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Prize Pupil

July 06, 1992
July 06, 1992

Table of Contents
July 6, 1992

Movies
Track And Field
XXV Olympic Summer Games
Steve Palermo
Brown And Andolsek

Prize Pupil

Raul Marquez studied boxing so well under his father that he earned a trip to Barcelona

In all the years he went to school, while growing up in Houston, no course of study left a more vivid impression on Raul Marquez than the class his father used to convene on the couch in the family living room. It was there, in front of the 25-inch color television set, that Arturo Marquez conducted an intensive course of applied science—of applied sweet science, that is, Marvin Hagler-style.

This is an article from the July 6, 1992 issue Original Layout

The elder Marquez would run videotapes of Hagler's fights when Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world and presided over the division like a bald-headed Zeus, throwing bolts of lightning from either side to paralyzing effect. "Look at the way he moves," Arturo would lecture his son. "See how he throws the right jab, then takes one step right and throws the left. Pow! He uses both hands, Raul! Jabs, hooks, uppercuts. Look at the body punches! He does everything. He is beautiful!"

As a young man in Mexico, Arturo had had his boxing idols, from countryman Salvador Sanchez to Roberto Duran. But it was Hagler, who fought southpaw, that he held up as a model to his lefthanded son. "Everything I taught Raul, I learned from Marvin Hagler," says Arturo.

The boy learned well. Two weeks ago, on his way to winning the 156-pound division at the Olympic Boxing Trials in Worcester, Mass., the 20-year-old Marquez stunned Robert Allen in the quarterfinals with a withering, two-handed body attack, setting him up for jarring shots to the head that had Allen out on his feet when the referee stopped the fight in the third round. Marquez's performance was notable for the power of the punching and the savagery of the attack. Last Friday in Phoenix, at the Olympic Box-off, the final step in the elimination process to determine the U.S. team, a wildly over-zealous Marquez jabbed, hooked and banged his way to a 78-13 decision over Antwun Echols to earn a place on the 12-man squad heading for Barcelona.

While Marquez's 78 scored punches in his Box-off match were the most landed by a boxer in the 13 bouts over three days—and this despite fighting with an elbow still so sore from the Allen bout that he could not throw a straight left hand—Echols's 43 were the most hits scored by a losing fighter. Indeed, at times the bout looked like something you might see after last call in a biker bar.

At one point, trying desperately to knock Echols out, Marquez missed with a hook thrown so hard that he spun 180 degrees and crashed to the deck. Throughout the fight he repeatedly put himself at risk against a puncher he was beating easily on points.

"Pride," said Marquez by way of explanation. "He was slugging me. I was slugging him back."

Roger Bloodworth, one of Marquez's advisers, rolled his eyes at that. "You fight with your brain, not your pride," said Bloodworth.

The taking of risks may also have been learned from the father. Arturo spent five years avoiding the scrutiny of U.S. Customs agents in Chicago Heights, Ill., where he lived as an illegal alien, off and on, while working to save money to start and then support a family. He was the second of 10 children born to a farming family in Valle Hermoso, a dot on the map of northern Mexico, and as a young man he studied to be a machinist. Like many Mexicans, he looked across the Rio Grande for his future. In 1969, trying to raise enough money to marry his childhood sweetheart, he set out for Chicago with only the clothes he was wearing. He traveled on a tourist visa, which did not permit him to work, but he found a job nonetheless, in a machine shop outside Chicago.

"The times were booming, and they needed machinists," Arturo says. "It was hard. I didn't know the language. I lived by myself. No family. No friends. I suffered from loneliness."

Nine months later, in September 1970, he had suffered enough. He had also saved enough money to throw the wedding of the year in Valle Hermoso one month later. Raul was born there on Aug. 28, 1971. Eleven months later his father was back in Illinois, alone and working illegally to support the family. His wife, Yolanda, and infant child finally joined him, but they could not abide the winter winds that howl off Lake Michigan. "It was too cold," says Arturo. "They were sick all the time."

The family returned to Mexico in 1974. The next year Arturo was trying his hand at farming—with a used tractor he had bought for $8,000—when a Houston company offered him the job, as a machinist, that ultimately settled his nomadic life. This time, with a green card allowing him to work, he was a "legal."

Arturo has been a boxing aficionado for as long as he can remember, and he began taking his son to Houston gyms when the boy was nine. Raul won his first fight on May 30, 1980. "I ran home to show my mother the trophy," he says. "And my busted lip."

Shortly after Hagler won the middleweight title in 1980, Arturo began tutoring Raul in the living room of their Houston home. Boxing became their bond. So that Raul could become eligible to compete for a spot on U.S. teams in international competition, Arturo applied for U.S. citizenship, which he received in 1986, opening the way for Raul to become a citizen two years later. "He did it for me," Raul says.

In the tradition of the newly minted U.S. citizen, Arturo preached to his son the ways and truths of the promised land. "This is the land of opportunities," he told Raul, "and you can be what you want to be. But you have to work very hard."

The boy worked hard enough. When his father was nearly killed in an automobile accident in 1987—he suffered broken ribs and crushed feet when a dump truck ran his car off a Houston freeway—Raul stopped boxing for 15 months, waiting for Arturo to recover. "Just to keep in shape," he says, he took up high school track and cross-country. He ran a 4:39 mile.

In 1990, after losing a close decision in the finals of the Goodwill Games to Romania's Francisc Vastag, Raul decided to turn professional. Lou Duva, who will probably train him as a pro after the Olympics, and Arturo immediately put a stop to those plans. "Don't do this!" Duva said. "You've got to go to the Olympics. You need the recognition!"

So Marquez kept on course, working harder than ever. This year he has already whipped his two most difficult potential Olympic foes—Juan Lemus of Cuba and Germany's Torsten Schmitz—and he has a solid chance to win a medal in Barcelona. No American throws more hurtful gloves or fights with more fire. Today his old man sits before him in blissful wonder, beholding his creation. He regrets not a day that he worked outside the law in Chicago. "A lot of people are embarrassed to say they were illegal, but I'm proud of what I did," says Arturo. "I did it for my family. Sometimes I cry when I think about it. Now my son has made the U.S. Olympic team. He worked very hard for this. He deserves to be where he is. On this team."

On his way to Barcelona. "To win the gold," Raul says.

PHOTORICHARD MACKSONIn his win over Echols, Marquez (right) made like his idol Hagler with nonstop punching.PHOTORICHARD MACKSONTimothy Austin got a nose job from Aristead Clayton, but he still won the 112-pound berth.PHOTORICHARD MACKSONChamp Evander Holyfield, an '84 Olympian, sized up the '92 talent.ILLUSTRATION