BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Once upon a time, four-bout rivalries between boxing’s top fighters were common in the sport.
Featherweight greats Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler fought four times between 1948 and 1951. Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott fought for the heavyweight title four times between 1949 and 1952. In more recent decades, Bobby Chacon fought Rafael “Bazooka” Limon four times between 1975 and 1982.
However, for the most part, four-bout rivalries went the way of 15-round championship bouts by the end of the ‘80s. Which is why it surprised some to learn that Manny Pacquiao chose a fourth fight with Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez over a rematch with Tim Bradley, who beat the Filipino icon via controversial split decision in June.
As all fight fans know, Pacquiao and Marquez have engaged in three hotly contested distance bouts in 2004, 2008 and last year. Pacquiao holds a 2-0-1 edge in the trilogy, but many observers – especially Marquez fans – believe the courageous Mexico City technician deserved to win all three bouts, especially their third encounter, which took place last November.
Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 knockouts) is well aware of this sentiment, which is why he opted to fight Marquez instead of Bradley.
“People ask me ‘Did you really win (the third bout)?’ and I tell them ‘Yes, I think I really won’ but (Marquez) says he won. So something is wrong,” Pacquiao said at the kick-off press conference for their fourth showdown held at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Bout No. 4 will take place on Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It will be televised live on HBO Pay Per View in the U.S.
The big question going into the fight won’t be who will win it, but rather who will pay to see it live. Fans of both fighters who wish to see their guy win decisively may never get what they want. If fans have learned anything about the Pacquiao-Marquez matchup it’s that there will never be a clear winner.
The two future hall of famers neutralize each others’ strengths. Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) is the better boxer and ring general, but Pacquiao has a decided edge in speed, power and overall athleticism.
In the first bout, fought at featherweight, Marquez got up from three first-round knockdowns and outboxed Pacquiao well enough over the next 11 rounds to hold the frenetic Filipino to a draw. The two battled on even terms throughout the fast-paced rematch, fought at junior lightweight. Only a knockdown scored late in the third round enabled Pacquiao to earn a tight split decision.
There were no knockdowns in their third bout, fought at welterweight, and there’s no debating that the majority decision that Pacquiao won is the most controversial verdict of their three-bout series.
Pacquiao says there is no debating that all three fights were entertaining.
“I chose to fight Marquez because we have exciting fights,” he said. “If I had chosen to fight Bradley we would get a one-sided fight. It would be boring.”
Pacquiao says he has more to prove against Marquez than he does against Bradley.
“What do I need to prove to Bradley? What do I need to prove to the fans with that fight?” Pacquiao asked. “I did good in our last fight. The fight was one-sided.”
The vast majority of observers believe Pacquiao deserved the decision against Bradley. That was not the case in his third bout with Marquez.
Pacquiao admits that he overlooked Marquez before their last fight, believing that his nemesis would not be as effective as usual fighting at the heavier weight, where he had proven to be more successful in recent years.
“I took him lightly in the last fight because I had been beating all of these big fighters, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, (Antonio) Margarito,” Pacquiao said. “But that night, (Marquez) seemed bigger than me.”
Pacquiao still held the edge in speed and power but he says he did not commit to those strengths as he had in the past.
“When fighting a counter-puncher one of us has to be the [aggressor],” he said. “I wasn’t aggressive enough. This time I have to be hungry. I can’t take it easy on him if I think I am winning. I never did that before. I never took anyone lightly when I was younger. I never used to take it easy on my opponents. This time our focus in camp will be to go for the knockout.”
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach says he will toss out the game plan they used for the last fight, which was to counter punch the master counter puncher.
“We’re going to go back to the attacking mode because that’s what worked in the past,” Roach said. “Trying to outbox a boxer is not the thing to do.”
Marquez says he also plans to change some things in his camp for bout No. 4.
“I know Pacquiao and he knows me,” Marquez said. “I know I have to work on my speed, but maybe I have to go for the knockout. I will try to do that, and do it intelligently, but Pacquiao is very strong.
“I just know I need to change something. I don’t know what, but I need do something different this time because the judges don’t appreciate what I have been doing.”
Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank