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Blogging After The Bell: Marquez takes aim at surprise opponent

You are Juan Manuel Marquez. You just turned in arguably the finest performance of your professional career when you systematically destroyed lightweight champion Joel Casamayor last Saturday night. You have catapulted yourself to the top of every pound-for-pound rankings and have the boxing world buzzing about a potential third fight with your nemesis, MannyPacquiao, once Pacquiao finishes his business with Oscar De La Hoya.

What do you do?

You start talking about a fight with Ricky Hatton.

Huh?

Surprised? I was. When I placed a call to Marquez's co-promoter and right hand man, Jaime Quintana, I didn't expect to hear any revelations. Marquez has been stalking Pacquiao for more than a year, so despite the recent rhetoric to the contrary, I expected Quintana -- and everyone else in Marquez's camp -- to tell me that Pacquiao was still their first, last and only choice for an opponent.

Not so. According to Quintana, Marquez has shifted his attention to Hatton, the reigning IBO light welterweight champion. Quintana and Golden Boy have had internal discussions about matching Hatton (who also fights under Golden Boy banner) against Marquez at 140 pounds.

"Flat out, Pacquiao is afraid to fight Juan Manuel," said Quintana. "He doesn't want the fight. So Juan Manuel is moving forward."

Quintana's comments are reinforced by statements made by Golden Boy execs.

"There's no way (Top Rank promoter) Bob Arum and Pacquiao are going to fight him again," Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said. "I don't think Pacquiao wants anything to do with Juan Manuel Marquez any more. Juan Manuel Marquez will fight anyone. He's never turned down anyone. Have you ever heard him turn down any opponent?"

For the record, Pacquiao left the door open for a third fight with Marquez during an interview with reporters in the Philippines this weekend.

"I'm willing to fight him anytime," said Pacquiao. "But since I will be the promoter, he must first accept all the conditions I will ask, including a smaller purse [for him]. "If he agrees to the conditions, I know he is fighting for honor and I will fight him. If not, he's only after getting a big purse."

Statements made by boxing promoters have to be taken with an entire box of salt. If Pacquiao decides tomorrow that he wants another shot at Marquez, it is a fight that can be made in a day. But if it's true that Marquez has moved on, Hatton is an interesting choice.

The most appealing part of a showdown with Hatton is that it would easily be Marquez's most lucrative fight to date, which is a major factor for a fighter who in the past has made some questionable business decisions. Hatton is one of the most popular British fighters in history and a mega fight with Marquez could easily draw 50,000-60,000 fans in Manchester, England. Marquez could earn upwards of $5 million for the fight.

If he can find a way to beat Hatton, who still has to get by Paulie Malignaggi in November, Marquez would set him up for even more lucrative paydays. Quintana didn't rule out Marquez moving up to the 147-pound welterweight division, an idea that seemed preposterous a year ago but one that now has legs after Marquez didn't seem to lose any of his power at 135 pounds when he handed Casamayor the first KO loss of his career.

The downside? There is a very good chance Marquez could find himself staggeringly overmatched. The prevailing image of Hatton, for many people, is the beating he took at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr., a year ago. But Hatton had to move up to welterweight for that fight and his straight-ahead style doesn't work as well when the man in front of him is physically superior.

But at 140 pounds, Hatton is a dangerous fighter. He has tremendous punching power (31 of his 44 wins have come by knockout) and would test Marquez's chin, which has been considered suspect in previous fights.

But if Marquez is willing to risk a potentially devastating loss for the promise of an unprecedented payday, Hatton is the right fight.

1. Back by popular demand, it's the John Ruiz update. In our last episode, Ruiz had formally petitioned the WBA to strip Nikolay Valuev of the world title and declare it vacant. Ruiz cited a litany of improprieties during the fight and demanded an immediate rematch.

Not surprisingly, the WBA turned down his request. "After learning that serious allegations were made by Team Ruiz after his defeat against Nikolay Valuev last August 30th in Berlin, Germany, the World Boxing Association (WBA) strongly denies any wrongdoings by any of its appointed officials," the WBA said in a statement.

With the WBA shooting Ruiz down, the only way he will get another rematch with Valuev is if Valuev and his promoters, Sauerland Event, agree to one. And that's not going to happen.

"[We] will not fight Ruiz," said Chris Meyer, CEO of Sauerland Event. "For Valuev it doesn't make sense. He beat Ruiz twice. A third match doesn't make economic sense if I want to sell tickets and some TV rights. How can I convince the people to pay money for a third fight?"

