Finally, Juan Manuel Marquez has banished the ghosts of fights past and claimed a place shoulder to shoulder with all-time greats. He has turned around the questions about at least one of his losses to Manny Pacquiao, and in the only way he knew he could win without questions, by knockout.
In round one, both fighters went at it right away, Marquez bucking the belief that bigger fighters are naturally slower, as Pacquiao was at the start of their second fight. Dinamita was sharp and on target, though Pacquiao was, as expected, quicker and more agile. And though Pacquiao was the harder to hit, Marquez had the more substantial blows in a first round that simply breezed by.
Round two. Marquez threw the left jab with impunity. Pacquiao got inside, but Marquez was tough to move around. Neither fighter was able to really put the punches together, although a glancing left hook by Marquez (which Pacquiao blocked) towards the end of the round revealed some newfound power. Surprisingly, he was not far behind Pacman in terms of speed.
In round three, Pacquiao exploited his quickness advantage, darting in and out. He landed some powerful individual blows, but no real combinations, Then Marquez caught him with an explosive right hook head shot and sent him to the seat of his pants at the 1:17 mark. Similar to his knockdown of Marquez in their second fight, it was a combination of power and being caught off-balance than being hurt. You could see that Manny was more embarrassed than hurt, and bravely jumped back at Marquez.
Round four came, and Pacquiao was more tentative, displaying less lateral movement than in past fights. Pacquiao threw short, crisp combinations and tried to pick up the pace. A good left counter by Marquez at the one-minute mark caught Pacquiao flush on the face. Manny charged, but Marquez would not be fazed. It appeared Marquez was starting to build a lead.
In round five, Pacquiao was the aggressor, but Marquez was lying in wait. Then Pacquiao got a quick single-punch knockdown midway through the round. The final minute was a display of fury from Manny that hadn’t been seen throughout the fight. He forced Juanma into one corner, then another. Marquez was starting to feel it. Luckily for him, the bell rang, because Pacquiao was getting the upper hand.
Round six. After an early flurry from Pacquiao, the pace slowed down, and Pacquiao and Marquez exchanged one- and two-punch attacks. As the round wound down, the Filipino got a few good jabs and straights in, aggravating the bloodied nose of Marquez. In the dying seconds, he threw a right, missed, and lunged right into a bomb of a right from Dinamita. Pacquiao fell face first, and did not stir, unconscious. It was eerily like the knockdown Marquez experienced in their second bout. Now, Juan Manuel Marquez was finally, unquestionably the victor.
As this writer and others have mentioned, Pacquiao did not change much in his training in preparation for the fourth Marquez fight. Marquez, for his part, was more ferocious in his training. At the fight’s introductions, he was obviously bigger, more menacing and sculpted. He was a little slower, but also harder to hurt.
Obviously, there will be rematch. Bob Arum and Top Rank are running out of options for Pacquiao. A second go-around with Timothy Bradley may serve as a confidence builder, but will not be anywhere near as enticing a draw as another Marquez clash. And with this loss, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will have a rock-solid excuse not to fight Pacquiao, or demand unacceptable terms. So the window of opportunity is closing, and fast. And with two successive losses, Pacquiao will still be in the highly saleable position of being the underdog for the first time in a long time.
Marquez is now a national hero in Mexico, and will be remembered more for this fight perhaps than any other. Though he admitted that Pacquiao is the more legendary between the two of them, his convincing win catapults him into elite company. It was worth more than any title. People will start looking back at their past bouts and perhaps upgrade their assessment of him in comparison with the Filipino champion.
What’s next? Pacquiao-Marquez V, what else?