by David P. Greisman
The third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez should be an easy sale. But while the pay-per-view broadcast it headlines on Nov. 12 will sell well, the main event itself will take some heavy persuasion for a number of boxing fans to see it as anything other than a clear favorite against an absolute underdog.
Consider only their first two fights, and those odds are, well, odd.
Pacquiao-Marquez 1 was a dramatic tilt, the highlights of which have been well chronicled in the seven-and-a-half years since: Pacquiao knocking Marquez down three times in the first round, then Marquez adjusting and battling back. The fight improbably went the full 12 rounds, ending as a controversial draw.
Pacquiao-Marquez II, which took place three-and-a-half years ago, was another spirited battle, and once again the scorecards represented that: It was a split decision, with one point providing the margin of victory for Pacquiao.
The third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez should be an easy sell, then. Yet the fight is not between who Pacquiao and Marquez were then, but rather between who they are now.
They both remain at the top of this sweet science, Pacquiao among the best in the welterweight division, Marquez the reigning, legitimate lightweight champion.
Pacquiao, though, is a welterweight, having grown and conditioned his body, retaining enough of his speed and power that he can remain competitive within the 147-pound weight class.
Marquez, already small within the 135-pound division, is not made to be a welterweight, nor has he shown the ability to even be competent as one.
Their pay-per-view will pull in tens of millions of dollars. It is a big fight between two noteworthy fighters. It is an event. It is a bout with the benefit of a back-story.
It is a mismatch.
And though that will not significantly affect the number of people buying into the broadcast, an effort is still being made to make people buy into the battle.
In this sport, such salesmanship is called promotion.
The main promotional vehicle for Pacquiao-Marquez 3 is HBO’s “24/7” series, episodic programming in four parts, its message part documentary, part commercial.
The first episode, aired Oct. 22, featured about four minutes of footage from the first and second Pacquiao fights, and about a minute-and-a-half of footage of Marquez training. Marquez looked relatively flabby and slow, though some shots appeared to be aired in slow motion. Also, there was no indication of how many weeks ago in Marquez’s training camp that scene had been filmed.
The quick look at Marquez suggested that he was confronting the same physical problem he ran into two years ago against Floyd Mayweather Jr. His frame did not carry the weight well. He was slower and off-balance. And he was in the ring with one of the two best boxers in the sport.
Marquez weighed 142 pounds for that bout. The limit for this fight is 144. Pacquiao, of course, is the other of the two best.
Marquez is 38 years old now, an age when a fighter is declining physically and must turn to his accumulated experience and wisdom to make up for what is missing. He has done this for the past few years, compensating against bigger, stronger opponents such as Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis, absorbing their punches and then clinically dismantling them.
Diaz and Katsidis are no Manny Pacquiao. And Juan Manuel Marquez at welterweight is no Marquez at lightweight.
How, then, can Pacquiao-Marquez 3 be sold in good conscience?
By ensuring that the promotion isn’t just a commercial, but has the qualities of a documentary, too.
The criticism against Showtime’s “Fight Camp 360” series that aired ahead of Pacquiao’s fight against Shane Mosley this past May was that it glossed over Mosley’s recent struggles – he had lost convincingly to Floyd Mayweather Jr. a year before, and he had drawn drearily with Sergio Mora in his most recent outing.
The first episode of “24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez” did not mention Marquez’s lone welterweight fight, the loss to Mayweather. The second episode did, examining why Marquez looked so poor physically two years ago and why he thinks that will not be the case two weeks from now.
From the opening minutes on Oct. 29, the focus was on Marquez’s training.
“Now we are working on building speed,” the fighter said. “I think we’re doing it the right way.”
“Last week he seemed really slow, but he was punching hard,” one sparring partner said. “Now I feel like he is hitting hard and he’s got speed.”
“I think the weight is helping,” another sparring partner said. “It’s helping add power to his punches. He is gaining strength. He seems a lot more powerful.”
Later, we saw Marquez looking leaner and more ripped than in the previous episode, though his bulk was still noticeable.
“I’ve always fought as a lightweight,” he said. “I have to gain weight, and somehow I have to get up there but keep my speed and power.”
We then saw Marquez’s struggles against Mayweather.
“That training was different,” said Marquez’s longtime corner man, Nacho Beristain. “He was carrying rocks, and it changed his natural flexibility. He became a littler more slow, as if he’d lost his explosiveness. All this, combined with Mayweather’s great ability and his weight advantage, we didn’t stand a chance.”
Now Marquez has a new strength and conditioning coach and new training techniques – similar to the adjustments other fighters, including Pacquiao and Bernard Hopkins, have used when rising in weight.
(And, reminding us of an infamous scene from the “24/7” series for Mayweather-Marquez, we were told that Marquez no longer drinks his own urine.)
Pacquiao, in training camp, looked as he always looks: blazingly fast, approaching top form, an unceasing whirlwind.
This, then, is how Pacquiao-Marquez 3 will be sold. Unlike every single one of Pacquiao’s fights for the past three years, he is no longer the smaller man out to overcome the danger of a bigger, harder-punching opponent.
Now it is Marquez who is out to prove that he can overcome disadvantages. And now it is Pacquiao who is there to prove his challenger wrong.
Pacquiao is 32 years old, nearly 33, no longer with the same blinding speed and power, but still faster and stronger than other welterweights. He has fought professionally for more than half his life, but he is still at the tail end of when the best fighters are in their prime.
He is a smarter fighter than he ever was before. He is a better boxer. He is better conditioned.
Marquez is a brilliant tactician who has always found the right adjustments to make. He is one of the few fighters to give the 21st-century Pacquiao trouble. He is now adjusting to welterweight, making sure he has the ability to give this more-refined 2011 version of Pacquiao the kind of challenge he gave him in 2004 and 2008.
