Bloody fights aren't uncommon in combat sports, but Antonio DeMarco's lightweight title-winning effort against Jorge Linares last October has to rate among the bloodiest ever. After trailing for much of the fight, DeMarco opened one of the nastiest nose-bridge cuts in recent memory to turn Linares into a messy, walking body paint job. Linares soldiered on, seemingly on his way to a lopsided points win, but DeMarco (27-2-1, 20 KOs) then unleashed a series of combinations that eventually forced a stoppage and scored him a terrific comeback win in a huge upset.
After failing to secure a rematch with Linares and then taking a tune-up fight in March, DeMarco is ready to make his first title defense. He will face John Molina Jr. (24-1, 19 KOs) on the undercard of the Andre Ward-Chad Dawson fight Saturday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., in one of the tougher challenges either fighter could make in the talent-rich 135-pound division.
Here's what DeMarco had to say about Saturday's bout:
How was training for this fight?
Everything went well, thank God. We were working here in Tijuana [Mexico] and in San Diego also, with a few other sparring partners. Our work in the gym is going better than expected, and we hope to be in excellent condition and put together a good fight.
What do you know about your opponent?
He is a very respectable fighter, an aggressive and strong fighter who throws a lot of punches. We have to be alert to see what he will bring on fight night.
You take a lot of punches. Are you worried about Molina's power?
Believe me, I'm not afraid of anything. On the contrary, Molina is a fighter who motivates us a lot to train hard and give a good fight. And we're going to be alert for whatever Molina brings, and for whatever else we find in this fight.
You had a terrific fight against Linares. What lessons did you learn from that fight?
What can I say? It was my dream fight. I dreamed about becoming a world champion, but I'll be honest and say I never expected it to be this way. And believe me, it has been a very important achievement in my career and in my personal life as well, because I realized what I am capable of. And now I want to achieve much more.
You say this was your dream fight. Do you believe your style flourishes in these situations -- under intense pressure -- or were you simply forced to adjust on the go?
I believe it was a little bit of both. I got used to fighting in life, and to making an effort to achieve my goals and achieving what I believe in. And that was a factor, my ability to give something extra in those last rounds. And that comes from beyond what I am as a fighter. It comes from what I had to go through in my personal life.
How are the plans for a Linares rematch going?
Well, the rematch was already agreed upon, and before that we had to fight other guys. I had my fight [against Miguel Beltran] and Linares fought [Sergio] Thompson, but it was Linares' turn to lose against Thompson and all our plans fell apart. But that's the way the sport is, and maybe later we could face each other again, sure.
What expectations do you have for this fight? Do you think this is the beginning of your career as a main event type of fighter?
Yes, and I am very excited and motivated by this opportunity to fight on the card we're going to fight on. I am grateful to HBO and my promoter for trusting me with this, and now my dream has expanded. Now I want to be the best. I used to dream about being the champion of the world, and later I saw it wasn't too difficult for me. Now that I'm a world champion, I dream about being the best. I know I have to work much more. I haven't done anything yet -- my career is barely starting -- and I want to consolidate myself as world champion.
What kind of statement would you like to make on such a big stage? What would you like people to see in you that they haven't seen before?
What comes next for me is the beginning of a young fighter who is hungry to become world champion and to consolidate himself, to become champion in life as well, and for that I am working very hard. I work hard to enjoy this to the fullest, and what really counts for me is to put together a great fight for the fans, for them to be happy with the fight I make for them.
How do you see the landscape at 135 pounds?
I believe the division is gaining momentum. Some names already jumped to 140 pounds, but now others are making their way to 135, and I believe the division is going well. There are great fighters like [Adrien] Broner, Miguel Vazquez, there's also Ricky Burns. There are many fighters coming at 135 pounds, and we're delighted. It would be great to face these fighters, because in order to be the best you have to beat the best. God willing, I'd love to be lightweight champion for a while and consolidate my position. I hope I can do that. But I know also that I am 26 years old, my body is changing, and I can't say that I will be able to stay at 135 pounds for a long time.
What other fighter do you compare yourself to?
I wouldn't dare to compare myself with anyone because I am starting out in this, and Mexico has a lot of magnificent world champs, and they are incomparable. But I would love to be able to achieve at least a little bit of what Juan Manuel Marquez has achieved.
Win or lose, what are your plans for your next fight?
We're focused on winning. We all want to win. We know we're in a sport in which you can win, lose or tie, but our mentality is to win and come back with a victory for Tijuana. And then anything can happen. Winning this fight, I believe we'll find better opportunities in the future for us, and with a lot of responsibility we have to do our job from here on.
How do you envision Saturday's fight playing out?
I've analyzed it in my mind, and I see an intense fight. I see people screaming round after round, and that's what motivates me the most to wait for this fight.