THB Quick Hits

 

by Mark Lorenzana

First order of business: the upcoming rematch between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin this September 15. The first fight ended up in a controversial draw, with an immediate rematch scuttled because of Canelo testing positive for clenbuterol, which he claims is the result of tainted meat. Now finally, thankfully, we’re a few days removed from both guys trading leather again, and Canelo’s camp has been very vocal about knocking out Golovkin.

Frankly, I think that’s easier said than done and remains to be seen. While I scored the first fight for Canelo because of what I perceived as the cleaner punches landed, even though Golovkin was the aggressor, there goes the rub: Canelo didn’t fight Triple G toe-to-toe and relied on his boxing skills instead. Why? I think Canelo knows that if he fought Golovkin in the pocket and didn’t box, eventually Triple G would catch him with a big one and end the fight.

I have to say thought that I was pretty impressed at how Canelo took Golovkin’s best shots. The Mexican handled the Kazakh’s power well, but I don’t see the former knocking out the latter; if someone’s getting knocked out in the rematch, I still think it’s gonna be Canelo.

That said, I only see two outcomes to this fight: Golovkin by knockout or Canelo by split decision.

***

Note to myself: never, ever doubt Donnie Nietes again.

Don’t get me wrong–Nietes is one of my favorite fighters ever, and it’s an amazing feat that he’s been undefeated all these years and that even at his advanced age he still manages to showcase his world-class boxing skills fight after fight (mind you, 36 years old is ancient for someone who campaigns at boxing’s lower weights).

But I really thought climbing up another weight class would be too much for him, plus the fact that he’d be facing a much-bigger and taller Aston Palicte.

Like I said: never, ever doubt Donnie Nietes again.

It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but it showed that Nietes is worlds away from Palicte in terms of skill–the ALA fighter schooled his fellow Filipino all throughout the tactical (some will say boring) fight and deserved to win by a wide margin instead of settling for a draw. Nietes should be a four-division world champion by now.

You know what? I think he will still eventually get that fourth title in a fourth weight class, but I hope he steps back into the ring sooner than later owing to his advanced age.

***

Fun fact: Manny Pacquiao’s camp has threatened to sue Top Rank because Bob Arum’s promotional company allegedly failed to remit Pacquiao’s share of the television earnings from the Lucas Matthysse fight in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Pacquiao, according to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, alleged that Top Rank is contractually bound to pay him the equivalent of 85 percent of the TV earnings when the fight was shown in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico via ESPN+.

I’ve always wondered why, all these years, Pacquiao has stayed with Arum and Top Rank instead of trying to strike out on his own like Floyd Mayweather did. Recently, Pacquiao seeemed to realize that Top Rank doesn’t really have his best interests at heart, but at age 39 and at the twilight of his career, perhaps it’s a little too late for this realization from the Pacman?

Stay tuned.

(Photo by HBO boxing via)

Kickboxing Is Kicking Me In The Butt

by Mark Lorenzana

It’s been a couple months now of training here at 9Round gym in Polanco, at the heart of Mexico’s business district, and everything has been awesome. I had been training in boxing for a few years now, give or take ten years or so, on and off, and although I also weight-trained, played basketball, tried spinning classes, it’s boxing that holds a special place in my heart. Not just because I love the sport itself, not just because boxers are the most down-to-earth athletes I have ever had the privilege of meeting and befriending, not just because some of the most amazing trainers I’ve ever trained with are former boxers–it’s also because it’s one of the most physically taxing sports that you will ever take up in your entire life, and therefore will get you in the best shape of your life.

I’m not going to fight in a professional boxing match soon, hell no, and I’ve only even had a few sparring rounds under my belt; but I’m pretty confident that I can throw decent punches at my level right now, and I even have pretty good power especially my favorite punch, which is the right cross (or right straight). I throw a pretty good jab too, and serviceable uppercuts and hooks. So when I started at 9Round I was pretty comfortable throwing punches already, both during punch-mitt sessions and heavy-bag sessions.

But 9Round isn’t a boxing gym, it’s a kickboxing gym. So then I was required to kick and to throw knees and elbows as well.

Holy shit. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone.

The knees and the elbows, with time, I was able to get the hang of pretty quickly, the elbows especially because when throwing them you still have both your feet planted on the ground, which helps a lot obviously with balance and power. It’s the kicks that have been a pain in the butt so far, and after two months of trying hard to execute a proper side kick, round kick, and front kick, I admit that I haven’t quite got it down pat yet.

