Years ago, a legend of the ring coined a phrase that gradually morphed into a cliché that nowadays rolls off the tongue of athletes in every sport. “To be the man,” pro wrestling icon Ric Flair once said, “you’ve got to beat the man.”
Given that he was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, it’s unlikely that Claudio Marrero is familiar with 1980s wrestling stars, but the 126-pound contender is certainly familiar with the meaning behind Flair’s words. That’s because Marrero was given the opportunity to be the man nearly four years ago. Unfortunately for him, though, he failed to beat the man.
Now the 28-year-old southpaw is getting a chance to redeem himself.
Fighting for an interim world title for the second time in his nearly seven-year career, Claudio Marrero (21-1, 15 KOs) will challenge 126-pound champion Carlos Zambrano (26-0, 11 KOs) on Saturday night in the main event of a PBC on FS1 card from Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
Both men came in under the division limit Friday, with Zambrano weighing in at 125 pounds and Marrero hitting the scale at 125¼.
Marrero, a decorated amateur who earned a silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games, won his first 14 pro fights, stopping 11 of those foes inside the distance. That put the 5-foot-8 slugger in position to challenge then-interim 126-pound titleholder Jesus Cuellar in Verona, New York, in August 2013.
Although he was dropped in the sixth round, Marrero gave the heavy-handed Cuellar all he could handle before ultimately losing a narrow unanimous decision. Undaunted by his first defeat, Marrero rebounded with a victory six months later, igniting a seven-fight winning streak that he’ll bring into the ring against Zambrano.
While he lacks Marrero’s power, Zambrano nonetheless is a skilled ring tactician who has never really come close to tasting defeat. In fact, the 32-year-old native of Peru has won all but one of his 26 fights by stoppage or unanimous decision. That includes comfortable points victories in his last two fights against challengers—Daniel Ramirez and Jose Sanmartin—who entered the ring with a combined record of 41-1-1.
The triumph over Ramirez gave the 5-foot-8½ Zambrano an interim 126-pound title, which he successfully defended four months later against Sanmartin. However, the latter bout was on August 1, 2015, meaning Zambrano has been idle for nearly 21 months.
Conversely, Marrero has fought twice in that span, most recently earning a fourth-round TKO of veteran Luis Hinojosa on August 21. Of course, Zambrano’s skills are vastly superior to Hinojosa’s—not to mention every other opponent Marrero has faced, save for Cuellar.
All of which makes for an intriguing championship showdown between similarly sized, but stylistically diverse, opponents—one looking to remain the man, the other looking to become the man.
For complete coverage of Zambrano vs Marrero, visit our fight page.