by Cliff Rold
Here we go again. It took four years to get the rematch after their epic first encounter and three and change to get a third. Only one year has passed to reach the precipice of a finale.
Or the build for a fifth fight.
Let’s hope for the former. In an era where fighters rarely fight more than twice a year, four fights feels like a lot. This isn’t the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez fourth of a couple years ago. That was a case where two fighters below the superstar earning line went with the only place they could realistically make top dollar at the time. Marquez and Pacquiao can get paid other places.
Few play as well with them as they do with each other. Despite some groans and derision from the hardcore faithful, this is a winner at the box office. Three times, it’s been a winner in the ring.
Seriously, what is there to complain about? Two of the greatest fighters who have ever laced gloves, in any generation; two fighters who are likely to be rated upon their retirement with the elite 100 all-time; two fighters of genuine elite caliber with an unresolved issue.
Yeah, those two? They are fighting again. It’s Pacquiao and Marquez. Let’s sit back and enjoy.
And let’s go the report card.
Current Titles: None
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBC World Flyweight 1998-99, 1 Defense; IBF Super Bantamweight 2001-03, 4 Defenses; Lineal/Ring World Featherweight 2003-05, 2 Defenses; Lineal/Ring/WBC World Jr. Lightweight 2008; WBC Lightweight 2008-09; Lineal/Ring World Jr. Welterweight 2009-10; WBC Light Middleweight 2010; WBO Welterweight, 2009-12, 3 Defenses
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 145.05 lbs.
Hails from: General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
Record: 54-4-2, 38 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 16-2-2, 11 KO, 1 KOBY (including Lineal title Fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 17 (Chatchai Sasakul KO8; Medgoen Singsurat TKO3; Lehlo Ledwaba KO6; Agapito Sanchez Tech. Draw 6; Jorge Eliecer Julio TKO2; Marco Antonio Barrera TKO11, UD12; Juan Manuel Marquez D12, SD12, MD12; Erik Morales L12, TKO10, KO3; Oscar Larios UD12; David Diaz TKO9; Oscar De La Hoya RTD8; Ricky Hatton KO2; Miguel Cotto TKO12; Joshua Clottey UD12; Antonio Margarito UD12; Shane Mosley UD12; Timothy Bradley L12)
Juan Manuel Marquez
Title: WBO Light Welterweight (2012-Present); title not at stake here
Previous Titles: IBF Featherweight (2003, 1 Defense); WBA/IBF Featherweight (2003-06, 3 Defenses); WBC Super Featherweight (2007-08, 1 Defense)
Weight: 143 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 137.5 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 54-6-1, 39 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-4-1, 4 KO (13-4-1, 6 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 14 (Agapito Sanchez UD12; Alfred Kotey UD12; Freddie Norwood L12; Daniel Jimenez RTD7; Robbie Peden RTD10; Manuel Medina TKO7; Derrick Gainer TD7; Manny Pacquiao D12, L12, L12; Orlando Salido UD12; Chris John L12; Marco Antonio Barrera UD12; Joel Casamayor TKO11; Juan Diaz TKO9, UD12; Floyd Mayweather L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pacquiao A; Marquez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Pacquiao A-; Marquez B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pacquiao B; Marquez B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pacquiao A; Marquez A
So this is the part rich with all sorts of insights about how these two match up, right?
Well, except for the whole part where there are thirty-six rounds of evidence to say exactly how they match up. The speed of the action won’t be what it was in 2004, or even 2008, but the dynamic remains much the same.
Pacquiao presents Marquez with the problem of speed from the southpaw stance, better power, and a volume of shots that catches the eye of the judges. Marquez presents Pacquiao with an accurate package of precision timing, educated right hand counters, and almost perfect balance.
Of the two, Pacquiao is the better athlete. Marquez is the more rounded technician. The latter could be what matters this time.
Going into the third fight, Pacquiao having settled into Welterweight for a longer period of time had many thinking he’d grown too big for Marquez. Size is a difficult variable to gauge in boxing. Sometimes it counts. Between two great fighters who have proven each other’s equal, it can be wildly overrated.
This corner was guilty of that sin last time. Marquez clearly gives Pacquiao hell at any weight as long as both are in shape. Pacquiao, dating back to the Shane Mosley fight, is still moving his hands but the volume isn’t what it was during what will be remembered as his peak run at the end of the last decade. Fighting in spots, he still looked like he did more than enough to be Tim Bradley last time out. The footwork, snap, and unpredictability that made him an assassin is in doubt at 33.
That plays into Marquez’s hands. He’s not what he was, but he’s still got a beautiful fundamental base. If Pacquiao can’t close like he used to, it makes it easier for Marquez to maneuver away from the left hand and control Pacquiao on the outside.
Easier isn’t the same as easy. As Pacquiao showed with Bradley, and plenty of times in the debated third fight with Marquez, he can still find spots. Even slowed, his hand speed is better than all but a handful of fighters on the planet Earth. He’s also a better boxer than he gets credit for. Because he looks for knockouts, that can be obscured. Great offensive fighters are skilled in a way that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
If it means anything, and it rarely does, the weigh-in on Friday predicts some fireworks. Against Bradley, Pacquiao was smirking and a wee softer than usual. For this fight, he had the sort of arrogant sneer he’s been missing for a while. Marquez looked like someone carved him from marble.
They’re ready. So are the fans. It’s going to be another nail biter.
Does Pacquiao need a knockout to win here? It sort of feels that way. It's almost impossible to find anyone who thinks Marquez hasn't deserved the decision at least once. These eyes actually thought Pacquiao eked out and deserved the win in the third fight but scored each of the first two, live, for Marquez. Upon further review, there was a case for each man in each fight. But even with those cases, Marquez doesn't have that "W" yet.
It’s believable there could be an undercurrent of sympathy because of previous results. It could weigh heavily in Marquez's favor. Could that be offset by some sympathy for Pacquiao given an undeserved loss against Timothy Bradley? Maybe. These two have done three fights which all boil down to similar factors. We already know what it looks like. Now, we wait for a conclusion. It’s not going to be definitive. In a case of irony, this fight could end up being the one most feel Pacquiao edged out only to drop the verdict. Pacquiao hasn’t shown he can stop Marquez and he’s not lucky enough to win another close decision. The call is Marquez on points.
Report Card Picks 2012: 59-23
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]