I’m relishing the challenge, though, because kicking is actually very useful in a street fight. Not everyone you will meet on the street who is aching for a fight will want to fight you strictly with boxing rules, and learning how to kick well will certainly help. Kicks have a longer reach than punches, and a properly thrown kick with good leverage can be more devastating than even the most powerful punches. And a perfectly timed kick to an opponent’s knee can end a fight in minutes. Why try to be macho and slug it out with punches when you can disable your opponent quickly?

So yeah, I’ve been enjoying the challenge of trying to learn kickboxing (even at this age, which doesn’t lend well to flexibility, so I’ve actually been very forgiving to myself by not forcing myself to kick as high as I can and just focusing on trying to kick with proper form, so you won’t ever see me trying to kick a guy’s face or even chest–I’m sticking to the abdomen, the nuts, and the knees, LOL). Right now, honestly, kickboxing is kicking me in the butt, but I know that given more time I’m eventually gonna get the hang of it.

Well, if not, there’s always pure boxing.

Or spinning classes.

It’s Easier Said Than Done, But Why It’s Always Better to Just Go for the Damn Knockout Every Time

by Mark Lorenzana

This year alone we’ve seen several controversial decisions in boxing: Jeff Horn winning an upset over Manny Pacquiao in Australia, Wisaksil Wangek Rungvisai dealing the once-invincible Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez his first loss (and his second, via knockout, in the rematch but that’s another story—or blog post), and Saul Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin settling for a draw (after an exciting fight that lived up to its expectations as one of the most must-see bouts of 2017 between two of the best middleweight fighters in the game today).

But that’s the thing, and there goes the rub: the reality is, boxing is a very difficult sport to judge, as everything is subject to one’s own personal interpretation (add to that the fact that personal biases also come into play).

For instance, I remember back when Manny Pacquiao fought Tim Bradley for the first time; I scored that fight a close victory for Bradley and in the immediate aftermath posted my thoughts on social media. I was horrified and aghast, however, when I saw the reactions on social media/blog posts from boxing analysts immediately after the fight—they claimed that Pacquiao, indeed, should have won.

Majority of the boxing writers saw Pacquiao winning that bout, with only a couple of scribes giving the nod to Bradley, one of whom is highly respected veteran boxing journalist and author Thomas Hauser. To be honest, it made me feel a little better that a writer of Hauser’s caliber got it “wrong.” I was still contributing to boxing websites at that time and was even a resident boxing/MMA writer in one of the sports websites in the Philippines when that happened (and also ran, on the side, an award-nominated sports blog that is now since defunct), so I was understandably upset. I immediately put out a blog post explaining what happened and why I thought Bradley won that fight and admitted that it was an off night for me, scoring-wise. Regardless, the “damage” was already done—both to my nonexistent credibility as an unknown boxing/MMA “analyst” and to my ego as a “writer.”

So let me ask you: in a fight between a defensive-minded counterpuncher and an aggressive brawler or boxer-puncher, which style are you going to favor? Are you going to lean toward that aggressive, come-forward fighter who throws many punches, more punches than the defensive fighter, even if those punches miss a lot and hit nothing but air and/or the opponent’s arms or gloves? Or are you going to lean toward the counterpuncher, especially if he lands the cleaner blows, even though he doesn’t throw as much as his more aggressive opponent?

Take the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. I know quite a few knowledgeable boxing fans from the Philippines who believed that Pacquiao should have won that fight, even though he wasn’t the unstoppable whirlwind of years ago who humiliated Oscar de la Hoya, one-punch-kayoed Ricky Hatton, TKO’d Miguel Cotto, punished the bigger and stronger Antonio Margarito in the course of 12 brutal rounds (and broke his orbital bone), made Sugar Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey forget about their own offense just to survive, and broke Juan Manuel Marquez’s nose in the last fight of their epic four-fight saga before getting knocked out himself because of his recklessness. Pacquiao had stalked Mayweather the entire fight, and Mayweather being Mayweather fought a brilliant defensive fight for 12 rounds, landing the cleaner shots even though he threw fewer punches. I scored that fight for Mayweather, who unsurprisingly won via unanimous decision. Immediately after the fight, when Pacquiao was interviewed in the ring by HBO’s Max Kellerman, Manny said he thought he won the fight, to Kellerman’s surprise. Freddie Roach, for his part, was more diplomatic but hinted that his fighter indeed lost the fight.

