Juan Manuel Marquez: Marquez fought for years in the shadow of his more-popular countrymen Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, whose aggressive style appealed to Mexicans and other fans. And in arguably the three most-important fights of his career – the previous meetings with Manny Pacquiao – he ended up on the wrong end of three controversial decisions. To say he was frustrated would be an understatement even if the fortune he has earned has served as a salve. Well, that frustration dissipated into the energized air with one historic right counter Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That punch knocked Pacquiao unconscious, making Marquez the king of boxing even if for one night and leaving everyone who witnessed it flabbergasted. Marquez (55-6-1, 40 knockouts) claimed his greatest moment at 39 years old, an age when most fighters are well into second careers. And he did it in a way that will make him a legend among Mexican fans, who now will speak of him in the same breath as such greats as Salvador Sanchez and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Manny Pacquiao: One important question going forward is this: Is Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) finished or was he simply the victim of a perfect punch? The argument for the former is that it’s difficult to bounce back from a knockout loss as brutal as that, particularly when you’re getting on in years and you’ve engaged in many taxing battles. Plus, he has lost consecutive fights for the first time. Now would be an ideal time to walk away. The argument for continuing is that he’s only 33, which hardly makes him a senior citizen. And he looked good for five-plus rounds, fighting with a spirit that might’ve have been missing in recent fights. He clearly hurt Marquez late in the fifth round, which had some at ringside wondering whether Marquez would end up as Pacquiao ultimately did. Clearly, Pacquiao can still fight. And he said he plans to get back into the ring after some rest, a sentiment he repeated on Sunday morning. So it appears we haven’t seen the last of Pacquiao in the ring. We’ll see what he has left.
KOs of Hatton and Pacquiao: The similarities of Pacquiao’s second-round knockout of Hatton in 2009 and his own devastating setback on Saturday are striking. Hatton ended up flat on his back, temporarily unconscious, from a hellacious left hook. His girlfriend, her face contorted, sobbed at ringside. Pacquiao landed face first and didn’t move for several minutes, a scary moment for those who witnessed it. His wife weeped only a few feet from him. Someone tweeted immediately afterward that Hatton must be smiling somewhere. I doubt that; Hatton respects Pacquiao. However, Hatton probably was thinking, “It’s strange how things turn out.” Strange indeed. Pacquiao’s fate was shocking because we had never seen him – or even imagined him — in that pathetic position, although he had been stopped twice early in his career. At the same time, it makes sense. Virtually all great fighters suffer devastating losses as their careers wind down. Pacquiao’s bitter pill just happened to be particularly dramatic.
Marquez vs. Pacquiao V: It makes sense from a business standpoint. After the events of Saturday night – a breathtaking fight that ended in the most-dramatic possible way – who wouldn’t want to see one more fight between them? Marquez could take on someone like Timothy Bradley, which would be a competitive and marketable matchup but not in the league of Marquez-Pacquiao V in terms of the money it could generate. Pacquiao could fight anyone – Brandon Rios, for example – and still command both a large payday and considerable attention. It wouldn’t be as compelling as V, though. The problem is that Marquez might not want to do it. He craved justice after being cheated in his three previous fights against Pacquiao, or so he believed. He seized justice and then some in IV; he might’ve won the four-fight series with one punch even though Pacquiao holds a 1-2-1 edge. What else does he have to accomplish against his rival?
MOST UNLIKELY II?
Pacquiao vs. Mayweather: I thought going into Pacquiao-Marquez IV that a potential showdown between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. had lost much of its luster. It seemed both of them had begun to slip and everyone is tired of the never-ending babble about what was the biggest possible fight in boxing. Now? Pacquiao and Mayweather could face one another in the their next fight and it would be a successful promotion, just nothing near what it would’ve been had they met two years ago. Pacquiao is damaged goods. And mega-fights are made with damaged goods. The inability to make Pacquiao-Mayweather when it would’ve been an enormous event is one of the most-unfortunate episodes in boxing in recent years. The matchup would’ve generated tremendous buzz, which would’ve been a significant boost for the sport. Instead, we’re left to wonder what it might’ve been like.
