Juan Manuel Marquez (bottom) was mobbed by fans Saturday when he appeared at Santa Anita Park on Breeders' Cup Classic Day. (Bryan Armen Graham/SI)
ARCADIA, Calif. -- A sparring exhibition featuring Juan Manuel Marquez at Santa Anita Park was cancelled Saturday due to weather concerns, but it didn't put a damper on the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Mexican's first public appearance in the United States ahead of his Nov. 12 showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
Marquez arrived at the thoroughbred race track just before 2 p.m. wearing a Dallas Cowboys ski cap, all-black tracksuit and Reebok running shoes, waving to the hundreds of fans who surrounded a ring near the top of the stretch that had been transported from Freddie Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood.
Appearing happy and animated, Marquez climbed into the ring and spent 45 minutes walking the perimeter, conducting interviews both in English and Spanish for print and TV media.
Top Rank spokesman Lee Samuels said the chilly weather conditions -- temperatures hovered around 60 degrees -- prompted organizers to cancel the public workout. The exhibition had also been intended to showcase 140-pound titleholder Timothy Bradley, a recent Top Rank signee who is fighting on the Pacquiao-Marquez undercard.
With the track already teeming with activity on Breeders' Cup Classic Day, the undermanned security staff found themselves quickly overwhelmed. At one point while signing memorabilia for a chaotic throng, Marquez was struck in the left cheek by a boxing glove that an overzealous fan hoped he'd autograph.
The 38-year-old Marquez said his final preparations have gone well and downplayed any animosity between Pacquiao and himself.
"After the fight he's a friend," he said. "It's professional sports. But inside the ring, no friends."
Marquez took a private jet from Mexico City early Saturday morning but had to fly to San Diego for customs. He then flew to Burbank, where a luxury coach bus (with his name and likeness plastered on the side) shuttled him to the historic horse track located 14 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
He is staying overnight in L.A. for interviews Sunday morning before flying to Las Vegas for fight week.
-- Bryan Armen Graham