With the Pacquiao-Horn fight, I gave Pacquiao the nod by two rounds, as I felt that it was indeed a close fight but that the Filipino did enough to retain his belt. Immediately after the fight, though, there were howls of protests that Pacquiao should have won a wide decision (I didn’t understand that, though, as, like I said, I felt that it was a close fight). Bob Arum, for his part, thought that it could have gone either way (although it’s understandable for Arum to feel that way because he promotes both fighters); and Freddie Roach, although he said he thought that Pacquiao should have won, never protested the decision vehemently and even went so far as to suggest that Manny’s retirement isn’t that far off, perhaps believing that his prized pupil could have done more but was hampered by the physical deterioration in the ring brought about by age (after all, when was the last time Pacquiao looked like the relentless dynamo of yesteryears that gobbled up his opponents?), his senate “responsibilities” that limited his training and his sparring, and the comforts of the high life that almost always affects a boxer’s hunger to train and to destroy his opponent (a problem that Roach has actually harped on for several years now, what with Pacquiao’s penchant for letting the judges decide the outcome of his bouts, with his killer instinct seemingly evaporating into thin air after his impressive TKO win over Miguel Cotto an eternity ago). The point is, perhaps the judges in the Pacquiao-Horn fight felt that the latter’s aggressiveness and, yes, his seemingly “dirty” tactics helped neutralize the former’s once-impressive offensive attacks—indeed, aside from a ninth round where Horn was close to hitting the canvas, Pacquiao for the most part was often stymied by the bigger, stronger, and “dirtier” fighter who didn’t mind taking a page out of the MMA stylebook and repeatedly used his forearms, shoulders, head, and even his elbows to his advantage.

With the Rungvisai-Chocolatito fight, I scored the fight for Chocolatito but also admitted to myself that the Nicaraguan, one of my favorite fighters of recent years, didn’t look as sharp as he had been, especially when he was still campaigning in the lower weights and blasting all comers, making a case for himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. In that fight, the bigger and stronger Rungvisai never let Gonzalez intimidate him and, like Horn, decided to make it hard for Chocolatito by resorting to borderline illegal tactics to frustrate the Nicaraguan. And, to the judges at least, it worked—they thought the Thai did enough that night to wrest the titles away from Gonzalez. Perhaps the judges thought that Gonzalez, being the brilliant fighter that he was, should have been his always-impressive self and that anything less than Chocolatito blasting away Rungvisai was not enough for him to retain his belts? Was Chocolatito unfairly judged because of the lofty standards that he set for himself and that, because he failed to live up to these standards, the opponent was judged “good” enough and therefore deserving enough of the win?

With the Canelo-Golovkin fight, I thought that Canelo won by a couple of rounds although I don’t think that a draw is unreasonable, as well as a scorecard that awarded Golovkin a win by two or three rounds, because the fight I saw was a close fight wherein GGG was the aggressor throughout but with Canelo banking on his better boxing skills, much-improved movement, and superb counterpunching to land the cleaner blows. (I have a problem with Adalaide Byrd’s card, though, that only saw Golovkin winning two rounds; it’s a fucking travesty that deserves its own separate blog post). With that said, a lot of people also saw Golovkin winning by a wide margin, because of the way they perceive how a fighter should fight in order to win: go forward and attack, attack, attack. This is not a wrong way of seeing things, as it is also not wrong to favor the fighter who, although is backpedaling and moving and counterpunching, lands the cleaner blows and is perceived to be outboxing his opponent. Personally, I thought Golovkin missed a lot and wasted a lot of punches.

Boxing decisions will continue to be controversial as long as the judges themselves have their own perception of what a winning fighter should do in order to deserve the nod. After all, we all have our own way of seeing things (and not seeing things, for that matter)—even the most seasoned boxing judge, who’s had hundreds of title fights under his/her belt.

But Juan Manuel Marquez knew the perfect remedy for that, though, after being on the short end of the stick three times against Manny Pacquiao—just go for the damn knockout.

Pinoy Fight Scribe: Pacquiao retirement after Bradley fight a good idea

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on February 21, 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

Manny Pacquiao turns 34 this year.

As a boxer, he has logged a lot of miles: since turning pro in 1995, he has figured in a total of 59 fights, which translates into 353 rounds boxed. Just recently, Pacquiao had hinted that he might walk away from the sport after his upcoming fight with Timothy Bradley on June 9.

According to the Retired Boxers Foundation, the average age of retirement for a professional boxer is in the mid-30s. Some boxers, especially those who lose a lot of fights early in their career, decide to hang up their gloves at a young age while others hang on and continue fighting until their 40s. Right now, Pacquiao is at the optimal retirement age for boxers.

This is not the first time, though, that Pacquiao has hinted at retirement. Three years ago, Pacquiao announced that he would retire at the end of 2009 as he unveiled his plans to run for Congress. Then in 2010, after defeating Joshua Clottey, Pacquiao hinted that he might talk to his family about his possible retirement that year. The year after that, in 2011, there were talks once again that Pacquiao might call it quits after his fight with Sugar Shane Mosley.

Those previous retirement talks never really amounted to anything, so die-hard Pacquiao fans can at least take solace in the knowledge that nothing is set in stone yet, and that there’s a big possibility that Pacquiao might change his mind.

But here’s the thing: after Bradley, who’s next for Pacquiao? Floyd Mayweather Jr.? He won’t step in the ring with Pacquiao until he feels that Manny is too old and too shot. That fight will never happen in a million years. Juan Manuel Marquez? He has Pacquiao’s number, but Marquez will never ever get the benefit of the doubt against the judges because of his counterpunching style. The surest way for Marquez to beat Pacquiao is by a knockout, but it’s been three fights already, and he hasn’t floored the Pacman even once. Besides, Marquez already said that he will retire at the end of this year even if the fourth fight with Pacquiao doesn’t happen.

In other words, if a fight against Mayweather or Marquez can’t be made, who else could be a meaningful opponent for Pacquiao? A severely dehydrated Sergio Martinez? The high-risk/low-reward Lamont Peterson? Miguel Cotto again? Why?

So yes, Pacquiao retiring after the Bradley fight is perhaps the most logical decision that the reigning pound-for-pound boxer and future hall-of-famer can make at the twilight of his brilliant career. In boxing, it’s always a good idea to quit while you’re ahead, and not until you’ve been squeezed dry by your greedy promoter.

* * *

Speaking of the undefeated Timothy Bradley, the reigning WBO light welterweight champion, how might he fare against Manny Pacquiao?

Juan Manuel Marquez had an interesting thing to say about the matchup: “Even though Bradley is a great boxer, and he has skills, he needs the power. He [doesn’t] have that power. Pacquiao has the speed and Pacquiao has the power. The difference in this fight is power. The difference will be the power punches that Pacquiao has.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Marquez’s assessment. In my last column, I wrote: “Timothy Bradley is young, undefeated, a good boxer with decent-enough skills, someone who has defeated quality opponents. Problem is, Pacquiao tends to make mincemeat out of offensive-minded fighters who take the fight to him, especially someone smaller and who has no power punch.”

I stand by what I wrote. To reiterate, the difference will be the power. It’s just common sense, really: Bradley doesn’t punch that hard, and Pacquiao has a world-class chin. If you cannot make Pacquiao respect your power, what’s gonna stop him from coming in and raining down blows on you until you scream “uncle” or until you get pounded out or until your cornerman throws in the towel, whichever comes first?

And here’s a little-known fact about Pacquiao that might seem trivial but I think is worth noting anyway: since Pacquiao won his first world title as a flyweight by beating Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand fourteen years ago, he has knocked out every single opponent he faced when he either lost or scored a draw in his previous bout.

Cases in point: Pacquiao knocked out Reynante Jamili in two rounds after losing to Medgoen Singsurat, Pacquiao stopped Jorge Eliecer Julio in round two after he settled for a draw against the late Agapito Sanchez, Pacquiao scored a fourth-round knockout against Fahsan 3K Battery after he drew with Marquez in their first fight, and Pacquiao annihilated the tough Hector Velasquez within six rounds after he lost his first fight against Erik Morales.

Pacquiao is coming off a close win against Juan Manuel Marquez, a fight that could have gone either way, a fight that boxing pundits thought should have been awarded to Marquez. Pacquiao’s performance against Marquez has been criticized, and who’s to say that the Pacman isn’t itching to bounce back and score an impressive win? Technically, Pacquiao didn’t lose his third fight with Marquez, but who’s to say that he won’t want to bounce back with an emphatic performance?

In his poem “The Hollow Men,” T. S. Eliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”

On the contrary, going back to the earlier point at the beginning of this column about Pacquiao’s possible retirement, if this is indeed where the Pacman’s legendary career ends, he’d most certainly want to end it with a bang, not a whimper.

That said, be afraid for Timothy Bradley. Be very, very afraid.

