After one draw and one narrow victory, two of boxing’s biggest names come back to see once and for all who’s best.
All great fighters have a rival that catapults them to the level of greatness. Ali had Frazier; Barrera had Morales; Balboa had Creed (or was it Drago?) etc. And so it is with Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, who face each other for the third time on Nov. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Manny might not be "Manny" without Marquez, as the previous two fights transformed both fighters from world champions to superstars. The first was an instant classic: In 2004, they fought to a majority draw, with Pacquiao dropping Marquez (53-5-1) three times in the first round. Lesser fighters would have thrown in the towel, but Marquez pulled himself up and fought on equal footing, and even overshadowed, Pacquiao the rest of the way. The second time in 2008, Pacquiao squeaked by with a split decision. So why do a third fight? Well, the first two fights were so competitive that it makes sense to do a trilogy. There's also the attitude factor: Marquez maintains that he won both fights, Pacquiao disagrees. Then there’s the matter of styles - when they first fought in 2004, Pacquiao (53-3-2) was a whirling dervish of manic energy, winging punches from odd angles. He’s refined his style with the help of trainer Freddie Roach (he also got elected to Congress). But he still succeeds in the ring because of his frenetic speed and punching power (perhaps he succeeds in Congress for the same reasons?). Marquez, on the other hand, is all polish and strategy, combining brilliant technical skills with ring smarts. They complement each other well in the ring.
Forget all the stuff you just read above. That's what the promoters want you to be believe: Despite the significance of a third fight, a collective groan could be heard throughout the boxing universe when this fight was announced. Pacquiao’s bout with Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on HBO PPV has meaning, but it’s of the historical variety. This match was made on the premise that Pacquiao and Marquez have unfinished business to sort out, a score to settle, since their first two fights could have gone either way, with the fighters battling to a draw and Pacquiao winning a split decision in the second fight. The third fight had to happen, it was argued, to determine the superior fighter. The only problem is that the question has already been answered: In the years since they fought, it’s clear as day that Pacquiao has gotten better with age while Marquez may have lost a step. If Marquez was facing any other fighter, the promise of another scintillating encounter might be possible. But because it’s Pacquiao, the fight has the feel of a mismatch. Marquez was completely outclassed by Floyd Mayweather when they fought two years ago at welterweight, and he failed to dominate lesser fighters such as Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. Now, the prideful Marquez is facing Pacquiao at a catch-weight of 144 pounds. If Marquez is a step slow and his skills have eroded, as many suspect, at the age of 38, sadly, it will be another Pacquiao mismatch and an unfortunate reminder that rematches are better made sooner rather than later.
Juan Manuel Marquez
(59-5-1, 39 KO)
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Do you believe that you won the first two fights against Manny Pacquiao?
“I do believe that I won those fights, but I just didn’t get the decision. But that’s in the past. I can’t worry about what happened before. I’m looking forward to facing him again and showing what I can do against him. I know it will be a good fight and I know what I have to do to win. I expect a very hard fight but I also expect to win.”
Manny Pacquiao has dominated most of his opponents in the past few years. Is he a better fighter than when you last faced him?
“I do believe that he has gotten better. He has become more of a complete fighter. He’s not the same that he was. But he’s still a very fast and strong fighter and I will be prepared for whatever he brings for this fight. I am preparing as I always do. I have already faced him twice and I know what kind of fighter to prepare for. He may have gotten better but I believe that I have gotten better as well.”
How will you beat Manny Pacquiao?
“I will beat him by using my ability to counter-punch and by using my intelligence and my speed in the ring. I believe that I’m just as fast as he is, and I’m going to use my technique and my abilities in the ring to win. I believe that I’m the better boxer. I know what I have to do to beat him. I know him very well.”
(53-3-2, 38 KO)
Kibawe, Bukidnon, Philippines
Do you consider your fights with Marquez the toughest of your career?
“I'm not complaining that people can say that this fight is the most difficult fight of my career, because of what happened in the other fights. I'm not sure it's the same fight as it was before. For the third fight I want to clearly prove that no one will doubt me in the ring. I'm more focused for this fight than the last two because Marquez is denying that he lost the fight. He's complaining that he lost the fights."
Does it bother you than Marquez still thinks he won the first two fights?
“It doesn’t bother me if that’s what he thinks. Maybe he’s taking the fight personally. Me, I don’t talk. I let my talking happen in the ring. If he thinks he won the first two fights, then he can show it in the third fight. But I know who won the first two fights. They were very tough but I know what happened.”
What will a win mean to you?
“It’s an important fight to me to show that I won the last two fights. This will answer all the doubts that fans may have about the other two fights. I don’t really need the fight, but I know Marquez wanted it.”
Is Marquez the same fighter now than when you fought him?
“He’s still the same fighter. He’s still strong. Maybe he’s a little slower than he was before, but he’s still a very good fighter because of his boxing skills. I know that I still have to be in 100% condition for the fight.”
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