By Jake Donovan
They promised that this one would prove to be the one to close out the series once and for all, that for the first time in their three meetings we would finally experience a definitive outcome.
After 36 rounds together, the only thing that Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have proven is that they know how to stir up debate.
For the first time since his last showdown with Marquez, pound-for-pound king Pacquiao was made to look human in taking a highly disputed majority decision in their 12 round main event Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao weighed in at 143 lb, one pound under the contracted catchweight of 144 lb despite his alphabet welterweight belt at stake. Marquez was slightly lighter at 142, but slightly heavier in actual ring weight once the fight began.
Over the course of the entire 12 rounds, the third leg of their much-talked about trilogy didn’t live up to its predecessors, though don’t tell that to anyone among the sold out crowd of 16,836 on hand. Whenever either fighter threw a punch, the crowd erupted into a frenzy.
The downside to that was that not a heck of a lot of punches were thrown, at least not compared to their normal output.
Pacquiao was the more active fighter of the two, throwing and landing considerably more. Marquez was more effective with his punch output and also drawing the much louder cheers whenever he landed something big, just that he didn’t do it often enough.
The fight jumped out to a slow start, with both fighters showing a lot of nervous energy in the early going, despite the fact that they couldn’t be more familiar with each other. Marquez was the first to settle into a rhythm, scoring with left hooks and body shots. The sequence came right on time, as the crowd was already showing signs of restlessness.
Pacquiao decided to join in on the fun in the third round, scoring with his jab and right hook. Marquez managed to sneak in some rights, but not enough to claim the round. The same could be said of the fourth, which saw Pacquiao land left hands early and both fighters trading towards the back end of the round.
Momentum swayed back in Marquez’ favor in the middle rounds, particularly in a fifth round that was one of the few easy rounds to score in the fight. Marquez scored virtually at will with his right hand and uppercut, driving Pacquiao backwards at one point.
Marquez relied on his jab and body attack to carry him through the middle rounds. Here is where things would get dicey on the scorecards. The four points of scoring critetia are always cited before a major fight, but it’s become clear through the years that when in doubt the judges will favor the more aggressive fighter.
For those screaming “robbery” in this fight, therein lies the issue of why Marquez is led to believe he was once again wronged.
“It’s the second robbery of the two we had, this one was clearer than the first,” Marquez would tell HBO’s Max Kellerman at the end of the night. If there’s anything working in his defense, it would be the outpour of support from the fans and from many in the media who had him winning this third fight, as was the case in their second fight back in March 2008.
Swelling began to develop around Marquez’ right eye, but in the spirit of all things remaining even in this series, Pacquiao was left with a busted lip as the action crept into the second half of the fight. Marquez appeared to be beating Pacquiao to the punch, but either landing arm punches or just not scoring at all. Pacquiao played keep away while shooting his left hand from odd angles while offering herky jerky movement in rarely providing a still target.
The action continued to flip flop over the final four rounds, but where Marquez’ corner might’ve erred was in constantly informing their fighter that he was winning the fight.
Then again, their opinion was shared by the capacity crowd and apparently most at ringside.
“We won with the clearer punches, and clearly we just won again,” Marquez (53-6-1, 39KO) insists, as he’s forced to live with his first loss since falling way short against Floyd Mayweather two years ago. “As the audience just protested to, we clearly won.”
That was the mistake they made, in assuming anything about this series was clear. Just as the outcomes of the first two fights remain debated to this day, the third fight will ignite just as much spirited discussion.
The 10th round featured a bit of drama from both fighters. Marquez went down, but from a slip after his feet got tangled with the southpaw. Later in the round, Pac suffered a cut over his right eye from what he believed to be – and protested to the referee over – a headbutt on the inside. Marquez appeared to land enough before and after the incident to take the round and possibly the 11th as well.
Then came the 12th and final round, where Marquez did anything but seal the deal.
Of all points in the fight where he could’ve slowed down, he chose to pick the point where the fight was very much on the table on at least two of the three judges’ scorecards. Pacquiao was the much busier of the two, even if not very many punches were scoring. Enough left hands did score, however, for Pacquiao to take the frame on twp of the three judges’ scorecards.