Pinoy Fight Scribe: Breaking down Pacquiao-Bradley, Mayweather Cotto

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on February 10, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and WBC welterweight titlist Floyd Mayweather Jr. are, undoubtedly, the two biggest attractions in the sport of boxing today. Both fighters possess speed, power, ring smarts, and tough chins — attributes that have catapulted them to superstardom.

Both boxers also possess varying fighting styles that, needless to say, promises an intriguing and mouth-watering matchup: Pacquiao’s relentless, unorthodox, and blitzkrieg offensive attack against Mayweather’s outstanding defensive skills and counterpunching prowess.

This matchup is a boxing fan’s dream come true: one of the game’s best boxer-punchers in Pacquiao fighting one of the game’s best counterpunching stylists in Mayweather.

The problem, though, is that they aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

It’s official: Pacquiao has signed to fight undefeated Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley on June 9. The report comes on the heels of the recent announcement by Mayweather that he will be facing Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto for the latter’s WBA super welterweight strap on Cinco de Mayo.

So what could we expect from the two matchups?

Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley

After Pacquiao struggled against Juan Manuel Marquez in their third fight, a close bout that Pacquiao won by majority decision, the consensus — both spoken and unspoken — around Boxlandia was that Mayweather was next for Pacquiao. But when feeble attempts at negotiations to make the dream fight fizzled out, several prospective opponents for Pacquiao cropped up overnight: Marquez, Cotto, Bradley, and even Lamont Peterson.

Marquez was out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao soon after he voiced out several demands before a fourth fight could happen, demands that Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum deemed too unreasonable, even crazy: a venue other than Las Vegas, neutral judges, and a bigger purse. But Marquez was probably out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao as early as the end of the third fight when everyone realized that the Mexican was the perfect foil for Pacquiao. Marquez will, most probably, fight another rumored Pacquiao opponent, Lamont Peterson in mid July.

Cotto was the initial pick by Pacquiao, but the Puerto Rican made it clear that he wouldn’t fight below 150 pounds. Cotto has campaigned at 154 lbs. for his past three fights already, and Pacquiao wanted the fight at a lower weight. It seems that the weight played a huge factor in Cotto’s decision to choose Mayweather, especially since the latter agreed to move up in weight to challenge Cotto.

Timothy Bradley is young, undefeated, a good boxer with decent-enough skills, someone who has defeated quality opponents. But Bradley is not exactly a power puncher and is going up in weight to fight Pacquiao, a fighter who has been campaigning as a full-fledged welterweight for a total of five fights now. Pacquiao has dominated naturally bigger guys like Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto, Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Shane Mosley and has only shown difficulties against defensive counterpunchers like Marquez. Bradley is not a defensive counterpuncher, is smaller, and will take the fight to Pacquiao. Problem is, Pacquiao tends to make mincemeat out of offensive-minded fighters who take the fight to him, especially someone smaller and who has no power punch.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto

A curious thing about this fight is that Mayweather has been avoiding Cotto for the longest time. This was when Cotto was still in his prime, when he was still undefeated, before he was beaten to a bloody pulp by Antonio Margarito and Pacquiao. Just recently, Mayweather dismissed Cotto as a potential opponent, saying he wouldn’t fight any of “Pacquiao’s leftovers.” Until now, that is.

Cotto may be the naturally bigger man, but he is not the same fighter many years ago that Mayweather had been ducking. Mayweather, being the shrewd, cagey boxer/businessman that he is, won’t risk his undefeated record. He took the fight because he knows that he can—and will—beat this version of Cotto.

So here’s the sad part: there is still no guarantee that Pacquiao and Mayweather will immediately fight each other after they beat each of their respective opponents. Who knows? Maybe they will eventually come to their senses many, many years from now, when they are both too old and too infirm and too shot. But will boxing fans still care?

Ah, to be passionate devotees of a niche sport whose two biggest attractions possess egos as huge as the fat paychecks that they command.

Pacquiao’s win over Marquez raises more questions than answers

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on November 15, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

“I clearly won the fight.”

It’s hard to tell if Manny Pacquiao said that with real conviction during the postfight interview after another grueling fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. After 36 brutal rounds, the only clear thing is that Pacquiao seems to have found the perfect foil in Marquez. “Marquez has Manny’s number,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said after the third fight. Not a lot of people will disagree with that assessment.

The trilogy has, so far, yielded one draw and two wins for Pacquiao. The third bout was supposed to be the most decisive of all three battles, but the outcome only managed to raise more questions than answers.

Did Juan Manuel Marquez hurt Pacquiao?

