LAS VEGAS (AP) — Juan Manuel Marquez is eager to get back in the ring against Juan Diaz, and not just because he has been away from boxing for nearly a year.
It's just about the only place he can get away from the nagging dissatisfaction of chasing Manny Pacquiao.
Marquez and Diaz will meet Saturday night in a lightweight rematch of their acclaimed February 2009 bout. Diaz was beating Mexico's top fighter until Marquez rallied for a ninth-round stoppage, saving his career and propelling him into a big-money fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
“It's going to be a great fight,” Marquez said. “If not the same, even better than the first fight. We have styles that make for a great fight, because we don't back down. We go in and fight, and we don't stop.”
But Pacquiao still looms in the back of Marquez's mind as he prepares for the final stop before a likely move to the star-studded 140-pound division.
Marquez got a draw and a split-decision loss in his first two fights against Pacquiao, and is desperate for a third shot.
“Everybody asks me about it all the time, and I want the fight,” Marquez said. “I can't make him fight me, though. We have to take care of fights like this one before we can talk about that, but I think we'll meet again before we're done. He knows I can beat him, so that's why he stays away.”
Marquez and Diaz will finish a stacked card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center featuring several top fighters on the Golden Boy Promotions roster. Brooklyn prospect Danny Jacobs will fight Russian Dmitry Pirog for the WBO middleweight title, while Bay Area 140-pounder Robert Guerrero will step up in competition to take on Cuban veteran Joel Casamayor.
Marquez still doesn't regret moving up in weight to fight Mayweather last September in a lopsided decision loss. Marquez got a huge payday and a rise in his U.S. profile – and he still thinks he would have had a shot if Mayweather hadn't been an estimated 15 pounds heavier than him on fight night.
Marquez hasn't fought since, struggling to find a suitable opponent. He has little to prove at lightweight, and the final fights of his 30s are likely to be in the competitive 140-pound division, where he immediately would be a top contender in a stacked division including Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana and the rejuvenated Zab Judah.
Yet he still holds out hope Pacquiao will give him another chance, believing he finally can stop the fighter who has reigned atop the sport for two years.
“If I can ever get that third Pacquiao fight, I want that opportunity,” Marquez said. “And if I can't get that fight, maybe I'll fight at 140 and become the first Mexican to win titles in four weight divisions.”