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Marquez unifies crowns

JUAN Manuel Marquez of Mexico stopped Juan Diaz in the ninth round of a furious slugfest in Houston, Texas, on Saturday to claim the American's IBO lightweight title along with the vacant WBA and WBO crowns.

Marquez, who was outworked by Diaz and felt his crunching left hooks early on, sliced through the American's defense with uppercuts from both hands to drop the local favorite twice in the ninth before the referee halted it at 2:40 of the round at the Toyota Center.

Marquez improved to 50-4-1, while Diaz dropped to 34-2.

"He's a fighter that throws a lot of punches," Marquez said in the ring after the bout. "In the fourth and fifth rounds I was punching to the body and then the knockout came."

Diaz, 25, opened a cut over Marquez's right eye in the fifth round but the 35-year-old Mexican was already turning the tide in the fight.

Working more from the center of the ring than on the ropes where Diaz did his most damage, Marquez scored with vicious uppercuts and opened a gash over the title holder's right eye in the eighth that covered his face with blood.

Marquez swarmed after Diaz in the ninth, unleashing combinations that set up more thudding uppercuts that finished off the American.

"After I got cut, blood was in my eye and I couldn't do anything about it," Diaz said. "I couldn't see the punches Marquez was throwing.

"I kept fighting, fighting my heart out but he caught me with a good punch."

Marquez has been trying for months to land one more fight with Filipino Manny Pacquiao, who will face Ricky Hatton on May 2. Marquez fought Pacquiao to a draw in May 2004, then lost a close decision in the rematch last March.

Earlier, Chris John of Indonesia retained his WBA featherweight title by fighting Houston native Rocky Juarez to a draw.

In Birmingham, British Olympic gold medalist James DeGale earned his first victory as a professional with a drab points victory over Vepkhia Tchilaia on Saturday.

Middleweight DeGale, 23, enjoyed an easy four-round workout in dispatching his Georgian opponent, who offered little in attack and was keen to cover up and defend which led to boos from the Birmingham crowd.

Another British Olympian Billy Joe Saunders, 19, was the impressive winner on the night needing only a round and a half of a scheduled four-round middleweight contest to dispatch Hungarian Attila Molner.

Saunders, who fought at welterweight during the Olympics, proved far too strong for his opponent, landing clean shots frequently with ease.


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