By Matthew Hurley: As the most important fight of his career fast
approaches, Juan Manuel Marquez is champing at the bit to get at Manny
Pacquiao. Convinced that the only way he will finally put his
controversial rivalry with the Filipino icon to rest is by knockout,
’Dinamita’ has been concentrating almost exclusively on the strength and
power of his upper body. But has he become so top-heavy, so muscle
bound, that his speed, and thereby his brilliant counter punching
skills, will be compromised?
In his first foray into the welterweight division against Floyd
Mayweather, he attempted to do the same thing. His training camp
concentrated on adding weight, assuming he needed to be bigger and
stronger to deal with a naturally bigger, stronger foe. Unfortunately
for Marquez he never seemed comfortable with the added poundage, looking
pudgy and sluggish, and wound up getting beaten decisively by
Mayweather over twelve rather non-competitive rounds.
For his fourth go round with Pacquiao, however, Marquez’s body looks
fit and tight. In fact he looks like a body builder in comparison to
the sinewy Pac Man who is concentrating on his speed and explosiveness.
Pacquiao’s mindset is to hopefully reinvent himself as the whirling
dervish of their first fight in 2004 where Marquez was initially
overwhelmed by punches coming from awkward angles he couldn’t keep track
Strangely, over the course of their first three bouts, the more
technically proficient and refined Pacquiao became the easier it was for
Marquez to time him and use his counter punching skills to drive Manny
to distraction. Marquez’s trainer Nacho Beristain admitted that it was
the reckless, left hook happy Pacquiao of that first fight that proved
to be the most difficult version of the fighter because they were
unprepared for such an unorthodox attack.
With both fighters gunning for a knockout to conclusively settle the
score it’s hoped that with age and wear and tear we will get just that.
But there is a good chance that once the fight gets heated these two
fighters who know each other so well will revert to form and we will be
subjected to yet another oh-so-close twelve round decision.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach worries that his charge will enter
the ring at a distinct disadvantage, at least in the eyes of the judges,
who he fears will bend over backwards to give Marquez any and all close
rounds. The Marquez camp sees it just the opposite. Their overriding
fear is that Juan will get robbed yet again should the fight go the
distance – thus the focus on building Marquez up into the bigger,
stronger man in order to push Pacquiao around, hurt him and get him out
of there once and for all.
Pacquiao’s plan, if indeed he can implement it in the ring, seems to
be the more plausible of the two. We haven’t seen the wicked
explosiveness we had grown used to in years now. He hasn’t scored a
stoppage win since 2009 against Miguel Cotto. In his recent fights he’s
grown complacent, either from outside forces or thoughts and demons
within. Yet so intent has he become to revert to form that one can’t
help but anticipating him exploding out of his corner at the clang of
the opening bell.
There is obvious annoyance in both fighters’ comments leading up to
December 8, but the reserved Pacquiao appears to have finally grown
disgusted with Marquez and Beristain’s constant complaining over the
results of the first three contests. And regardless of how he waves off
the hotly disputed decision loss to Timothy Bradley last June as
inconsequential, there is no doubt that it infuriates him.
With all of those thoughts spinning in his head his focus seems to
have zeroed in on letting it all hang out on the line. Also, it is
Pacquiao who has proven he can drive Marquez to the canvas with one
shot. He just hasn’t been able to keep him there. He’s determined to
do so this time.
Marquez, on the other hand, has had his greatest success against
Pacquiao by laying back but not giving ground and counter punching. His
boxing skills are superior to Manny’s and his measured yet tenacious
approach is what has made all 36 rounds they’ve fought so compelling.
It’s fire versus ice.
It is that style, that technical brilliance that has made him
Pacquiao’s most heated and puzzling rival. It has never been about
being the harder puncher, which he’s not, or being physically larger
than Manny. His success has come down to his technical advantages –
with heart and toughness thrown in for good measure when disaster
If he does forgo that and fights with his heart on his sleeve he
could fall right into Pacquiao’s game plan. Manny’s short, compact and
devastating left is still one of the most ferocious weapons in boxing
and Marquez has proved to be vulnerable to it. If he gets caught and
decked for a fifth time it might be his undoing this time around.
Or, he might get up, revert to form and fight to another standstill
against a man he can’t quite seem to get the better of – at least on the
In a way, if there isn’t a knockout in this bout, another draw to
bookend the series might be the most appropriate result of all. So
evenly matched are these two, so much excitement have they provided and
so much blood spilled on both sides that a stalemate could make both
fighters look at each other and concede that they are equals.
Fans and the majority of the media would hate such a result but as
time goes by and the careers of these two extraordinary fighters comes
to an end, this rivalry will be looked back on fondly no matter how it
ends. And who knows, they may retire at around the same time and both
wind up being inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame on the
same warm June day in Canastota, New York. That would be the most
appropriate ending of all.
to Doghouse Boxing.