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Marquez and Morales: Manny Pacquiao’s Tickets to Ultimate Stardom
Jason Unpingco (March 26, 2004) 
Manny Pacquiao
On May 8th, Manny “The Destroyer” Pacquiao will step into the ring against Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Televised on HBO, the southpaw from General Santos City in the Philippines is adding another event to add Filipino recognition in a division dominated by mostly Mexican fighters.

Manny Pacquiao (36-2-1, 27 KO’s) burst onto the international boxing scene by knocking out then IBF Bantamweight Champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba on the undercard of the Oscar De La Hoya/Arturo Gatti fight in 2001. Since then, he has six straight wins, all by knockouts. In November, 2003, Pacquiao stepped up and challenged the consensus best featherweight boxer Marco Antonio Barrera. In a stunning display of brutal combinations, power, and speed, Pacquiao stamped his name at the top of the featherweight kingdom and became the man to beat. In the Philippines, Pacquiao is celebrated as a national hero and is constantly praised by the Philippine President Gloria Arroyo. Outside the Philippines, his international recognition is on the rise, including being known by the huge population of dedicated Mexican and Mexican American fans since his fight with Marco Antonio Barrera. Add the fact of being televised on HBO, the undercards of PPV events on the Oscar De La Hoya/Arturo Gatti and Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson fights, he is possibly the most famous Filipino in the world at this point.

With the huge accomplishment of defeating Marco Antonio Barrera, HBO is showcasing Pacquiao in a fan approved matchup against current IBF/WBA Featherweight Champion Juan Manuel Marquez in May and a possible bout against WBC Super Featherweight Champion Erik Morales in the fall.

Juan Manuel Marquez (42-2, 33 KO’s), from Mexico City, Mexico, won the IBF Featherweight Title by stopping veteran Manual Medina in February 2003. In his last fight against a back peddling Derrick “Smoke” Gainer in November, Marquez added the WBA version as well to his collection.

According to experts such as HBO analyst and former Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis trainer Emmanuel Steward, Marquez is one of the new generation of pugilists from Mexico who display more of a technical fighting style compared to the former generation headed by Julio Cesar Chavez. He is a good body puncher, possesses the trademark Mexican left hook to body, a solid straight right hand and an intelligent counter puncher in the ring.

Marquez will surely be prepared for Pacquiao’s southpaw style and concentrate his footwork to avoid the feared left hand, a weapon in the vast arsenal the Filipino fighter possesses. This will not be the first time Marquez has fought a world class southpaw. In 1999, Marquez attempted and failed to snatch the title from then featherweight champion Freddy Norwood. That fight may offer a glimpse of what how Marquez will perform on May 8th, as Marquez was knocked down early in the fight, but with his big heart, came back and, in the eyes of many observers, won the fight by outhustling Norwood. Five years after this fight, the more developed and experienced Marquez is definitely poised to give a candidate “Fight of the Year” against Pacquiao.

Should Pacquiao get past Marquez, he will have two featherweight championship belts, a sky rocketing name worth millions, popularity in the Philippines at an all time high, and the undaunting task of having a super showdown with Erik “El Terrible” Morales of Tijuana, Mexico. Morales (43-1, 32 KO’s) is coming off his third championship in three divisions win against Jesus Chavez this past February. Although it was reported that Chavez fought the majority of the bout with one hand due to an injury, Morales showed he still has the power he carried in the junior featherweight division by knocking down the iron chinned and willed Chavez twice in the second round. A harder puncher than Marco Antonio Barrera and Marquez, Morales has vast experience in heated battles against top opposition (including two with a prime Barrera). He also has a five inch reach advantage over Pacquiao and doesn’t seem to have grown old overnight from all the wars like Barrera did (evident in his fight against Jesus Chavez). Add a destructive straight right hand, which if used as the lead punch weapon, Morales may be the ultimate test for the outstanding skilled and powerful Manny Pacquiao.

From fighting in relative obscurity in the less known Southeast Asian fighting circuit, Pacquiao has become a star from a country that has produced many world champions since the early 1920’s (when Pancho Villa became the first Filipino World Champion). He is paving the way for more Filipinos to get world recognition in boxing and add a new fan base necessary to keep the sport strong. Come May 8th, the ascension to a new level of stardom and fortune begins with Juan Manuel Marquez, the first of his two 2004 tough Mexican tests.
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