The lone judge to absurdly give Marquez the 12th round was Glenn Trowbridge, whose equally unacceptable card of 116-112 means he had Pacquiao in the clear as early as the 10th round. His giving the round to Marquez was shades of Bob Logist scoring the 12th round of Felix Trinidad-Oscar de la Hoya in favor of de la Hoya, perhaps hoping nobody would notice the fact that he had Trinidad ahead by at least two points by then.
Robert Hoyle gave Pacquiao the round, which pulled him even on the veteran judge’s final card that read 114-114. Dave Moretti had the 12th round for Pacquiao to seal the deal by a score of 115-113 according to his pencil strokes.
Pacquiao scores his 15th straight win as his record advances to 54-3-2 (38KO) with the win. However, the fight marks the fourth straight time he has went to the scorecards, and quite possibly ever the first time in his career that he was loudly booed in the end, or that it actually affected him.
“It’s clear that they’re not my fans because clearly I won this fight,” Pacquiao said, though bearing a look of concern as if he were puzzled why fans would suddenly dislike him so much. “I did my best, and it’s very clear that I won the fight.”
Nothing at all was clear about that fight, nor is the future of either fighter.
Marquez welcomes a fourth fight with Pacquiao just as easily as he will accept retirement if given that option. The 38-year old has long ago established himself over three separate weight classes spanning 18 years in the game.
“I don’t know. It will be difficult to decide what happens. Maybe I retire, maybe I fight again. It’s hard, knowing that when you fight this guy, you’re fighting against the fighter and against the three judges.”
Meanwhile, Pacquiao the fighter seemed to pave way to Pacquiao the Congressman when answering that question and several others.
“Anytime, anytime,” Pacquiao claimed of his willingness to fight for a major title in Mexico. “I’m a fighter, my job is to fight in the ring. Who I fight is up to my promoter Bob Arum.”
His very promoter was actually attempting to sell the media on hand for the post-fight presser of his thoughts on staging a grudge match. But as has been the case for more than two years, the only fight anyone was interested in hearing about is the possibility of every squaring off with fellow pound-for-pound entrant Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“Let’s get it on,” Pacquiao insisted afterward. “Make the fight happen and we make the fight. Let’s give the people a good fight.”
A good fight is perhaps all that Pacquiao and Marquez delivered tonight. Maybe it was better than good, but certainly nothing like their previous two fights, both of which featured knockdowns, comebacks and a spirited scoring discussion afterward.
Where it became great was in the amount of controversy it generated, even relative to their first two fights.
Whether or not it’s enough reason to do a fourth fight, it’s certainly enough to once again get people talking, for better or for worse.
Tim Bradley scored a rare stoppage of Joel Casamayor in a fight that was every bit as dreadful as most boxing experts and fans alike feared would be the case. The only saving grace was Bradley inflicting enough damage to cause Casamayor’s corner to wave the towel, at 2:59 of the eighth round.
The concern going in was a clash of heads constantly occurring, but it was Casamayor’s excessive clinching that grinded the action to a halt. The Cuban was docked a point in the fourth round by referee Vic Drakulich, but continued to hold on for dear life anyway.
Bradley finally discovered a workaround – body shots. The tactic paid dividends, producing the first knockdown of the fight, which came in the fifth round. Casamayor was again floored in the sixth (though as a result of a left hook cuffing the back of his head) and then in the closing seconds of the eighth.
The former two-division champ made it to his feet, but trainer Miguel Diaz saw enough and climbed on the ring apron, surrender towel in tow.
Bradley improves to 28-0 (12KO) with the win, his first under the Top Rank banner. The fight marked his return to the ring following a 10-month hiatus while trying to free himself from former co-promoters Gary Shaw and Thompson Boxing.
Casamayor falls to 38-6-1 (22KO), having now lost three of his last five. Uncompetitive, unwatchable and approaching his 41st birthday, retirement would be his best option at this point.
In perhaps the fight of the night, unbeaten 140 lb. contender Mike Alvarado had to dig deeper than ever before in order to secure victory in his prelim bout with Breidis Prescott. The Denver native was down on all three scorecards when he uppercutted his way to a knockout in the 10th and final round.
The televised opener saw a slight upset, as former featherweight title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos snatched the biggest win of his young career with a 10-round majority decision over previously unbeaten Luis Cruz. Scores were 97-93 and 98=92 Burgos, and an unacceptable 95-95 even on the scorecards.
The show was presented by Top Rank Inc. and distributed by HBO PPV.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]