Fighter balances boxing, books, family

Twenty-year-old Roberto Marroquin of Oak Cliff shares a bed with his younger brother, drives his three younger sisters to school every morning and is studying to be an accountant.

Such is life for a boxer who will be fighting in front of a crowd estimated to be near 45,000 on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.

Marroquin, a super bantamweight with a 12-0 record (nine knockouts), will fight Samuel Sanchez on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey WBO welterweight title fight.

Marroquin, who graduated from Molina High School in 2007, was taught by his parents, Gabriel and Luz Maria, that education was important. He attends Northwood University in Cedar Hill and is on schedule to get his associate's degree in accounting.

He wants something to fall back on in case this boxing thing doesn't work out.

So far it has.

"Everybody says he's a future star," promoter Bob Arum said.

Trading one glove for two

Top Rank signed Marroquin two years ago because he was a rising amateur star. He reminds Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler of Oscar De La Hoya.

"Just on his style," Trampler said of the resemblance. "I saw him at the Olympic trials in Houston before the 2008 team was put together. He was a kid I always liked. We're very pleased with his progress."

Marroquin has won numerous amateur titles, including the 2006 Junior Olympics national title. He also reached the finals at the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2007 U.S. Olympic trials.

Not bad for a kid who used to cry because he didn't like to train.

Marroquin didn't like to box. Baseball was his passion. But once that season ended at Molina, his father told him to get into the ring.

His attitude toward the sport changed in 2002 when he captured a national amateur title.

"I was like, 'Wow, I did it,'" he said. "It was just motivation for myself, and I kept on going. And here I am fighting in one of the biggest fights in Dallas history."

Climbing the ladder

Marroquin became marketable to several promotional firms, but Top Rank won out when they liked his left hook, movement and knockout power.

Marroquin's sudden rise as a professional doesn't overwhelm him. And with three fights in Las Vegas under his belt -- a third-round technical knockout of Anthony Napunyi, a fourth-round knockout of Julio Valadez and a first-round TKO of Isaac Hidalgo -- you'd think he'd be used to large crowds.

Not so. Those fights came on non-televised cards in front of fewer than 1,000 fans.

His biggest audience? Marroquin said 5,000 were in attendance to watch his second-round TKO of Steven Johnson at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie last year.

Saturday night will be different, with 45,000 likely in attendance at Cowboys Stadium.

"Going in there, I don't know how the crowd is going to react or anything," Marroquin said. "Sometimes nervousness plays a role, but I'm not that type of fighter. But in front of that crowd you never know. It's going to be quite an experience."

Both feet on the ground

Marroquin attributes his calm demeanor to his family, who make sure he stays humble with a number of tasks.

His day starts early at the family's three-bedroom home in Oak Cliff. He gets up at 5:30 a.m. and taxis his three sisters to two different schools in his 2002 Toyota, which has more than 160,000 miles on it.

Then it's on to Northwood University in Cedar Hill for an 8 a.m. class.

"It's hard with the girls," Gabriel Marroquin Sr. said. "It's not easy. I'm with him most of the time. But he has school, and after that he's all mine."

But even then, Roberto has to pick his sisters up from school. He usually naps until 5:30 p.m., when he heads to the gym to work out.

"School is 100 percent," Gabriel Sr. said. "To me, boxing isn't school. It's second, but it's a 24-7 thing sometimes. But if you have no education, you can't go anywhere."

When his day is over, Roberto heads home, where he shares a room -- and a bed -- with his younger brother, Gabriel Marroquin Jr.

"They don't want to let me go," Roberto said of his family. "They said if I take off, they said I will forget about boxing and go with the girls. They've always been supportive of me and got my back, which is good in boxing.

"I think family is most important to you. They've always been supportive, and no negative side of them. This is why I'm here … for that reason."

Calvin Watkins covers boxing for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter.