Boxing


Pacquiao-Marquez Prediction: Revisiting Manny Pacquiao’s Path North of 130

by Geoffrey Ciani - When Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs) squares off against Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) for the third time on Saturday, it will have been over three and a half years since last they met. On March 12, 2008 Pacquiao walked away with an extremely close and competitive split decision victory in a fight many people felt Marquez deserved to win. As it turned out this would be Pacquiao’s last fight at 130 pounds, as he would soon make the move up to 135. A lot of fans were disappointed that Pacquiao did not immediately mix it up again with Marquez, but most figured their paths would cross again sooner or later. Few could have predicted, however, that Pacquiao would go on one of the most impressive runs in boxing history before a third fight with Marquez would finally take place.

When Pacquiao challenged David Diaz on June 28, 2008 for the WBC lightweight title it was widely viewed as nothing more than a testing the waters fight. Not many were expecting Pacquiao to lose. If the controversial win Diaz scored against common opponent Erik Morales told us anything, it suggested that at worst Pacquiao should be able to win a decisive points victory. The real question was whether or not Pacquiao could carry his power up with him. He did. He administered a prolonged beating on a very courageous but overmatched Diaz who finally succumbed to the assault in round nine. It was a good win for Pacquiao, but nothing sensational. Diaz was basically perceived as just a belt holder, as the top dogs at the time were Juan Diaz (unified champ) and Joel Casamayor (linear champ) when Pacquiao signed to take on David Diaz. Incidentally, Juan Diaz lost his titles to Nate Campbell a week earlier. So it seemed there were some fairly decent opportunities at 135, but Pacquiao had bigger fish to fry.

The prospect of a fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao seemed laughable when news first broke. In fact it was very poorly received by the general boxing public. Pacquiao, after all, had just one fight at lightweight! Oscar was fighting at junior middleweight for the last seven-plus years! How could Pacquiao possibly overcome the gargantuan size advantage enjoyed by De La Hoya? Very few observers were even giving Pacquiao a remote chance in this one. Sheer physics suggested that Pacquiao was in for a prolonged beating. This was not the same as Shane Mosley bypassing 140 for a mega payday with De La Hoya eight years earlier. Mosley had been a career lightweight moving up to welter, whereas Pacquiao had started his career at 106 pounds! This one had “mismatch” written all over it, and what a mismatch it was! Only it was De La Hoya who got thoroughly dominated and outclassed by the speedy pinpoint precision punching from Manny Pacquiao. This was December 6, 2008.

A new superstar emerged.

The De La Hoya victory was what really established Pacquiao on the map. It was both a literal and figurative passing of the torch encounter where Pacquiao assumed the mantle as boxing’s biggest star. Even Floyd Mayweather Junior had not beaten De La Hoya so impressively and so thoroughly, and there is where it all started. Pacquiao versus Mayweather—when will it happen? Money Mayweather, of course, was retired at the time. This is why Pacquiao landed the De La Hoya fight in the first place, as Oscar was originally gunning for the rematch with Floyd, and it appeared likely to happen. It did not. Instead Pacquiao had arrived and suddenly fans were excited for a big super fight with Mayweather that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. This one had been nowhere on the radar, but then, there it was. Could it happen? Well it was probably no coincidence that Floyd decided to announce his comeback so soon after Pacquiao’s dominant effort against De La Hoya.

A fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather would surely have to happen sometime in the future, but first Pacquiao decided to go back to the division he initially skipped over. When it was first announced Pacquiao would be facing 140 pound top dog Ricky Hatton on May 2, 2009 a lot of people still doubted Pacquiao’s abilities north of lightweight. Hatton, after all, was no De La Hoya! De La Hoya was slow, he was old, he was a part time fighter, he was badly weight drained, and he was far removed from his prime. Hatton, on the other hand, was young, fresh, strong, transforming into a more complete fighter under the guidance of Floyd Mayweather Senior, and had just the right style to give Pacquiao hell. Or did he? Apparently not, as Pacquiao ended up demolishing him less than two rounds. Manny dropped him twice in the first and finished him off with a devastating bomb in the second. This was a fight that many felt would be tough and competitive, even for those favoring Pacquiao. As an interesting side note, Pacquiao had once again outperformed adversary Mayweather Junior against a common opponent.

