

“I never felt that I was in trouble or in any danger during the fight. I was never hurt badly,” Marquez said. “He hit me good to the body a few times especially one to the liver that slowed me up considerably. But my conditioning was there.

“My strength was there and it showed at the end, I was able to recoup and Knock him out.”

It appeared that at the end of the 7th round Austin was on his way to cruising. This lead to a confident and brash Marquez corner to shout, “Its only a matter of time! Its only a matter of time!”

At the beginnning of the 8th round, an approaching and determined Marquez began to dictate the pace. The champ seemed to have his defensive movements timed by the challenger and a more active and aggressive Marquez neutralized his reach.

Marquez was finding a home for his right hand and with instructions from his trainer Nacho Beristain (who also trains Juan Manuel Marquez), he began finishing his combinations crisper.

He survived an early hard hook from Austin that looked to do some damage to Marquez. Marquez reeled to the ropes, but showed grit and heart. Then like the flip of a switch his right hands were landing. One of those crushing rights sent Austin spiraling towards the canvas crashing half way out of the ring and through the ropes.

“The first time he went down I knew he was getting back up, cause he’s a tough fighter on tape I saw him get dropped before and come back strong,” said Marquez.

Austin rose at the count of 8, but only on sheer will power. Nevertheless, an unwavering Marquez swarmed Austin with punches, a solid flurry prompted referee Vic Drackulich to stop the contest at 2.20 of the round.

What’s next for the 27-year-old two-fisted puncher from Mexico City, Mexico? “I am going to get a lot of rest and enjoy this victory for a little bit. Then back to the gym,” he said.

“I’ll defend against whom ever. I would like to unify the division. But I would like to make about 3 or 4 defenses of my title first. I want to enjoy every second of this.”

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