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Pacquiao Marquez LA PC 120917 009aIf there’s a shred of self- doubt lurking in the heart and soul of Mexican tough-guy Juan Manuel Marquez, he’s done a pretty good job of hiding it. If it exists, it’s buried under the frustration of knowing you did enough to win, but they never handed you the blue ribbon.

Three times he’s fought Manny Pacquiao and three times he’s gone home with the bitter taste of coming in second or tied in fights he thought he won, fights that could have been decided with a coin flip.

For Marquez, his last fight with Pacquiao was probably the most exasperating loss of the trilogy. That was a fight that many at ringside thought he won. It should have been the equalizer, leveling off the score to 1-1-1 instead of 0-2-1 in favor of Pacquiao. But that’s the fight game. Too many decisions are still a crap shoot.

So now Marquez, a three-division champ, gets another chance to beat Pacquiao, and though it probably doesn’t seem fair, he knows his only guarantee of a win might come with a knockout. That’s because they can’t rob you of points and a win if the referee is standing over the other guy counting him out.

Of course, stopping Pacquiao is like stopping a runaway train. He’s almost impossible to slow down and there’s a good chance there will be casualties.

“It’s going to be difficult to knock him out, but not impossible,” said Marquez on a Tuesday conference call promoting his fourth fight with Pacquiao, scheduled for Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on HBO pay-per-view. “I think I needed a KO the last time.”

A KO sure would have helped the last time. But that’s why a knockout is part of his fight plan for this fight. Old habits are hard to break, and he’s gone winless in three close tries against Pacquiao.

“Without a doubt, I thought I won the (last) fight clearly,” he said. “The only ones who didn’t think I won were the judges.”

Fighting as welterweights, the two will be fighting for what the WBO calls the “Champion of the Decade.” The WBO even commissioned a designer to come up with a new title belt.

Asked if he was concerned about the judging again, Marquez took the high road, saying he couldn’t concern himself with something out of his control. He had other things on his agenda to concentrate on, like Pacquiao and what he might do different this time around.

Or what he might do the same.

“The only thing I’m asking is that the judges be fair,” Marquez said. “And I have all the faith in the world that they will do the fair thing.”

Optimism and faith are rare partners in the fight game.

Will his four fights with Pacquiao be his legacy? Marquez said he’d like to think his career is a little more complex than that.

“You can’t (quantify) my career on just four fights,” he said. “A lot of my fights were very important to my career. I’m very happy with what I’ve done in the ring and I’m very happy to have these four fights with Manny.”

When his fighting days are finally over, someone asked Marquez what he thought his relationship with Pacquiao might be.

“My relationship with him is one of respect,” he said. “I respect him and I think he respects me. We’re professionals and we carry that respect into the ring with us.

“When we’re done fighting, I definitely will sit down with him and we can start a friendship. Everything will be left in the ring. In the future, I don’t see why we couldn’t start a friendship.”

But it sure would be nice to have a blue ribbon.

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