Well, they've fought three times, there's 36 rounds between them and it still cannot be agreed upon as to who the clear winner was in any one of their three fights. Yes, I'm talking about all-time greats and legends Manny Pacquiao 54-4-2 (38) and Juan Manuel Marquez 54-6-1 (39). And this Saturday they'll meet for the fourth and probably final time of their Hall of Fame careers. Then again.. maybe not? If Marquez gets a decision in a fight where the winner is not absolutely inarguable, they'll fight a fifth time. Any win by Pacquiao (no matter how controversial) ends the series.
As for who won their previous three fights, I might as well weigh in on how I saw them in generalities since they were so close. The first fight if forced to pick a winner I'd go with Marquez because other than the first minute and a half of the first round, Marquez exhibited the better ring generalship and diversity. However, I have no issue with the fight ending in a draw. As for the rematch, I think that the knockdown scored by Pacquiao was the deciding factor. I don't have any problem with the decision but if someone else saw Marquez as the winner by a point I'm fine with that too. In regards to the first two fights I think it's fair to say that there's a compelling case on both sides for either fighter as to who deserved the nod.
However, I part ways on the third fight. When Pacquiao and Marquez last met it was Marquez who fought his fight and exhibited the better offense and defense. If there were 15 clean punches landed during that bout, Marquez landed 11 of them. In summary, I think there's a strong case for either boxer as to who won the first two fights, but not the third. So in essence, it is Marquez who has scored the only clean victory of the trilogy despite trailing 0-2-1 in the series.
What hasn't been mentioned regarding their first three fights is that they fought them four and three years apart and each one was at a higher weight. Obviously, they both changed in between 2004 and 2011. This time they're fighting at basically the same weight as they did the last time, just 13 months ago. So it's doubtful they've changed that much physically, at least not enough where one would hold a significant advantage over the other. With that said, I think the last fight is the one that will give us the best indication as to what will happen on December 8th.
When they last met Pacquiao admitted after the fight that he was surprised by Marquez's strength and wasn't sure that he was the stronger man. Luckily for Manny he's the bigger puncher and will always be the bigger puncher, although it must be noted that Marquez is the more accurate puncher.
As for the matchup itself, I've heard and read countless opinions as to who has the style advantage. Now, I love styles and think they're important as to how fights will unfold, but not so much this time. These two greats have seen each other three times and they both have an x for the others' o and vice-versa. I believe this fight will come down to physicality more than style adjustments and foot placement.
In fighting Marquez, Pacquiao must impose himself physically and force Marquez to rush his shots and try to fight him off instead of getting set and then getting off with quick one-twos thus disrupting Manny's aggression. Disrupting Pacquiao's aggression is huge for Marquez and he had a lot of success doing that when they last met. When Marquez took the lead and got off first he forced Pacquiao to have to reset and this gave him time and space to either get away and avoid the impending rush from Pacquiao or reposition himself to go again. As of 2012, Pacquiao isn't the supernova he once was. Manny is a little troubled and stymied when he gets hit cleanly now and tries to think his way through the fight which is a huge advantage for Marquez. Manny has to fight reactively and be instinctive or while he's thinking and plotting, Marguez can roll and go and force Pacquiao to start working his way in again.
Marquez must throw straight shots and try to keep Manny off of him as much as he did during their last fight, thus forcing him to lunge and reach. Sure, Marquez can fight inside and even rumble with Pacquiao to a degree, but if he tries to make his living there he'll open the door for Pacquiao's left crosses and hooks from both sides. And as we saw in their rematch, a single knockdown can alter the fight in favor of Pacquiao.
This fight is gonna come down to who can force their will on the other guy more along with who's more motivated and in better condition. They're both very confident, but I believe based on their last fight, Marquez is probably more confident heading into this fight against Pacquiao than he was in the previous three, simply because of the success he had the last time. It seemed as if he had Manny talking to himself during patches of it and wholeheartedly believes he won it in the ring and on the scorecards. On the other hand, Pacquiao may not be as confident as he was prior to their last fight, and let's face it, there's more pressure on Manny because there is so much riding on it after his last fight with Timothy Bradley.
What makes handicapping this one so terribly hard is because of how they match up. They're so evenly matched that it seems for one to dominate the other it'll probably take one of them seizing the fight with their physicality. It may be rudimentary but, one of them is going to have to force the other to do what they don't want to. The problem is they both have the strength and aptitude to neutralize the other but not enough to impose themself on the other, thus separating them in the eyes of the judges.
Going in we know Pacquiao wants to land the bigger shots and force Marquez to fight defensively and more or less make him wait to see what Manny is gonna do. If Pacquiao can do that, he'll control the fight and Marquez will be left floundering as to what he can do in order to slow Pacquiao without getting too hurt, then hopefully assume command. As for Marquez, he needs to do exactly what he did the last time. That is, get off first and stymie Pacquiao, then move his feet a little before Pacquiao can reload and bring it again.
The one wild card in this fight is a stoppage set up by one big punch. Even though Marquez has a great boxing IQ (higher than Manny's), he still has a tendency to want to war on the inside when he doesn't need to. And that's where he's vulnerable. And although I realize it might be silly to say this about a guy who's never been stopped, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that, feeling he's got to make a real statement this time, Marquez could walk into something that he didn't see.
It's actually a simple strategy and breakdown in regards to what Pacquiao and Marquez must do to come out on top. The question is, who at this time has the stronger and better mindset, determination, conditioning and more of their physical tools left in the tank in order to separate one from the other in the eyes of the judges, because we all know how they're going to try and conduct the fight? Will their bodies be able to perform up to the expectation of each ones' mind and heart?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com