Does Juan Manuel Marquez, someone who has fought at the welterweight limit only a couple of times in his career, punch harder than full-fledged welterweights like Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto?

When Pacquiao fought Margarito and Cotto, he took both those guys’ best shots, even egging them on to punch him in the body so that he could taste their power. This drew the consternation of Freddie Roach, but it was all good because Pacquiao never really buckled under the onslaught. The Pacquiao against Cotto and Margarito was far more accurate than the one against Marquez because Manny seemed more confident and at ease when he fought those two bigger guys—he let his hands go freely and wasn’t afraid to engage.

Against Marquez, Pacquiao seemed nervous and tentative, he missed a lot, and most of his punches were short and didn’t connect because he wasn’t close enough to hit his target—Pacquiao seemed afraid to engage. Again, does Juan Manuel Marquez punch harder than naturally bigger men like Margarito and Cotto?

What was Pacquiaos game plan going into the fight?

Freddie Roach said part of the strategy was to avoid Marquez’s right hand. “Manny’s a left-hander and if you’re fighting a right-hander like Marquez, you don’t slide to his right because he’s going to hit you every time,” said Roach. But Pacquiao repeatedly slid right directly into Marquez’s straight hand, and naturally, he got hit every time.

Another plan, according to Roach, was to go to the body early, something that could have slowed the 38-year-old Marquez down. But Pacquiao went to the body sporadically and essentially headhunted most of the fight, with little success.

For some strange reason, Pacquiao deviated from the game plan. Did he do it on purpose, or were there other factors that kept him from doing what he needed to do to win the fight in more convincing fashion?

Did Pacquiao overthink Marquez?

Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who also worked briefly as a boxing analyst for HBO, always said during broadcasts that a fighter shouldn’t overanalyze his opponent’s style. His advice? Just fight.

In the first two bouts against Marquez, that was what Pacquiao did— he just fought. And because of that he was able to knock down Marquez four times. In those instances, Pacquiao just let his hands go and peppered the Mexican with punches from weird angles. Marquez didn’t know where the punches were coming from, so he eventually got hit with solid shots and went down several times.

Also, Pacquiao has a wider repertoire of punches now, so why didn’t he throw more hooks and uppercuts instead of just throwing spartan 1-2 combinations all night? Before the fight, Evander Holyfield said that all Pacquiao needs to do to win is to be himself. Against Juan Manuel Marquez, does Pacquiao find it hard to be his explosive, unpredictable self?

After three close fights where Pacquiao was very, very lucky to escape with a draw and a couple of close wins, it certainly seems to appear that way.

What should Marquez do for him to win against Pacquiao?

The first couple of fights were very close and could have gone either way, but in the third one Marquez looked to be more in control and landed the more telling blows.

f course the Pacquiao aggression was there as usual, but it was not effective aggression. Against David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Sugar Shane Mosley, Pacquiao showed effective aggression; in this fight he seemed lost and out of sync. Perhaps this was the reason why, as Time Magazine’s Gary Andrew Poole said, “No one on press row had Pacquiao winning, and only a few had him stealing a draw.”

Marquez’s “problem” (if we can call it a problem) is that he is a counterpuncher, and a lot have argued that this is precisely why he can’t win in the eyes of the judges—in close fights, judges tend to favor (fairly or unfairly, you be the judge) the more aggressive fighter even if the more defensive fighter lands the cleaner shots. What’s ironic in this case is that it’s precisely this counterpunching style that has made Marquez very difficult to solve for Pacquiao.

Needless to say, if Marquez employed a more aggressive style against the Filipino, he would be playing right into Pacquiao’s hands and would be deposited in the canvas in no time. In this case, Marquez finds himself in a quandary: fight smart and lose in the eyes of the judges or fight aggressively and get knocked out.

It’s a no-win situation for him, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy and all the hard work he always puts in. This is a painful case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” for Juan Manuel Marquez.

Is Pacquiao slowing down?

Was Pacquiao’s less-than-stellar performance a sign that he is finally slowing down and that his skills are eroding, or is it just purely because of Marquez’s style, a style that has given Pacquiao fits for three fights now? Pacquiao has supposedly suffered cramps again, which may be a sign that his body is not what it used to be. At 32, Pacquiao is not exactly a spring chicken, and there are a lot of fighters (especially offensive pressure fighters) who have appeared to age overnight. The next fight against another opponent (preferably one who will take the fight to Pacquiao) will, hopefully, answer that question.

Will there be a fourth fight?

Yes, perhaps. That is, if Pacquiao is still up to it.

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.