08.05.04 – By Jose Sanchez: When Manny Pacquiao steps into the ring Saturday night May 8 against Juan Manuel Marquez, the victor will emerge as the one true recognized Featherweight Champion of the World. This fight is very intriguing to followers of the sweet science not only for it’s entertainment value, not only because on paper it is a virtual pick’em, but also because it pits 2 distinct and colorful cultures against each other. Will Manny Pacquiao add another notch on his belt at the expense of Mexico, en route to dethroning and banishing virtually all the top Mexican featherweights in one fell swoop?
Will Mexican fans gain a measure of revenge for the destruction of their biggest hero at the hands of Manny Pacquiao? So the tone is set. This fight will be as much a clash of cultures as it is a clash of boxing styles in the ring. With that, let us meet the combatants.
First Manny Pacquiao, the young brash Philippino boxer whom has risen to almost folk hero status among his native countrymen with his tantalizing and convincing destruction of pound for pound Mexican legend, Marco Antonio Barrera. Pacquiao has openly stated that he fully intends to “blaze a path through Mexico” by defeating the top 3 Mexican Featherweights in succession (Barrera, Marquez, Morales). It is a bold statement from someone whom just 3 years ago was virtually unknown to all but the most hardcore fight fans. This young fighter thrives with confidence…his attitude is brash and sure. “How dare you entertain the notion defeating me?” You can almost read his mind when you see him sizing up his opponent. Manny Pacquiao is all about confidence. When Manny says he is the best featherweight in the world, it’s not an act for the media, it’s not to sell tickets…….it’s what he really thinks, and it’s apparent in his attitude. There used to be a saying in boxing, that just by winning a title you would improve by 15% automatically because of what it would do to your confidence. Yes, one of the most physical sports on Earth…boxing……is still more mental then it is physical. Manny Pacquiao…can he lose despite his superhuman confidence?….with the strength of an entire nation of people behind him?……with the confidence coming from just having destroyed former pound for pound star Marco Antonio Barrera? Pacquiao reminds me of a young Roberto Duran. Rebellious, outrageous, street-smart…one tough hombre. He doesn’t want to dance, he wants you to come forward and fight him….”lets trade shots and see who is the better man, lets see who is left standing”. That is Manny Pacquiao. He is full of swagger and confidence, and if you don’t watch out, it will be over for you before you even get into the ring. Like Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson and George Foreman before him…Manny Pacquiao has ‘that type’ of ring presence.
Juan Manuel Marquez
For years I have been telling anyone that would listen that Juan Manuel Marquez was the best Mexican featherweight out there. Sure, Barrera and Morales were getting the big headlines…but Marquez was quietly bidding his time to burst out on the scene. With the fall of Barrera, that time is now. Marquez comes from a true boxing pedigree…. in fact his brother Rafael is considered the consensus Bantamweight Champ. While he does not have as crowd pleasing a style as Pacquia…. Marquez has dominated most of his fights with incredible ease. In fact, you can make a case that Juan Manuel Marquez is undefeated. He has just 2 loses on his record. His first lost, was a first round disqualification in his very first pro fight…the circumstances being a bit dubious, he was certainly not outclassed or defeated in the ring. Likewise his second loss to Freddie Norwood, many observers (including yours truly) felt Marquez won. The fight was so ugly however, that many people didn’t care who won or lost, they just wanted to forget it and move on. Fast forward to present day. Marquez has easily dispatched tough opponents such as Derrick Gainer, Robby Peden, and Manuel Medina with the ease of a pound for pound frontrunner. Marquez has won most of his fights so convincingly, that you would have a hard time breaking down his strengths and weaknesses. Simply put, this kid has never really been tested outside of the ugly and almost unwatchable Norwood fight. Marquez has a technically solid ‘boxer-puncher’ style. Although not particularly crowd pleasing…it is a very difficult style to defeat Expect Marquez to be at his best with a ‘come forward’ guy like Pacquiao.
This fight is very difficult to call. There are 4 logical outcomes that I can visualize happening. Let me explain. In the Vitali-Sanders fight…there were only 2 logical outcomes. One was that Sanders would use his crushing power and quick hands to TKO Vitali early…and the 2nd was that Vitali would survive the early rounds were Cory was dangerous and then take out the winded Sanders systematically. Well in this particular fight, I can envision 4 different outcomes. Pacquiao by decision, Pacquiao by KO, Marquez by decision, and Marquez by KO…even a draw is possible. This is the very definition of a pick’em fight. Ok, but let’s look further. Pacquiao is a power puncher who throws ‘punches in bunches’ and likes to lead. Marquez likes to sit back and pick you apart, he is a very good counter puncher. Pacquiao has been KO’d twice before in his career. The fact that he has been KO’d and dropped previously hint to a possible vulnerability in the chin department. This would play into Marquez’s strength as a counter puncher. Marquez however, stunk out the joint in the Norwood fight. Could it be that Marquez was intimidated by the moment in his first big fight and was panicked into going too defensive? If so, it looks good for Pacquiao….he throws a lot of punches, and if Marquez stays back and plays defensive, Pacquiao could steal a lot of rounds. If that’s the case, then Marquez would be in the unfamiliar territory of having to take the lead…he is not a natural ‘frontrunner’, taking this position would put him out of his natural element and would play right into the fight Pacquiao wants. I expect confidence and mental attitude to play a big factor in this fight. If Marquez is timid because of the big atmosphere, the fight could be over before he ever steps into the ring. On confidence, Pacquiao probably has the edge.
For the Betters:
Pacquiao is a slight betting favorite over Marquez. This is mainly for 2 reasons. The general public is not very familiar with Marquez (1), and Pacquiao just had a big, much celebrated victory over Barrera (2). Although in the actual fight, I expect someone to take control and have the fight go his way…on paper it is too close to call. My advice, proceed with caution on this one, anything could happen (do not bet what you can’t afford to lose).
I like Pacquiao by decision because of his high output rate
I like Marquez by KO because Pacquiao has been KO’d previously and his high output will give Marquez plenty of opportunities.
Over-Under: These aren’t heavyweights, both are in shape, I like the over (one caveat, I’m wary of Pacquiao’s unproven chin)
I like the draw. You’ll get huge odds and only a few dollars could yield big gains in the off chance this happens.
If I were handicapping this fight, I would make Marquez the slight favorite. He has shown less weakness then Pacquiao in the past, however this is boxing and anything could happen. Having said that, if it may be said that Marquez has shown fewer weaknesses throughout his career…certainly it may also be said that Pacquiao has been the one whom has looked more impressive lately.
Momentum (what they have done recently): Pacquiao
Punch output (who averages more thrown punches): Pacquiao