Fight Scribe Bullets: Pacquiao vs Marquez edition

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on November 6, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

The third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez is just around the corner, and anticipation and excitement for the fight have just about reached fever pitch. As usual, cinemas, sports bars, and restaurants have been aggressively marketing their own pay-per-view coverage of the fight and in the case of the last two, with the customary free drinks and brunch thrown in.

In addition, in online boxing forums, discussions between fight fans have been heating up. And of course, sports gamblers, who have been meticulously studying the odds for the fight, have been taking a closer look at the betting lines—that is, before they ultimately decide which fighter to bet on and whether or not they think the fight will last the full distance.

I’m personally intrigued about how the fight will unfold and how both fighters’ divergent paths, since they last met in the ring three years ago, will affect the outcome of the bout. On to the bullets:

— The first fight between Marquez and Pacquiao happened when both fighters were still campaigning at featherweight. That was, amazingly, seven years ago. The rematch was a weight division higher, at 130 pounds, not really a substantial move up in weight.The third fight will be at welterweight, and Pacquiao has been undefeated so far against opponents weighing 140 pounds or more: he made the aging and shot Oscar De La Hoya quit on his stool and eventually retire from boxing, he flattened Ricky Hatton in two rounds, he stopped Miguel Cotto in twelve, he gave Antonio Margarito the worst beating of his boxing career, and he forced Joshua Clottey and Sugar Shane Mosley to lace up their running shoes.

While it seems to me that Pacquiao, at this point in his career, could still go down and fight at light welterweight if he wanted to, his natural speed, quickness, and power pose a lot of problems even for legitimate welterweights. This is why he is the WBO welterweight world champion.

On paper, this would seem to be the strongest argument against a Marquez win: at this stage of both boxers’ careers, Manny Pacquiao at welterweight might just be too much for the smaller Juan Manuel Marquez, a blown-up lightweight, to handle.

— After the second fight with Pacquiao, Marquez moved up to lightweight, and to every fight fan’s pleasant surprise, the Mexican boxer eschewed his somewhat cautious counterpunching tactics in favor of a more aggressive fan-friendly style.This resulted in more exciting fights for Marquez, fights that, in turn, helped pull in more paying fans to watch him ply his trade.

But I doubt if he will try to pull off something like that against Pacquiao. I believe Marquez will fight smart and revert to his tried-and-tested counterpunching style; that is, if he wants to survive the early rounds against the Filipino.

— While a lot of boxing fans are happy that this third fight will finally push through, there are people who feel that this fight was made a little too late to be competitive at all. Marquez is 38 years old and is at the twilight of his brilliant career while Pacquiao is six years younger and has yet to show signs of slowing down.Boxing pundits have been quick to zero in on Pacquiao’s otherworldly ability to carry his speed and power up to welterweight, but a lot have failed to point out something even more impressive—Pacquiao has been able to withstand heavier bombardment from stronger and more powerful foes. It’s as if his chin has gotten stronger for every weight class he has climbed. De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Clottey, and Mosley all pack dynamite in their fists, but Pacquiao took all their best shots and shrugged them off. Pacquiao took those guys’ best shots and was never in any danger of getting dropped.

In contrast, Marquez has been knocked down by Michael Katsidis and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and was hurt several times by Juan Diaz in their first fight. We all know that Pacquiao has felt Marquez’s power at featherweight and super featherweight, but an intriguing question that needs to be asked is this: will the Mexican’s punches still hurt Pacquiao at this weight class? In turn, can Marquez’s chin be able to hold up against, say, a Pacquiao punch that smashed the living daylights out of Ricky Hatton? We will see soon enough.

— While Marquez was able to reinvent himself into a more exciting fighter this late in his career, Pacquiao has gotten some flak for seemingly being too kind and showing too much compassion for his last three opponents. Some critics have even labeled him as getting soft and criticized him for allegedly losing his killer instinct. Clottey, Margarito, and Mosley have all managed to stay on their feet and hear the final bell, and a lot of bloodthirsty Pacquiao fans have been clamoring for a knockout win for a change.It remains to be seen whether Pacquiao will go at Marquez with the intent to destroy, but It’s safe to say that these fans won’t take too kindly to another Pacquiao performance characterized by the Filipino uncharacteristically pulling his punches and looking at the referee to stop the fight instead of actually pressing on to force the stoppage.

— The outcome of the fight largely hinges on the ability of Marquez to successfully fight at the same level he has been fighting in the lower weights but at twelve pounds north of his current comfortable weight. Marquez has had one fight at 147, against Floyd Mayweather Jr., and if that fight is any indication of how successful the Mexican will be against Pacquiao, then we should assume that there is going to be a massacre in the offing.In his fight against Mayweather, Marquez looked slow, sluggish, and bloated; hence, it was another easy day at the office for Floyd. And granting that Manny Pacquiao will come out with guns blazing and looking to make up for his last three seemingly lackluster performances, then the Marquez that looked as old as Methuselah and as slow as molasses against Floyd is going to be in big trouble come November 12.

— Marquez will get a guaranteed purse of $5 million, the biggest so far in his career, while Pacquiao will get $20 million guaranteed. Pacquiao said he will force his opponent “to bleed for every cent.” What he means by that, we will soon find out in a few days. I suspect Marquez doesn’t want to find out.

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