LOS ANGELES – On an intellectual level, Freddie Roach breaks down the third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez fight on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas and can see only one result: a one-sided victory for his fighter.
On a gut level, a small part of him isn’t so sure.
Pacquiao and Marquez fought on even terms in 2004 (draw) and 2008 (Pacquiao split decision), which failed to answer the question of who is the better fighter. Maybe Marquez simply knows how to be competitive with Pacquiao.
“Sometimes people have people’s number,” said Roach, speaking at a news conference Wednesday at The Beverly Hills Hotel. “Will Manny fall into the trap, fall into Marquez’s plan like he did in those fights? … You never know.
“In the back of my mind … I think sometimes guys just have a style that you have difficulty with. This could be one of them.”
Roach has respect for Marquez, who at 38 remains one of the best fighters in the world. The famous trainer said Pacquiao’s rival presents a challenge bigger than anyone except Floyd Mayweather Jr. Marquez, he said, is the best counterpuncher on the planet.
Still, when Roach is asked why the third fight won’t be anything like the first two, he exudes confidence.
Promoter Bob Arum said anyone who judges Marquez based on his performance against Mayweather, a near-shutout decision in 2009, is crazy. Counterpunchers need their opponents to come to them. Mayweather didn’t; Pacquiao will.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the fight will be close, Roach said. Pacquiao has evolved.
“Manny doesn’t go in recklessly like he did in the first two fights,” Roach said. “Manny doesn’t fall into the traps of a counterpuncher. He knows how to feint now. He uses in and out motions. You don’t know whether he’s coming or going.
“Counterpunchers start reaching for him and the counters that.”
Roach is predicting a knockout – which would be the first time Marquez has been stopped — in part because that's what Pacquiao needs.
If the sport’s biggest superstar is going to eliminate any doubt that lingers after the first two fights, he’s going to have to win convincingly this time. Plus, Roach said, Pacquiao has a small grudge against Marquez.
“I don’t see him going into this fight being compassionate, letting (Marquez) off the hook the way he did with Shane (Mosley) and (Antonio) Margarito in the end," Roach said. "He has a little grudge. (Marquez) came to the Philippines wearing a T-shirt that said, ‘We got robbed’ and so forth.
“… I’ve urged him not to be compassionate and take him out. That’s the only thing that will make the controversy go away.”
No one who saw the first Pacquiao-Marquez fight, on May 8, 2004 in Las Vegas, will forget it. Marquez went down three times in the first round yet fought back to earn a draw.
The Mexican admits now that he took Pacquiao lightly even though the Filipino was coming off an 11th-round TKO of Marco Antonio Barrera. And, Marquez said, he was stunned to find himself on the canvas again in the third round of the second fight.
“The first fight, I think I have an easy fight. Then he surprised me,” Marquez said in his ever-improving English. “In the second fight, in the third round, it’s the same."
He certainly won’t underestimate Pacquiao this time.
“This is more of a challenge for me because he’s the best pound-for-pound fighter. I'm training hard for this fight,” Marquez said.
Mayweather’s style definitely was all wrong for Marquez, as Arum said. Another problem might’ve been Marquez’s weight.
The natural lightweight weighed in at 142 pounds for their fight, seven more than he had ever weighed. And he looked painfully slow in the ring, although Mayweather’s quickness obviously played a role in that.
Marquez said he’d weigh a pound or two less for Pacquiao.
“If I come in heavy, maybe I’ll lose speed,” he said.
Roach was asked for the millionth time whether he thinks Pacquiao will ever fight Mayweather. He was polite, saying, “I hope it happens as much as you do because it’s a challenge. And I like challenges.”
Then someone brought up the possibility of Mayweather fighting another of Roach’s fighters, Amir Khan.
“Mayweather said Khan has to go through Jessie Vargas first,” a reporter said, referring to a prospect Mayweather handles.
Roach responded: “What is he a matchmaker now?”