The Underrated Dragon

By Cain Bradley on January 24, 2018
The Underrated Dragon
Chris John deserves to be a first ballot hall of famer. (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

He never had the power or the fan-friendly style in order to make him a big draw. He was always boxing the clever fight…

To many, it was an aberration. Juan Manuel Marquez was a Pound for Pound great and a defining boxer of the second half of the last decade. He dominated the Featherweight, Super Featherweight and Lightweight divisions, losing only to the best fighters of his generation. So why is Chris John, who beat Marquez in 2006, not remembered as an all-time great?

Let’s start with the Marquez fight. It was in Indonesia, like 42 of his 52 bouts. The bout was a tactical affair with Chris John looking to keep Marquez from landing consistently. Marquez was forced to be the aggressor with John countering. John looked to control the fight with his jab and movement, throwing combinations when the opportunity presented itself. After two warnings for low blows, Marquez was also deducted two points. The judges that night scored it unanimously to John along with Scott Mallon, the only American journalist to attend. In hindsight, the majority of fans seem to think Marquez deserved the decision. However, it is an incredibly close bout with rounds that could be scored either way. It became something of a myth fight and I would suggest many scored the fight as fans of Marquez, wanting him to be scored the winner. At the very worst, Chris John kept it competitive with Marquez, who many consider to be a hall of fame lock.

So after having a close fight with Marquez, he entered a few Pound for Pound lists and kept on winning. Boxing fans still seemingly held on to the notion that he was merely gifted hometown decisions and not a truly world-class boxer. John would, in fact, become one of a small number of Asian boxers who left the relative comforts of home to leave for a big fight in America hoping to prove critics wrong. On the undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz, he took on hometown hero Rocky Juarez. John constantly jibed about hometown decisions was ironically on the end of one for his first fight in America as Juarez came away with a draw that was almost unanimously scored to John. John went on to win the rematch, which took place on the Mayweather vs. Marquez undercard. It was not his only impressive win though. His title win came over Oscar Leon, a solid boxer before he handily outpointed Derrick Gainer. Hiroyuki Enoki, David Saucedo, Daud Yordan and Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo were also impressive wins for the Indonesian boxer.

He never had the power or the fan-friendly style in order to make him a big draw. He was a tactician, always boxing the clever fight and looking to out-think his opposition. You could perhaps level at John that he could have done more to get big fights at his weight. However, he simply was not a draw. His style was unexciting and he was far too much of a risk for other top boxers to face without good compensation. His legacy has become unfairly tarnished because of a close fight with Juan Manuel Marquez which got the label “robbery” attached to it and because of his failure to return to America despite being dealt an awful decision when he did box in America. He deserves to be a first ballot hall of famer when eligible this year and remembered with a greater fondness than he currently is.

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  1. nicolas 12:24pm, 01/26/2018

    Having watched the fight with Marquez many years later, at best John deserved a draw, but not the win. I was also trying to be favorable to John. Never really a big fan of Marquez either. I feel the same way about this fight as I do about Sven Otkes fights with Charles Brewer. I watched both title fights, and being part German I was partial to Otke, but felt in those two fights Brewer deserved close decisions. I do agree he deserved the win over Juarez which I did see live. But Juarez was past his best years when the did fight. He was featherweight champ for a long time, but because of the different organization, was I think able to avoid the cream of the crop. Perhaps not his fault, but would he have been champion otherwise for such a long time, I think not.

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