Despite shockingly impressive victories against De La Hoya and Hatton, Pacquiao still had his doubters and not without good reason. Although Hatton did get to Pacquiao a little bit in moments that have long been forgotten, Pacquiao had yet to prove his ability to take a flush shot from a bigger fighter. Certainly a guy like Miguel Cotto could test Pacquiao in that regard, and on November 14, 2009 Cotto got his chance and test him he did. While some observers made a big deal of the fact that this fight was fought at a catch weight of 145 pounds, most did not give it much consideration because Cotto had weighed 146 pounds in his previous fight with Joshua Clottey. Would one pound really make that big a difference? During the fight Cotto mixed it up with Pacquiao early and actually had the advantage in the first round. It almost appeared that Pacquiao had finally bitten off more than he can chew, but his incredible combination of speed, accuracy, and angles began baffling the Puerto Rican fighter. Pacquiao dropped Cotto twice during the first half of the fight. After that Cotto went into survival mode as Pacquiao stalked him throughout the ring until the referee finally called a halt the bout in the twelfth and final round.

This was the last time Pacquiao would be perceived as a little guy. The victory over Cotto made him a bona fide elite fighter in the welterweight division. Pacquiao was a household name and the biggest star in boxing. With the string of improbable victories against De La Hoya, Hatton, and Cotto, commentators began mentioning Pacquiao’s name alongside true legends of the sport like Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong. By this point in time the idea of a third fight between Marquez and Pacquiao seemed worthless. Floyd had already returned to the ring and dominated Marquez, who looked absolutely awful carrying the extra weight. Pacquiao had proven his meddle as a legit threat to anyone south of junior middle. There was really only one fight people wanted to see Pacquiao involved in, and that was a fight with Mayweather. Unfortunately, despite agreeing on the finances of the fight, “Olympic Style Drug Testing” prevented the fight from coming together and became one of the most highly disputed topics on boxing message boards.

Since the Cotto fight Pacquiao’s fights have not been as fascinating on a number of levels. For starters there was not the same level of intrigue. Even though Pacquiao’s next three opponents—Joshua Clottey (March 13, 20102), Antonio Margarito (November 13, 2010), and Sugar Shane Mosley (May 7, 2011)—were all significantly bigger men who were legitimate threats, Pacquiao was expected to beat these guys. There was no longer the question of Pacquiao being tested. Sure, these guys were tough fighters and big men, but the perception was that Pacquiao was better. And he was! He proved that by thoroughly outclassing all three of those foes in matches that were frighteningly one-sided. These are fights that, had they all taken place a year or so earlier, would have been considered dangerous for Pacquiao. But they weren’t because there was (and is) only one man that fans and the general public view as a true challenge for Manny Pacquiao, and that man is Floyd Mayweather Junior. Now Sergio Martinez is out there too, but he will continue to be stuck on the outside looking in. Pacquiao-Mayweather is the fight the public has demanded.

Some fans are viewing Juan Manuel Marquez as a real threat based on styles. After all, Marquez’s style gave Pacquiao so much trouble in their first two fights that it could just be one of those things in boxing where two guys will always match up well against each other. That is probably not the case here, however. Since they last met Marquez has been on a slow but visible decline. He is older, slower, and not quite as sharp as he once was with his timing and reflexes. On the flip side, Pacquiao is bigger, stronger, and has seemingly entered his prime fighting years since right after their long awaited rematch that happened back in March 2008. Marquez already proved he did not have that same “certain something” that made him special when he attempted fighting Mayweather at a higher weight. Pacquiao is better adjusted to these higher weights and he has also improved, whereas Marquez has declined. This fight will likely be another mismatch win for Pacquiao, but this time it will not be going to the cards. In fact, it will be surprising if Marquez survives to see the bell for the start of the fifth.

With Mayweather Junior having beaten Ortiz in a fight that only escalated his public persona as the villain, the timing could not be better for Pacquiao to obliterate Marquez and put an exclamation point on his three-fight series with the man who has been his biggest rival inside the squared circle. As much as Mayweather embraces the villain persona, in the same way Pacquiao is often perceived as the hero in this on-going out of the ring drama between Pacquiao and Mayweather. Should Pacquiao beat Marquez with an explosive stoppage victory, it would be the perfect way to pave the road to the showdown we have all wanted to see next May. Time will tell if this storybook vision will play out to kickoff what will become the biggest fight in boxing’s long celebrated history, but things are looking promising—at least for the moment.

OFFICIAL PREDICTION:

Manny Pacquiao TKO3 Juan Manuel Marquez

***

CONTACT: ontheropes@eastsideboxing.com
WEBSITE: www.ontheropesboxingradio.com

Article posted on 09.11.2011



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