Pacquiao’s loss and typhoon: The timing of Pacquiao’s loss couldn’t have been worse for the people of his region in the Philippines, where more than 600 people were killed by a typhoon last week. Those in the area, many of whom lost their homes, reportedly took a break from the recovery process to watch their hero fight Marquez on a big screen. A victory for Pacquiao would’ve brightened their dampened spirits. Instead, his knockout loss only added to their misery. “It’s a double tragedy,” boxing writer Ronnie Nathanielsz told The Associated Press. “People were looking at Pacquiao winning to give them some joy, some hope, some satisfaction. It didn’t happen. On top of that, their anguish is further heightened as a result of his loss. … This is like (Bopha) took a U-turn and came back to hit us with a Pacquiao knockout.” So will the Filipino fans abandon Pacquiao? Not likely. “Nothing has changed. The Filipino people continue to admire and support Manny,” a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino IIIsaid.
Freddie Roach: Roach is a five-time winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Trainer of the Year award. And I want to be clear: In my opinion, he remains one of the best trainers in the business. Even the great ones have unfortunate streaks, though. Roach’s time is now. His two most-accomplished fighters – Pacquiao and Amir Khan (who has since moved on) – are 0-4 in their past four fights. And both were brutally knocked out in their most-recent fights. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., one of the most-marketable fighters, lost a one-sided decision to Sergio Martinez in his last bout. And Vanes Martirosyan fought well but had to settle for a technical draw against Erislandy Lara because of a cut. Again, not a good run. Consider the opposition, though: For Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley and Marquez. For Khan, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia. For Chavez, Martinez. For Martirosyan, Lara. The best were fighting the best. The tide will turn for Roach. Pacquiao probably isn’t finished. Chavez still has a bright future. And good fighters tend to gravitate to great trainers. Roach has many more big victories in his future.
Mikkel Kessler(46-2, 35 KOs) needed only two-plus rounds to stop capable Brian Magee (36-5-1, 25 KOs) on Saturday in Denmark. The Dane looked strong and sharp. Is a rematch with Carl Froch next? No one would complain. … The fight between Yuriorkis Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) and Michael Farenas (34-4-4, 26 KOs) saved what had been a weak TV undercard Saturday at the MGM Grand. Gamboa, returning from a 15-month layoff, looked pretty good but was also vulnerable. Farenas, an extremely tough Filipino, landed some big shots. One put Gamboa down in the ninth round. The Cuban ultimately won a one-sided decision in his debut for promoter 50 Cent but he left us with some questions. … No one will question the ability of Miguel Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs), who easily outpointed Mercito Gesta (26-1-1, 14 KOs) on the Pacquiao-Marquez undercard. I don’t see him as a TV attraction, though; he’s just too tactical. The fight was boring. …
The fight that preceded Vazquez-Gesta – Javier Fortuna (21-0, 15 KOs) vs. Patrick Hyland (27-1, 12 KOs) – was even worse. Good boxers, very little action. We all appreciate the finer points of the sport but fans crave more than that. Fortuna won a decision if you care. … Heavyweight prospect Bryant Jennings (16-0, 8 KOs) stopped Tongan Bowie Tupou (22-3, 16 KOs) in three rounds Saturday in Philadelphia, Jennings’ hometown. It was another solid step in his career. I like a comment expert Martin Mulcahey made: Jennings and Deontay Wilder might be Amercia’s answer to Tyson Fury and David Price. … Ray Beltran, one of Pacquiao’s main sparring partners, is making a name for himself. Beltran (27-6, 17 KOs) upset Hank Lundy in July and, this past Thursday in Las Vegas, he outworked Ji-Hoon Kim to win a decision in a 10-round lightweight bout. He could get a shot at Vazquez’s IBF 135-pound title. … Darren Barker (24-1, 15 KOs) bounced back from his loss to Sergio Martinez by stopping Kerry Hope (18-5, 1 KO) in four rounds Saturday in London. …
Former U.S. Olympian Ricardo Williams (21-3, 11 KOs), who has never had great success as a pro, scored a mild upset by stopping Luis Ramos (23-1, 10 KOs) in five rounds because of cuts over Ramos’ eyes Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.