Willie Pep had Sandy Saddler (4 times), Sugar Ray Robinson had Jake LaMotta (6x's) and Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier (3x's).
They are just three rivalries and six all-time great fighters whose names will be forever linked together in fistic history.
Today, we have Manny Pacquiao 56-5-2 (38) and Juan Manuel Marquez 56-7-1 (40) who have fought each other four times and had the eyes of the boxing world focused on them every time. Pacquiao and Marquez don't need anything to build up a fight between them. Four fights=four great fights. Each one had fireworks, each one was close, each was hard to predict. And there's no reason why the fifth wouldn't continue the tradition.
Of the four fights between them, the first three resulted in very close and controversial decisions. Their first fight was a draw and Pacquiao was the benefactor in the second and third meetings via a split decision in fight II and a majority decision in fight III. In their last meeting, the fourth between them, Marquez, who was trailing at the time, won the only non controversial bout between the duo when he knocked Pacquiao out with one punch with only seconds remaining in the sixth round.
And that brings us to why there will most likely be a fifth and final meeting between these two future hall of famers this coming November.
For starters, there is nobody substantive left for them to fight with something significant to gain other than Floyd Mayweather. Marquez had his shot at Mayweather and was jobbed on the scales at the weigh in when Mayweather came in above the contract weight and had to cough up a lot of dead presidents. But Floyd didn't care and was happy to buy the advantage. In the ring that night it looked like a welterweight versus a lightweight and Marquez didn't compete. Although Marquez would probably like another shot at Mayweather, there's no way that happens because Floyd would have nothing to gain by fighting him again. Sure, the boxing world would love to see Mayweather and Pacquiao fight, and it will happen, but not this year, so forget about it for now. There's another formidable terror out there named Ruslan Provodnikov 23-2 (16), who is promoted by Bob Arum who would love to fight either Pacquiao or Marquez. However, he's too dangerous for both of them. His style, toughness and aggression would make it really tough for Marquez to overcome at age 40. Perhaps Pacquiao's unorthodox style and speed would lead Provodnikov into walking into a killer shot that he didn't see. But Ruslan's chin has shown to be upper-tier and very sturdy.
Provodnikov beat up and hurt Timothy Bradley much more than Marquez did when they fought and more than Pacquiao did in two fights against him. Forget either Manny or Juan going near Provodnikov. They have nothing to gain by fighting him and it could easily end badly for both. Something else to keep in mind is the names Pacquiao and Marquez matched together can't miss as a draw. Boxing fans know when they share a ring they'll see professional fighting exhibited at its highest level. The fight will have many ebbs and flows with the outcome being in question until the very end. And the stakes and bragging rights on the line in a fifth fight between them will be monumental. How can it not be? Marquez handed Pacquiao the most devastating and humiliating defeat of his career a year and a half ago. Manny was out, face down, on the canvas for over a minute. After the fight his wife pleaded with him to retire from boxing. Since the last Marquez fight, Pacquiao has fought twice. He won a lopsided decision over a limited tough guy in Brandon Rios and then out thought and out boxed Timothy Bradley in their rematch. But he didn't look spectacular in either bout and it's obvious to anyone who knows what they're watching that Manny doesn't carry the same punch he used to – nor is he the non-stop punching machine he was going back just three or four years ago. That said, there's no way in the world I could be convinced that Pacquiao doesn't want Marquez one more time.
He was beating Marquez up, leading in the bout and had his face a mess when he let his guard down for a second and got nailed and put to sleep by the best right hand Marquez ever landed. And if we know nothing else, it's that Manny has not suffered any residual effects from that knockout and certainly isn't glove shy as a result of it.
As for Marquez, he's fought twice since beating Pacquiao. He lost a decision to Timothy Bradley in his next fight, but that was more of a style conundrum than it was Bradley being the better fighter. For the better part of 12 rounds Bradley used his better hand and foot speed to do just enough to win a couple more rounds than Marquez en-route to a split decision victory. And this past weekend Marquez won a lopsided unanimous decision over Mike Alvarado 34-3 (23), who was coming off a stoppage loss to Provodnikov in his last fight. After beating Alvarado, Marquez said he wants to be the first Mexican fighter in boxing history to win a world title in five different weight classes. Guess who holds the WBO welterweight title? Yep, Manny Pacquiao. What could be sweeter for Marquez than winning his fifth title and further enhancing his legacy at Pacquiao's expense?
Think about the drama/soap opera and back story attached to Pacquiao-Marquez V. Manny wants to avenge being knocked out by Marquez and Juan wants to make history and solidify himself historically as being Pacquiao's superior. If Pacquiao were to knockout or beat Marquez convincingly in their fifth meeting, most would look back at his knockout loss to him as being a fluke. That would give him a 3-1-1 advantage head to head and the debate as to who got the better of whom between them would be settled. On the other hand, if Marquez stopped Pacquiao again or beat him beyond question in a fifth meeting, the series would be 2-2-1. And most would say that Marquez deserved at least one of the two decisions he lost to Manny, and he scored the only clear cut wins between them – so Marquez would be thought of as the superior fighter between them, at least in a head to head comparison.
If Pacquiao and Marquez meet a fifth time they would both make a ton of money. One of them will enhance their legacy and the loser will not be shamed one bit by losing to the other. And even though Pacquiao is 35 and Marquez is 40, it's not an old-timers fight, it's a top of the contemporary era's best match-up even now.
After beating Alvarado this past weekend, Marquez was very coy when asked about fighting Pacquiao for a fifth time in his next fight. He wouldn't commit to anything but left the door open. He no doubt did that because he doesn't want to seem too anxious and wants to strengthen his financial interest if the fight comes to fruition. Marquez knows that Pacquiao wants a chance to make the boxing public forget about their last fight and just might be willing to make a few concessions in order to make the fight that he normally might not if that's what it takes to get him in the ring again. It was smart of Marquez to answer the question regarding Pacquiao the way he did for business reasons.
And it's smart for Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach to have recently said to Michael Woods that he's considering letting Provodnikov fight Pacquiao, giving Marquez a dose of his own medicine. Both Pacquiao and Marquez have nothing to gain fighting a dangerous guy like Provodnikov, who lost to Timothy Bradley, and they have everything to lose.
Rest assured, Marquez and Pacquiao know they'll be seeing each other again one more time later this year in China. And boxing fans can also rest assured that if nothing else big happens this year in professional boxing, at least they have Pacquiao-Marquez V to look forward to this coming fall.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com