20 Years Ago Today: When The Rivalry Began – Pacquiao Vs. Marquez

By James Slater - 05/08/2024 - Comments

20 years ago in Las Vegas, two great fighters collided for the first time: the first of four times. And what great action we the fans were treated to during these four special fights. It was two decades ago today when the beautifully matched Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez first locked horns.

And to think, the fight almost ended inside the very first round.

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Back in May of 2004, Pacquiao was 38-2-1 and the southpaw dynamo from the Philippines was 25 years old. Marquez of Mexico was 42-2 and “Dinamita” was 30 years of age. Marquez was the reigning WBA and IBF featherweight champion. Pac-Man was the Ring Magazine featherweight champion, with him having put on a sensational winning performance against another Mexican great in Marco Antonio Barrera in his previous fight.

Pacquiao-Marquez would be a fight that would severely test both men. In fact, the four-fight rivalry would see both modern day legends forced to dig in so as to try and come out on top.

Pacquiao got off to a blazing start in fight-one, with the super-fast puncher dropping Marquez no less than three times. It looked as though the fight would be over before it had even got a chance to really get going. But no. In a great argument against the three-knockdown rule, Marquez was not stopped, with him instead battling through to the bell.

From there on in, it was a different fight, with Marquez outboxing the still-raw Pacquiao for long periods, the older, craftier, more experienced man bagging the rounds. But it was close. Very close. The fight was also thoroughly engrossing for all 12 rounds, and at the end, that blistering start and near finish by Pac-Man almost a faded memory, fans were far from certain who had won.

In the end, neither guy won. The fight, famously, was scored a draw. Later still, there was controversy, as it had emerged that one of the three scoring judges had not scored Manny’s blitzkrieg of an opening round 10-6 in his favour. Burt Clements would admit to making a “mistake” in scoring the opening round 10-7 in favour of Pacquiao. Had Clements done what his two colleagues had done and scored the fight 10-6 for Pac-Man, Pacquiao would have won via split decision.

That said, the fight was so close, so competitive, and so excellent to watch, a rematch would almost certainly have been called for had Manny won via SD. And the drawn verdict saw to it that the rematch was absolutely demanded. But it took time – four years, in fact.

In the meantime, Pacquiao went on to lose to another Mexican great in Erik Morales, before avenging the loss two times, both by stoppage. Pacquiao then repeated his win over Barrera. Marquez left the draw with Pacquiao to go on to beat Orlando Salido, lose to Chris John, and then score a win over Barrera himself.

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Finally, in March of 2008, Pacquiao-Marquez II was on. Yet again it was closer than close, with Pacquiao winning via split decision. Fight-three, again a demanded fight, came in November of 2011, and once again Pacquiao won via debatable decision, this time via majority decision. It seemed there would never be a clear-cut, obvious winner no matter how many times these two would tango.

But then, in fight IV, in December of 2012, “Dinamita” struck in utterly sensational fashion. Knocked down early and looking busted up, Marquez landed THE punch of his career in round six, when he dropped Pac-Man on his face, the loser out for the count. It was shocking and it was somewhat disturbing. There would be no fifth fight, no matter how much money was on offer.

It began 20 years ago today with a draw that could so very easily have been a first-round stoppage win for Pacquiao. The rivalry ended over eight years later with one heck of a bang that was scored by Marquez. Together – and they will always be together in the boxing pages – Pacquiao and Marquez are 2-1-1 in favour of Pacquiao.

As to who the overall greater fighter was/is, well, YOU have your own opinion on that, I’m sure.

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