by Doug Fischer (Originally published in the December 2011 edition of THE RING)
The public demand for a third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez never ceased, even when the Filipino icon left the lightweight divisions in search of larger prey.
Fans clamored for Pacquiao-Marquez III even as the Pac-Man won major titles at 140, 147 and 154 pounds, further separating him from his Mexican rival, who remained at 135 pounds where reigned as champion.
The reason for the demand is simple. Pacquiao has yet to be challenged in the heavier weight classes. The bigger and stronger Pacquiao’s opponents appeared, the more the southpaw dynamo dominated once the bell rang.
Oscar De La Hoya. Ricky Hatton. Miguel Cotto. Joshua Clottey. Antonio Margarito. Shane Mosley. Pacquiao vanquished them all so easily fans began to forget what it was like for the Filipino star to be in a real fight. Then they remembered Marquez. He gave Pacquiao a fight. He almost beat Pacquiao — twice. Never mind, the fact that Marquez has had to fight harder to win his bouts at 135 pounds in recent years, or that he was dominated by Floyd Mayweather in his one fight in the welterweight division.
Marquez has proven the ability to give Pacquiao hell, and fans want to see if he can do it again. The third match, on Nov. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, will either prove the old boxing adage “styles make fights” or support a basic rule of most professional sports, that “size matters.” But it had to happen.
Record and World Rating
Manny Pacquiao — Is 53-3-2 with 38 knockouts… Turned pro in January 1996 at age 16 in the junior flyweight division… suffered a third-round KO to Rustico Torrecampo in 12th pro bout in ‘96… Won 12 consecutive bouts (11 by stoppage) before scoring an eighth-round TKO of highly regarded Chatchai Sasakul for the WBC flyweight title in a huge upset in ‘98… lost 112-pound belt on the scales prior to being stopped by Medgoen Singsurat in’99 and wasn’t expected to ever contend for another title…. However, jumped north 10 pounds to the junior featherweight division, where he rang off six KO victories before teaming up with Freddie Roach in America… Won second major title, the IBF junior featherweight belt, with sixth-round KO of Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in 2001 under new coach… Union with Roach led to unprecedented success over past decade as the dynamic duo earned major titles at featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight… Is rated No. 1 at welterweight and pound-for-pound by THE RING.
Juan Manuel Marquez — Is 53-5-1, with 39 knockouts… Turned pro with a first-round disqualification loss to Javier Duran in May 1993… Won next six bouts before making U.S. debut in Las Vegas in late ‘94… Quickly made name for himself while fighting in Southern California in ‘95 and ‘96… Broke into world ratings with dominant decision over Agapito Sanchez in ‘97.… Counter-punching style and sharp technique scared away top featherweights of the late ‘90s, including champ Naseem Hamed and fellow Mexican standouts Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales… Suffered setback when lost decision to unbeaten titleholder Freddie Norwood in ‘99… Rebounded with 13 consecutive victories, including IBF and WBA title-winning TKOs of Manuel Medina and Derrick Gainer… Title belts led to first showdown with Pacquiao in 2004… Got up from three first-round knockdowns to outbox Filipino powerhouse over 12 intense rounds, earning draw… Turned down immediate rematch with Pacquiao and went from No. 1-rated featherweight to instant “has-been” when an ill-advised trip to Indonesia resulted in a controversial loss to Chris John in ‘06… Came back more dedicated and a lot scrappier, stopping Terdsak Kokietgym and Jimrex Jaca before getting the break of his career, a 130-pound title shot against Barrera, who he defeated by unanimous decision in ‘07… Lost title to Pacquiao via controversial split-decision in sensational rematch in ‘08… Won RING lightweight title with 11th-round TKO of Joel Casamayor later that year… defended 135-pound with ninth-round TKO of Juan Diaz in THE RING’s Fight of the Year for 2009… Lost one-sided decision to Mayweather in welterweight bout later that year… Dropped back down to lightweight and defended title against Diaz and Michael Katisids in Fight of the Year candidate for 2011… Is currently THE RING lightweight champion.
