For the fourth time, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez face off for pride more than anything else. There really aren’t any other challenges out there for either, and Marquez, at 39, may already be in a lower league than Pacquiao. So this has to happen now. Despite the media’s initial claim that the fight isn’t interesting, the unanswered questions beg for resolution, and that ultimate rating may surprise us all.
Ignoring the contrived WBO “Fighter of the Decade” belt put up for the fight (as if they needed one), this will be a critical fight for both boxers. Marquez has alluded to Pacquiao’s being a godlike figure and the unifier of the sport. Marquez’s place in boxing’s history is still up in the air, more so now that Morales and Barrera have retired and can’t add to their remarkable careers. This will be a career-defining fight for Marquez, to swing all the questions of the previous fights the other way. He has claimed that referees have done their part to “help” Pacquiao out to preserve the sport. Let’s face it, people aren’t even talking about the Pacquiao loss to Timothy Bradley. Marquez wants to topple the god of his sport, and he knows he can do it.
Kenny Bayless was last seen in the ring with Pacquiao in the Shane Mosley embarrassment. Bayless also worked the tough Miguel Cotto bout and the abbreviated Ricky Hatton match-up. He will have a tendency to just let the fighters fight, so if Pacquiao gets an advantage, with his quickness Marquez could be in serious trouble before Bayless can step in.
Before the Timothy Bradley debacle, Pacquiao had last lost in the first fight against Erik Morales in March of 2005, a string of 15 straight victories. Since then, he has gradually evolved, and taken down the biggest names in the sport, including Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, David Diaz and Oscar dela Hoya. Marquez, for his part, has been devastating, perhaps even more so.
After losing to the Pacman in 2008, Marquez followed the Filipino champion in the higher weight classes. His first foray into the lightweight class saw him carve up the feared Cuban champion Joel Casamayor. Dinamita turned Casamayor’s face into butcher shop leftovers in the 11th-round TKO. Juanma also toppled Juan Diaz twice and stopped a hard-charging but declining Michael Katsidis. The only blemish outside of Pacquiao is the shortchanging he got at the hands of Floyd Mayweather. Pretty Boy Floyd chose to pay the $300,000 fine per pound for being two pounds overweight. It looked like a total mismatch because they didn’t look like they were from the same weight division.
What is a cause of concern is that reports from inside Pacquiao’s camp allege that he has not really done anything different from the last Marquez fight. Observers are even saying Pacquiao may not have slowed down, but that his newfound spirituality has caused him to question the brutality of his craft. Against his foremost nemesis, Pacquiao will need every edge he can get, including his previous savageness. His speed may not be enough this time.
Marquez, for his part, has done everything new, including exhausting plyometric training under Memo Heredia, a buddy of Pacquiao trainer Alex Ariza. When Pacquiao moved up beyond lightweight, his opponents questioned his bulk, implying steroid use, a gimmick Mayweather has used to duck the Filipino. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as Freddie Roach has said similar things about Marquez. Heredia was mentioned in the BALCO scandal, so the implication that he does not train athletes with purely natural substances still hangs in the air.
What will the fight look like? Unlike in 2011, Pacquiao will start fast and strong, in an attempt to rattle Marquez and maybe sneak away with a knockout. Marquez will take some punishment early because of his newfound weight. In their second fight, it was Pacquiao who needed a couple of rounds to get used to his increased weight. This will be critical for Pacquiao. If he gets a knockdown early, it may give him the early advantage he needs.
But Marquez has been able to survive Pacquiao’s best before. The lone knockdown in their second bout was more because he caught Dinamita off-balance than hurting him. Marquez has been sturdy, and has the ability to counterpunch against the Filipino. What could be the determining factor is that, even though Pacquiao is doing him a favor by giving him this chance and a big payday, Marquez’s overriding determination to beat Pacquiao is fueled by his belief that he is the superior boxer. He is not far from being wrong, if you look at all their past scorecards.
It’s hard for me to see Pacquiao knocking out Marquez, for many reasons. He hasn’t done it in the past, Marquez is bigger, and Pacquiao has not been impressive in his last two fights. If Pacman really hasn’t done anything new in training, he will be in trouble, probably midway through the fight. A loss by Pacquiao will not be as devastating as one to Marquez, which will not shut him up, but turn away anyone who still wanted to believe in him. In this writer’s humble opinion, the fight will go the distance. If Pacquiao doesn’t get an early advantage, Marquez may finally get his small piece of redemption.