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Pacquiao-Marquez: A Featherweight Bout of Heavyweight Proportions
By Alex Pierpaoli (May 7, 2004) 
Manny Pacquiao
Even his name sounds like a combination of crisp hard punches. Man-nee Pac-key-OW rolls off the tongue with the musical rat-tat-tat of fists striking something solid.

On Saturday night that solid something will be Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez, the best featherweight in the world—a title many felt he held even before the fall of Marco Antonio Barrera. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas will host this clash between Manny Pacquiao, Barrera’s conqueror, and Marquez as part of an HBO doubleheader that has most boxing fans trembling with anticipation. After an April which featured a re-sorting and settling of heavyweight retreads that slugged, hugged and mugged each other over a few jewel encrusted baubles from the WBO, IBF, WBA and WBC; Pacquiao and Marquez fight more for bragging rights than for belts. True, Marquez holds both the WBA and IBF trinkets, but it is Pacquiao’s victory over Barrera that makes most experts consider him the legitimate featherweight champ.

When Pacquiao beat Barrera in November the featherweight title was passed on through combat, a blood-letting that left one man standing. There was no sanctioning bodies decree or alpha-belt held aloft which proved Pacquiao’s dominance. While Marquez has beaten just about everyone else at 126, Pacquiao holds the win over the man most considered King. On Saturday night, the arguments on either side will be settled in 36 minutes, or less, when Marquez and Pacquiao rumble.

Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino featherweight who won the hearts and minds of his countrymen in the island nation, could have chosen a less dangerous opponent after he smoked Barrera back in November. But Pacquiao seems bent on proving his greatness in a hurry. His TKO win over Barrera was the culmination of a series of fights which started with a sensational upset of Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in June of 2001.

With blinding hand speed, knockout power in both hands, and the two-fisted aggression of a man on a vision-quest, it is easy to envision Pacquiao as the one hundred twenty-six pound version of Mike Tyson. Like Iron Mike, Pacquiao’s opponents go through spasmodic gyrations as they reel backwards from his punches, as Emanuel Lucero did from one well placed straight left that sent him staggering across the canvas before collapsing into the ropes. Pacquiao’s hometown, General Santos City, with its renegade gangs of thugs, assassinations of political leaders and suspected links to terror groups, sounds like the Brownsville, Brooklyn of 2004. The violent realities in Pacquiao’s native Philippines have shaped his character and forged his fighting spirit just as poverty and the politics of race spawn fighters in the United States. Pacquiao, with his impish good looks and easy smile, reminds us the planet is not so big anymore, and a “Third World” neighborhood in the Pacific is just a neighborhood away from one in Mexico or East Los Angeles.

The proud counter-puncher, Juan Manuel Marquez, hopes to defend the honor of all Mexico and exact a blend of revenge and his own coming-out party on Saturday night. As good as the accurate and dangerous Marquez will be, it is unlikely he has faced anyone quite like Pacquiao. The Filipino southpaw fights at a speed that will be uncomfortable for Marquez to try and match—his best chance is to walk Pacman down and soften him up with body-punching. After fighting in the shadow of his countrymen, Barrera and Erik Morales for years, Marquez hopes to prove himself as the best at 126.

More than just the featherweight championship belts that are at stake, Saturday’s bout will herald the arrival of another claimant to the title of pound-for-pound best in boxing for whoever is left standing. And one thing is certain, should Manny Pacquiao put together as scintillating a performance as he did against Barrera, The Pacman’s march to greatness will be hard to stop…wokka, wokka wokka.

Cintron continues to develop

Sparring with the likes of Bernard Hopkins is hardly what most people would consider smart medicine, but for Kermit Cintron it seems to have been just the thing to re-energize the young knockout artist. After being extended 9 rounds against Hicklet Lau in December on Telefutura—and never looking all that thrilling—Kermit the Killer needed a big kayo victory, and on Saturday afternoon versus Elio Ortiz he got it. Ortiz was dropped face first into the bottom ropes in round five after a methodical and far more strategy-minded Cintron broke him down and beat him up. Cintron’s much improved head movement and quick, clean combination punching makes him look like one of the few prospects who continues to improve steadily.

Kelvin Davis—Ezra Sellers

Something about the aggressive stalking offense of Kelvin Davis that looks familiar…
For a generation of fight fans that cut their teeth on 90 second Tyson knockouts, Kelvin Davis must seem like a breath of fresh air in the most unlikely place, the cruiserweight division. On Saturday night, Davis hammered away at the retreating Ezra Sellers stopping him by technical knockout in a scheduled 12 rounder in Miami.

Davis doesn’t have the one punch-crunch or hand speed of Iron Mike, but his style is similar enough to make for exciting fights, especially when faced with an opponent with good boxing skills. In the Showtime main event Saturday, Davis forced the fight and robbed Sellers of his confidence early by driving him to the ropes again and again, while clubbing at him with heavy hooks and right crosses. After getting dropped at the end of four, Sellers barely beat the count but he recovered during the rest period and held on until round 8 before succumbing to Davis’ attack.

In the post fight interview with Jim Gray, Davis expressed his desire to move up to heavyweight and challenge the likes of Roy Jones, JR.—who fights at 175 next week. Please, Kelvin. As suggested by Al Bernstein during the broadcast, Davis would be wise to stay at cruiserweight rather than force himself into the larger unlimited class much the way Orlin Norris and Bert Cooper did with just mediocre success. The heavyweight division is the place where all the money is, that’s true, but today it’s where all the mediocrity is too.

Wokka-wokka-wokka, save us from the big men, Manny!

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