MANILA, Philippines - Veteran boxing referee Kenny Bayless said yesterday he’s ready for anything that will happen when Manny Pacquiao battles Juan Manuel Marquez in what could be the closure of their dramatic quadrilogy at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this weekend.
“Despite the fact that the last three bouts were very close, I’m ready for anything that comes Dec. 8,” said Bayless in an exclusive reply to 10 questions fired by The STAR. “As a referee, my focus is always what is going on in the moment right in front of me. I don’t know what the fighters’ plans are but both Pacquiao and Marquez always come to fight. I think anyone who has seen the first three fights will have interest in seeing this one as well.”
Pacquiao and Marquez have fought a total of 36 rounds in three fights dating back to 2004 when the Mexican’s IBF/WBA featherweight titles were on the line. Every match has been close and inconclusive although Marquez has never beaten Pacquiao. Marquez has repeatedly claimed that the judges robbed him of victory in the three bouts. In 2009, the Mexican even flew to Manila with an entourage to taunt Pacquiao and goad him into agreeing to a third meeting. Pacquiao obliged and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum staged the third chapter of their storybook duel late last year only for Marquez to lose once more.
Bayless, a former NCAA track star and cancer survivor, isn’t a stranger to either Pacquiao or Marquez. He has worked five Pacquiao and two Marquez fights so far. Bayless was the referee when Pacquiao knocked out Erik Morales in their second encounter in 2006, beat Marquez by split decision in 2008, disposed of Ricky Hatton in two in 2009, stopped Miguel Cotto in 2009 and trounced Sugar Shane Mosley last year. He was the third man in the ring when Marquez lost to Pacquiao in 2008 and halted Michael Katsidis in 2010. From Bayless’ standpoint, there will be no surprises for him when the bell rings tomorrow night (Sunday morning, Manila).
No title will be at stake in the fight. Pacquiao could’ve tried to regain the WBO welterweight crown that Timothy Bradley wrested on a split decision last June but there just wasn’t public interest in a rematch. The Pacquiao-Bradley fight drew only 700,000 pay-per-view hits and it’s likely a second bout would attract even less. In contrast, the fourth fight between Pacquiao and Marquez is expected to register at least a million pay-per-view buys. The second Pacquiao-Marquez match generated 1.25 million pay-per-view hits with a gate gross of $11.7 Million. No doubt, the ethnic rivalry between Asians and Hispanics, specifically Filipino against Mexican, is fueling high expectations of pay-per-view and attendance marks.
Pacquiao has brought in 7 million pay-per-view hits in his last seven fights and registered a million buys in at least one fight in the last four years. In his 16 pay-per-view appearances, Pacquiao has generated 10 million hits with revenues of over $530 Million. His fight against Oscar de la Hoya raked in 1.25 million pay-per-view hits in 2008 with the Cotto bout recording 1.2 million in 2009, the Margarito clash 1.15 million in 2010, the Mosley battle 1.2 million and the Marquez third fight 1.25 million last year.
To spice up the fourth fight, WBO president Francisco (Paco) Valcarcel came up with the innovative idea of putting a belt at stake. The winner of the match will take home a handsome WBO “Champion of the Decade” belt that Valcarcel described as a work of art. The belt was designed by Armenian master craftsmen Ardash Sahaghian and Edward Majian of Sartonk, a New York company that has supplied championship mementoes to the WBO, WBA and IBF for over 30 years.
The belt has two images of Pacquiao to the right and Marquez to the left flanking the WBO seal with an eagle above it. There are jewels on the seal. “Every crevice of this belt has been carefully finished and the results, I think, speak for themselves,” said Majian who is Sahaghian’s grandson. “Some purists criticize belts. But ours is the perspective of the craftsman. Our work aspires towards perfection and we put every ounce of ourselves into that aspiration. What you see in this belt is devotion to boxing. And don’t the fighters deserve that? When the moments are long-gone, this belt will immortalize the time these men met to put themselves on the line and gave their fans one more epic bout.”
The Pacquiao-Marquez quadrilogy enters the boxing record books as one of the greatest matchups in ring history that went to a fourth bout. Some memorable quadrilogies were Stanley Ketchel against Billy Papke, Beau Jack against Bob Montgomery, Sandy Saddler against Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson against Gene Fullmer and Bobby Chacon against Rafael (Bazooka) Limon.
The late world junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde battled Japan’s Shigeji Kaneko in a quadrilogy from 1953 to 1957. Elorde lost all four fights on points in Japan. Elorde figured in a quintology with Japan’s Teruo Kosaka from 1961 to 1965, winning four and losing once.