8. November 12, 2011 – L 12 Manny Pacquiao III, MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Moments after Marquez signed to fight Pacquiao for the third time, the declarations of his doom were almost universal. There were solid reasons to feel disaster was about to strike the marvelous Mexican. First, Marquez was 38 years old, a Methuselah-like age for a lightweight, much less one who was adding even more poundage. Second, the last time Marquez weighed 142 pounds he was badly outclassed by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who looked like he could knock out Marquez at the moment of his choice. Finally, Pacquiao, boxing’s pound-for-pound king for several years, was in the process of zooming up the ranks of all-time legends.
Since beating Marquez in their 2008 rematch, Pacquiao not only defeated, but dominated, a gauntlet of naturally bigger men to collect three more divisional crowns, bringing his total to a mind-boggling eight. Comparisons to Henry Armstrong were freely tossed about – and the fact that they weren’t universally scorned was a testament to how much Pacquiao had enhanced his legacy. Thus, Pacquiao was installed as a prohibitive 9-to-1 favorite and many respected experts predicted the Filipino would steamroll Marquez within six rounds.
Once the opening bell sounded, Marquez proved the veracity of another boxing truism – “styles make fights.”
Unlike the Mayweather fight, Marquez looked strong at the weight and his tools were sharpened to the finest edge possible for a man nearing his 40s. Meanwhile, Pacquiao didn’t look like the fighter who torched David Diaz, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Antonio Margarito. That’s because Marquez was fast enough to keep up with the quicker Filipino and possessed enough counter-punching skill and command of distance to keep Pacquiao respectful.
When the action heated up, Pacquiao landed harder and better but when the pace slowed Marquez was the master. Ascertaining the winner of each round was like using an electron microscope to thread atoms, but most dispassionate observers believed the fight was even – or close to it – after 10 rounds.
Between rounds 10 and 11, Beristain told Marquez he had sewn up the fight while Roach implored Pacquiao to finish strong. Both fighters acted accordingly; the combination of Pacquiao’s hustle and Marquez’s caution swung the pendulum – and the decision – Pacquiao’s way. While Robert Hoyle saw the fight even, Dave Moretti (115-113) and Glenn Trowbridge (116-112) scored for Pacquiao.
The reactions were stark and volatile. Marquez, who was exultant after the final bell, was crushed. Pacquiao, who was pensive and prayerful, was relieved. Fans and media alike were as divided as they had been when Sugar Ray Leonard dethroned Marvelous Marvin Hagler a generation earlier, and like that fight neither side will ever budge from their positions.