LAS VEGAS – Juan Manuel Marquez had not decked Manny Pacquiao in three previous fights but displayed awesome power in knocking the Filipino out cold in the sixth round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here Saturday night.
It was Marquez who was on the receiving end in dropping to the canvas thrice in the first bout and once in the second. He went down once more in the fifth round from a left straight in the fourth encounter and looked close to being stopped until a surge of power sent Pacquiao crashing to the mat, face-first.
Former WBA lightweight champion Brandon Rios said the knockout reminded him of what Pacquiao did to Ricky Hatton in 2009. Hatton never recovered from the setback, went into fits of depression, took drugs and attempted an ill-advised comeback only to lose to Vyacheslav Senchenko on a knockout last month. Pacquiao, however, is a man of strong faith and will be able to bounce back from the loss.
What surprised the 16,348 fans in the stadium was the devastating power in Marquez’ fists. He floored Pacquiao with a swinging right hook in the third, the first time the Filipino took a legitimate mandatory eight-count since suffering a fluke knockdown to Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov in 2003. Although Pacquiao took a pair of counts in the Sugar Shane Mosley fight last year and the Marco Antonio Barrera rematch in 2007, neither was legitimate.
Marquez owes his new-found strength to conditioning coach Angel Hernandez, formerly known as Memo Heredia who turned state witness to avoid prosecution for drug-dealing. Hernandez admitted to providing performance-enhancing-drugs to track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. Writer Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review Journal said Hernandez’ “dealings with Jones included giving her growth hormone and insulin and the blood-doping booster EPO.” Graney added, “Hernandez is now very much part of the Marquez camp, hired by the fighter to help improve his strength while not forfeiting quickness at the welterweight level which hardly occurred in a unanimous decision loss against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009 – on that night, Marquez was slow, deliberate, weak.”
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said it looked “unnatural” for Marquez to beef up without gaining so much weight. He scaled 143 pounds for Saturday’s fight, his highest ever, but was only a pound less for the third Pacquiao bout.
Marquez said to clear any doubts, he’s willing to take any kind of drug test. “If you guys are going to sit here and talk about the (charges of PED use) all the time, we can hit here and talk about it all day,” said the Mexican. “I don’t care. All I can do is work hard. You can say anything you want but there is no proof, so what does it mean? I feel great. I have strength. I have speed, I have everything. Before my last fight against Pacquiao, they were saying the same things about him with (PEDs) but we never brought it up. We never did anything about it. We didn’t know anything so we didn’t say anything. And now, for this fight, the last couple of weeks, all of a sudden, they’re attacking me. Let’s do the drug test, let them take my blood, I don’t care.”
But Graney said the tests aren’t fool-proof. “A big problem with that theory – any protocol Marquez might have used to prepare for the fight would have been stopped by now and his system cleared of such substances,” he wrote. “EPO, for example, can be undetectable on tests within 24 hours of being injected. A certain famous cyclist proved that for years. Marquez offers a different theory on his new-found muscle and appearance. That, for 18 years, he trained in the same manner, a system based on the same philosophy with identical workouts and conditioning goals. Now, under the guidance of Hernandez, everything is different. He is lifting amounts of weight not normally seen from a boxer, squatting to levels that have trainers wondering how an aging fighter has rediscovered such strength.”
Graney said since Hernandez has confessed to enhancing athletic performance with steroids in the past, there will be suspicion that he could’ve been up to no good in bulking up Marquez. “The sad truth is, if Marquez was to finally beat Pacquiao after what have been three extremely close and controversial fights, if he were to actually knock out Pacquiao, such a victory no doubt would be questioned by many, given the charges of PED use,” said Graney. The speculation has happened with Marquez’ stunning disposal of Pacquiao with a single shot and now, the suspicion begins.