Age and Physical Equipment
Pacquiao — Is 33 years old … Stands 5-foot-6½ with a 66½-inch reach… Elite-level athlete… Entire body is a powerful quick-twitch muscle, complete with phenomenal hand speed, quick feet, and bone-jarring power… Is well coordinated… Has solid whiskers… Facial tissue tends to bruise easily.
Marquez — Is a well-preserved 38 years old…Stands 5-foot-7 with a 67-inch reach… Extremely well-conditioned… Perfectly proportioned (for a featherweight or lightweight)… Possesses excellent form and balance… Chin and recuperative ability are world class… Facial tissue, especially around his eyes and mouth, tend to cut and swell.
Pacquiao — Once a one-armed bandit, now every punch in his arsenal is potent… Straight left is still most devastating shot… Right hook is also dangerous and helps set up left cross… Jab can be shotgunned or used to feint opponents off balance.
Marquez — Sharp, tactical mind is greatest asset… Money punch is a well-timed straight right… Uppercut (both left and right) is extremely damaging… Surgical jab sets up hooks (to body and head) and near-perfect combinations that he’s known for.
Pacquiao — Not only dominated by but embarrassed Mosley, who shamelessly avoided confrontation after getting decked in the third round, en route to an uneventful decision victory, May 7, in Las Vegas.
Marquez — Knocked out unheralded Likar Ramos in the first round of a junior welterweight bout, July 16, in Cancun, Mexico.
Quality of Opposition
Pacquiao — Has the resume of an all-time great due to victories over 15 fighters who have held major titles, including five certain future hall of famers, Marquez (SD 12, Draw 12), Barrera (TKO 11, UD 12), Morales (L 12, TKO 10, TKO 3), De La Hoya (TKO 8) and Mosley (UD 12)… Record against the great Mexican trio of Marquez, Barrera and Morales is an astounding 5-1-1, which includes 10 knockdowns…. Other victims include two borderline hall of famers, Ricky Hatton (KO 2) and Miguel Cotto (TKO 12)… Victories over Ledwaba (TKO 6) and Sasakul (TKO 8), who were THE RING’s No. 1-rated fighters in their divisions when he faced them, are also impressive.
Marquez — Has faced the best of fighters of three divisions — those who were willing to fight him — including 13 titleholders… Has fought three first-ballot hall of famers, Barrera (UD 12), Pacquiao (Draw 12, L 12) and Mayweather (L 12), and one borderline case, Casmayor (TKO 11), among the many hardnosed contenders and difficult stylists during his 18-year career.
Pacquiao — His ability to avoid punches has improved in recent years as he’s added lateral and upper-body movement to his attack… Gaining a measure of patience and fighting in a less impetuous manner has also made him harder to hit.
Marquez — Offense has become his defense in recent years, hence his ring wars with Diaz in ‘09 and Katsidis last year as well as the knockdowns he suffered against Barrera, Pacquiao, Mayweather and Katsidis.
Pacquiao — Has evolved into an explosive but versatile boxer-puncher… Can counter punch with frightening power, stalk and punish or employ stick-and-move tactics that gradually break opponents down with brutal efficiency.
Marquez — Has changed style from cautious counter-puncher to aggressive, combination-punching technician… Is easier to hit than he was at featherweight, but has become one of the best offensive fighters in the sport.
Pacquiao — Is recent run a mirage? Did he catch faded veterans at the right time? Was he just too fast and active against naturally bigger opponents, who are also considerably slower? Will Marquez’s counter-punching ability always trouble him?
Marquez — Can he fight effectively above 135 pounds? Will he be able to withstand Pacquiao’s power, which has battered and humbled much bigger fighters? Can he still outbox Pacquiao now that his rival’s skill and technique have improved?
Pacquiao will allow Marquez to take the initiative in the early rounds until he catches — and hurts — the master counter puncher with a counter punch. Unlike Cotto and Mosley, who refused to engage Pacquiao after being dropped early in their fights, Marquez will let his hands go. The two rivals will battle toe to toe with Marquez getting the worst of it. Marquez’s warrior’s heart will keep him in the fight but the referee or his corner will stop the bout by the late rounds to spare him undue punishment.