Meyer's point is well taken. Ruiz-Valuev wasn't even available on U.S. television and, outside of a few pockets in the world, it isn't a marketable fight. Valuev should be eyeing a unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko, who will face Alexander Povetkin later this year. Klitschko-Valuev is probably the most marketable heavyweight fight out there.

2. I've gotten a few angry emails for my sharp criticisms of Joe Calzaghe's recent opponents last week -- not so much in defense of Calzaghe, but of his most recent opponent, Bernard Hopkins, who Calzaghe out pointed last April. Come on. Is it even arguable that Hopkins is past his prime? B-Hop is 2-3 in his last five fights and looks to me like he is fighting less to win and more not to get KO'd. I don't want to see that kind of fighter in a marquee fight.

3. I hear Winky Wright is planning a comeback early next year. Sigh. Another aging, defensive-minded fighter looking to get back in the ring. I smell a pay-per-view.

4.Vernon Forrest's performance against Sergio Mora last weekend was impressive and earned Forrest another high-profile, big-money fight -- possibly in a third go-round with Shane Mosley.

5. Mora's performance probably earned him a low-profile, low-money fight, possibly with Alfonso Gomez. It's a shame, too, because Mosley told me over the weekend that he was seriously considering Mora as his next opponent after Ricardo Mayorga.

6. Former welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir, last seen sparring with Mayweather before his fight with Hatton last year, issued a press release announcing his return to the real ring and that he would like to face AntonioMargarito, Josh Clottey or Miguel Cotto. Right. And I'm getting back into the dating scene and I'd like to go out with Natalie Portman, Marisa Miller or Kate Beckinsale. Except I have a better shot.

7. Oscar De La Hoya claims he may be willing to share his trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., who signed on to train Hatton for his November fight with Malignaggi. Unless Mayweather can convince Hatton to leave England to train at Big Bear, that's not going to happen. And even if he does, I can't see De La Hoya as being a good sharer. So it's safe to assume that when De La Hoya faces Pacquiao, he will have his third trainer in as many fights.

Who should he choose? My vote goes to Nacho Beristain, the longtime trainer of Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez. Beristain is familiar with Pacquiao through Marquez and he can speak with authority on the strengths and weaknesses of smaller fighters.

8. Junior welterweight prospect Victor Ortiz is going to headline a pay-per-view. Soon.

9. One more note on De La Hoya's trainer: If I were to pick a dark horse, it would be Teddy Atlas. Atlas has been operating exclusively as a broadcaster recently, but Mike Tyson's former mentor knows a thing or two about turning a boxing match into a street fight. And to put Pacquiao down, that's exactly what De La Hoya needs to do.

10. I'm eager to see what Kermit Cintron has left in the tank when he returns to the ring against Lovemore N'Dou in November. Cintron hasn't fought since suffering a devastating knockout loss to Margarito in April.

11. I'm not eager to see anyone from The Contender fight ever again. I watch the reality show and find it mildly entertaining, but nothing so far has shown me that any of its graduates can actually fight.

12.FROM THE MAILBAG:Do you think Oscar De La Hoya is good for the sport at this point in his career, fighting guys three weight classes below him? Is he a promoter or is he a fighter? He has a conflict of interest, and I'm not sure [if] he is doing more damage than good to this sport, especially if he provides another half-hearted effort against a much smaller man. He fights not to lose rather than giving the fans their money's worth. $50 is a lot of money to watch Oscar give another crappy performance. --Brian, Folsom, Calif.

I'll never say that De La Hoya is bad for boxing, I don't care how old he is. The guy is a cash cow who has kept boxing relevant during the lean years. Not only that, when he's on he is still a pretty good fighter.

But your point is well taken, Brian. Oscar disappointed me when he went looking for the fight with Pacquiao instead of taking on a welterweight contender like Margarito. It wasn't about the money. If De La Hoya has proven anything, it's that when it comes to the gate and PPV buys, his opponent is almost irrelevant.

Sad as it is to say, the next truly big fight in De La Hoya's career is the one that retires him, the one that leaves him so battered and bruised that he doesn't want to continue. Margarito represents that possibility and I don't think De La Hoya is willing to go there quite yet. He could lose to Pacquiao, but there is little possibility of him getting seriously hurt.

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