by Cliff Rold
They say a tie is like kissing one’s sister. After 36 rounds, Manny Pacquiao leads Juan Manuel Marquez 2-0-1 in the win column. To those who watched their fights, it remains difficult to see one man’s superiority over the other.
This scribe saw Pacquiao ahead 115-113 on Saturday. The first two times, the edge was seen going to Marquez. All three fights are a terror to score. If they fought into old age, they’d go down to the last tooth on the last denture.
It’s hard to say whether a rivalry like this is made in heaven when they fight like they were forged in hell.
It’s sure heavenly to watch.
Let’s got to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pacquiao A+; Marquez B/Post: A+; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Pacquiao A-; Marquez B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pacquiao B; Marquez B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pacquiao A; Marquez A/Post: Same
Marquez kept himself off the deck and, as was the case in their second fight, he exceeded expectations. Those who felt age, and weight, might make a difference didn’t pay enough attention to how good Marquez looked in beating Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis last year, present author included.
They also ignored history. In 1989, Tommy Hearns was written off in a rematch with Ray Leonard. He proved, in the ring, that he was just that strong a foil to “Sugar.” Marquez didn’t suffer the robbery Hearns did in that ‘draw’ (acknowledging that there are some who feel different) but he left the same sort of awe.
Great rivals are that for a reason. These two just can’t master the other and know how to constantly push each other. Consider the flip in rounds five and six. Marquez schooled Pacquiao in the fifth, beating him to the punch and putting on a clinic of effective right hands. With a minute to rest, Pacquiao came out for the sixth and used a small step back to draw Marquez into some quick counters.
Then came round nine, both men letting it all hang out, each landing combinations in turn, reminding all of what has been so special in their combat.
In the end, Marquez will have to look to the final two rounds and wonder if he could have done more. Like Winky Wright, who gave away the twelfth to Jermain Taylor for the Middleweight title a few years back, Marquez seemed to ebb just a bit in the eleventh and twelfth, more so in the latter. He lost both rounds on two of three official cards.
Now the future opens up for both. There will be some who want to see them a fourth time. It’s hard not to want it for Marquez. His official ledger says he faced Pacquiao three times and lost. He ought to have at least one, if only for sentimental reason. Unfortunately there is better business out there. There also might be better fighting to be done.
Marquez remains the Lightweight Champion. A defense against leading contender Brandon Rios has Fight of the Year written all over it. A challenge of Erik Morales for a belt at 140 lbs. has ‘must happen for history’ tattooed on the premise.
For Pacquiao, even in victory, a measure of redemption is in order. A predictable backlash is occurring among hardcore fan circles and started before the third Marquez fight. Expressions about Pacquiao being an all-time pound-for-pound king sound absurd to many, fairly feed cynicism, and raise expectations to unreal levels.
Redemption can’t get come against Marquez. Twelve more rounds will just inspire 12,000 more arguments about who really wins their fights.
Pacquiao needs Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather needs Pacquiao. And boxing needs Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Pacquiao’s chances against the master boxer will be seen as diminished after Saturday. It could be a good thing. It might make Mayweather more willing and Pacquiao more insistent on showing the world he’s the best.
Boxing history is replete with rivalries that don’t work out in a linear fashion. Mayweather’s easy victory Marquez a couple years ago might indicate he beats Pacquiao easy too. It might also be a style clash case where Pacquiao’s aggression and speed mitigate the defense of Mayweather.
No one will know for sure until they face off.
Both men’s careers will be incomplete without the showdown.
Report Card Picks 2011: 39-14
Welterweight: Pacquiao remains the number one contender to lineal champion Floyd Mayweather. Make the fight already!
Jr. Welterweight: The desire is there to move Mike Alvarado up the ranks after his dramatic win over Breidis Prescott…but there is nowhere to go. 140 lbs. is packed. Alvarado proved that the seven slot is just as viable as any other.
The weekend results and more are reflected a page away.
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]