That’s what Marquez’s team is selling.
I’m still not buying it.
The 10 Count
1. Pacquiao was shown on this week’s episode of “24/7” buying a new Ferrari at a price of only $300,000…
…which is $14,323 more than Bernards Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson brought in from ticket sales.
2. My ballot for the 2012 International Boxing Hall of Fame class will include votes for:
- 108-pound titleholder Yoko Gushiken
- 126-pound champion Naseem Hamed
- 147-, 168- and 175- pound titleholder and 154-pound champion Thomas Hearns
- 112-pound champion Pone Kingpetch
- 108-pound titleholder Myung-Woo Yuh
- 108- and 112-pound titleholder Hilario Zapata
Voters can pick as many as 10 names. The top three vote getters will be inducted into Canastota in June 2012.
3. Had Erik Morales stayed retired following his 2007 loss to David Diaz, his name would’ve appeared on ballots next year for the 2013 induction ceremony. Instead, two names that might show up on the 2012 ballots are Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti.
I loved watching Corrales and Gatti fight, and I hope they are never forgotten – but I don’t believe either should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Yet with the name recognition and the sentimental attachment to what they gave us in the ring, it’s possible one or both could come in among the top three vote getters.
Look two years down the line to the names that will probably be on the 2013 ballots, and you can see quite the class of inductees for 2014: Joe Calzaghe, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad.
4. July 2, 2011: David Haye goes 12 rounds with Wladimir Klitschko, throws 290 punches, lands 72.
Oct. 22, 2011: Omar Narvaez goes 12 rounds with Nonito Donaire, throws 299 punches, lands 74.
5. On the surface, I like the idea of Top Rank offering a $100,000 bonus to the winner the next time Nonito Donaire fights. The promotional company’s president, Todd duBoef, brought up the idea to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports as a way to keep fighters from pulling an Omar Narvaez and just striving to survive.
Reading between the lines, though, doesn’t it seem like the allure of a bonus would only be necessary if Donaire’s foes are guys who don’t stand a chance against him?
6. Boxers Behaving Badly update: Floyd Mayweather Jr. was found not guilty last week of misdemeanor harassment in one of the many legal and civil cases pending against him, according to the Associated Press.
Mayweather was accused of threatening security guards at his housing development in October 2010 after they wrote up parking citations for some of his vehicles
From the AP report: “Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan said she wasn’t convinced that the guards feared any threat would be carried out.”
I wonder if Mayweather and the guards will apologize to each other. If they do, I don’t recommend hugging and then stepping back with their hands down…
This was the second recent case Mayweather has won. Earlier this year, a civil lawsuit against him was dismissed in a case brought forth by a Las Vegas nightclub security guard. The bouncer claimed he’d asked Mayweather and those with him for identification, only to have a bodyguard of Mayweather’s grab and choke him, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
7. Here’s a quick primer on other cases remaining against Mayweather:
- Manny Pacquiao’s defamation lawsuit against Mayweather concerning Mayweather’s implications and allegations that Pacquiao has used performance enhancing drugs.
- Mayweather has several felony and misdemeanor charges against him for an incident in which he allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend and threatened their sons.
- He has a misdemeanor battery case in which he is accused of poking the face of a security guard who left parking tickets on one of his vehicles. That case is scheduled to go to trial this Friday, Nov. 4, according to the Associated Press.
- He has a civil lawsuit against him from two men who accused Mayweather and other men of threatening them in the aftermath of a shooting two years ago in Las Vegas. A man had texted Mayweather saying he hoped he would lose against Juan Manuel Marquez, which led to an argument between them in a skating rink. Later that evening, an associate of Mayweather’s allegedly shot at a car with the two men in it. The associate is facing criminal charges in that case; Mayweather is not.
- And Mayweather has another civil lawsuit against him, this one from a man who claims Mayweather told his bodyguards to attack him after he asked about Mayweather fighting Manny Pacquiao.
8. Why did the British Boxing Board of Control deny a boxing license to “The 10 Count” mainstay Scott Harrison?
“[T]hey did not receive the proper documentation,” reported BBC, not to be confused with the BBBC. “They are also waiting for Harrison to provide a police background check before they can make a decision.”
They do have Google in the U.K., right?
9. A look at the boxing schedule shows a major card on American airwaves every Saturday through the end of 2011 except for Christmas Eve.
Nov. 5: Alfredo Angulo vs. James Kirkland (HBO), Lucian Bute vs. Glen Johnson (Showtime).
Nov. 12: Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 3 (pay-per-view).
Nov. 19: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Peter Manfredo Jr (HBO).
Nov. 26: Saul Alvarez vs. Kermit Cintron (HBO).
Dec. 3: Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito (pay-per-view), Abner Mares vs. Joseph Agbeko 2 (Showtime).
Dec. 10: Amir Khan vs. Lamont Peterson (HBO).
Dec. 17: Andre Ward vs. Carl Froch (Showtime).
Dec. 31: To be determined, but very likely Tavoris Cloud vs. Zsolt Erdei (Showtime).
10. Speaking of Saul Alvarez, he made headlines last week after allegedly getting in a fight with Ulises “Archie” Solis.
The fight, according to reports, was apparently over a woman – Solis says he was accused of messing around with Alvarez’s girlfriend – and not over the fact that Alvarez looks more like “Archie” than Solis does.
Alvarez says it was one of his brothers, not him, who attacked Solis.
That said, Alvarez’s confrontation with Solis, if true, is the first confrontation between a 154-pounder and an 108-pounder since Donaire-Narvaez…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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