Juan Manuel Marquez seems to be in no rush. After his career-crowning win over Manny Pacquiao in December, in which Marquez finally broke through against his nemesis and snatched a junior welterweight belt, the Mexican pound-for-pound star took time to weigh his options and consult his family about whether he should continue fighting.
Marquez is 39, after all, with 62 professional fights -- many of them grueling action battles -- behind him, and a place in the Hall of Fame awaits him whether he fights on or hangs up his gloves tomorrow.
But Marquez is also a proud fighter who has talked often of his legacy, and there is an opportunity within reach that could lift his status from icon to all-time legend: A welterweight title would give him a belt in five separate weight classes, more than any fighter in Mexico's storied boxing history. How might he achieve that goal? A matchup with welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., who seems to be No. 1 on Marquez's wish list -- but Marquez's representatives reportedly have yet to speak to Bradley.
Marquez recently made some time for ESPN Radio in Mexico to discuss his future outlook and the possibility of a Bradley scrap. Here is the exchange:
There's white smoke, as they say: We're hearing that you'll be returning Sept. 14 in Las Vegas.
Well, yes, I had a meeting … we were going back and forth with my family, and they said there is no problem, and possibly we'll be returning on Sept. 14.
How did you come to the decision after defeating Manny Pacquiao last December?
I believe the decision came because I feel good, I feel capable of doing two or three more fights, possibly. We don't know what's going to happen, but the decision comes because I feel great, which is the most important thing, and I also feel well mentally. So I believe this is the most important part of the decision -- feeling good and feeling able to achieve something in sports yet.
The word is that Timothy Bradley Jr. is the main candidate to fight you, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Could you confirm this?
Look, there were talks with two possible candidates for Sept. 14. We talked about Mike Alvarado and Timothy Bradley. But I love important challenges, the most difficult ones, and to me it would be a great challenge to fight Timothy Bradley, who is also the world champion. And to me it would be a great challenge to fight him and also to try to win a fifth title in another division, which to me is something very pleasing and would bring me a lot of pride. ... Right now, that's the biggest challenge -- and I love the biggest possible challenges.
Bradley appears to be the most complicated opponent among the four who might be considered for your next fight, if we also include Brandon Rios and Pacquiao. Bradley is the least frontal fighter of the bunch and the one who could make things most difficult, right?
I believe that in the ring things can get difficult no matter what style you're facing. Bradley has an elusive style; he doesn't stand to trade punches. It's the most difficult of those four, but among them, I believe the one who has the most credentials in this sport is the undefeated fighter, a fighter who is a world champion. And those are the challenges I like -- the challenges that in this part of my career I would like to face and make a fight with an opponent who is classified among the top 10 fighters in the world. And I believe Bradley is one of them.
Sounds like, at least for now, you're keeping your word and not fighting Manny Pacquiao again. Instead, you have a chance to make history and become the first Mexican with titles in five of divisions.
Look, what is being said about Pacquiao -- that a fifth fight wouldn't make sense -- well, it's just like that. It still doesn't make sense. To me, it wouldn't be a challenge, and I need challenges. I would like to close my career in good standing and leave a legacy behind me. I want everyone to remember me for having faced the best fighters out there, and I believe Timothy Bradley is one of them. And why not look forward to finding that fifth title in a fifth weight class, which is something no one here in Mexico has achieved? So to me this is an important challenge, a difficult challenge, a tough challenge. But I always have the mindset that anything can be achieved.
Will you continue working with trainer Nacho Beristain and Angel Heredia? Who else is on your team right now?
Yes, we continue with them. It's going to be the same. I'm going to continue with my team, there are no changes. I believe that the most important thing on this last leg of my career is to continue with the usual team because it has worked well with us. All this training and all this work we've done were done well. And that's why we continue with the same team.