Manny Pacquiao, left, and Juan Manuel Marquez trade blows during their last WBO world welterweight fight in Las Vegas. AP
MANILA, Philippines - Mexican gladiator Juan Manuel Marquez will be Manny Pacquiaoâ€™s next opponent if he hurdles Mike Alvarado on May 17 and unlike his countryman Erik Morales, heâ€™s not thinking retirement despite turning 41 in August.
Marquez is coming off a loss by a split 12-round decision to Timothy Bradley in a foiled bid to wrest the WBO welterweight title in Las Vegas last October. He looked like a faded warrior in bowing to Bradley but figures a fifth encounter with Pacquiao will guarantee a last big payday before hanging up his gloves.
For Pacquiao, it will be the second step in his vengeful comeback. He exacted sweet revenge on Bradley two weeks ago and will want to pay back Marquez for knocking him out with a surprise right straight in November 2012. A win over Marquez could clear the way for a showdown with Floyd Mayweather next year.
Morales, 37, was supposed to end a 17-month absence from the ring to face Jorge Paez, Jr. in Monterrey last March 22 but the bout was called off. The scuttlebutt is Morales complained of severe head pain in training camp, took a three-day rest, returned to the gym and consulted a doctor when the ache wouldnâ€™t go away. He was eventually told to quit boxing for good. There has been no official statement on Moralesâ€™ condition but it is speculated that he is suffering from some brain damage.
Morales, the first Mexican to win world titles in four divisions, is rumored to be in financial straits despite a long career where he won his first championship in 1997. He had three unforgettable bouts with Marco Antonio Barrera and Pacquiao and three years ago, pushed Argentinaâ€™s Marcos Maidana to the limit. Maidana will battle Mayweather in Las Vegas on May 3. Oliver Goldstein, writing in Boxing Monthly, said â€œwhile Moralesâ€™ understanding of boxingâ€™s nuances is still infinitely greater than most of his contemporaries, he has absorbed increasing damage with every passing fightâ€¦talk of retirement has followed El Terrible for almost seven years.â€ Now, the end has come for Morales.
In contrast, Marquez is far from finished. He knows the end is near and only Pacquiao can give him a paycheck thatâ€™s worth continuing to fight. Marquez will never admit losing. He still claims he shouldâ€™ve won the first three fights with Pacquiao. And against Bradley, the Mexican cried foul again. Marquezâ€™ Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain described Bradley â€œthe only undefeated fighter with two losses,â€ referring to his undeserved win over Pacquiao in their first meeting.
Marquez said, â€œto win in Vegas, I need to knock the person out to get a victory.â€ Thatâ€™s what he did to defeat Pacquiao and if they square off in a fifth encounter, Marquez will go for another homerun.
Marquez is the oldest fighter listed in the IBOâ€™s top 105 welterweight ratings. There was a noticeable decline in his speed and reflexes during the Bradley fight as John Dennen of Boxing News observed he may have lost some spring in his legs. By the time Marquez meets Pacquiao late this year, if he beats Alvarado and the quintology materializes, the Mexican will be 41.
Pacquiao is now wise to Marquezâ€™ tactics. Bradley exposed Marquezâ€™ weakness in pounding out a win on points, deftly boxing from a distance and defending against the Mexicanâ€™s lethal counter right straight. What Pacquiao did to Bradley in their rematch is what heâ€™ll likely do against Marquez only the Filipino may write a different ending by trying to score a knockout. Pacquiao hasnâ€™t stopped an opponent since Miguel Cotto in 2009 and it will be sweet revenge if he halts Marquez. That should deliver a strong statement to Mayweather to anticipate the second coming of the Pacific storm.