Fans knew they were witnessing something special before the start of the fifth round of Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV.
What many fans and members of the boxing media thought would be replay of third bout last November, a tit-for-tat boxing match that went to a controversial decision, had become a high-level shootout. Both multi-division champs were clearly looking to inflict as much damage as possible with every punch.
Marquez, who would ultimately win the fight with a shocking one-punch knockout at the end of the sixth round, served notice to Pacquiao and millions of people watching around the world by dropping his longtime nemesis flat on his back in the third round.
Pacquiao’s answer to this unfamiliar situation was to step up his intensity in the fourth round. The Filipino icon was looking to even the score going into the fifth and he found his opening a little over one minute into the round. Pacquiao connected with a compact left that knocked Marquez off balance enough for the master counterpuncher’s left glove to touch canvas, constituting a technical knockdown.
Marquez appeared unhurt as referee Kenny Bayless finished his mandatory eight-count and waved the fighters back in, but Pacquiao was looking to change that with lunging one-two combinations. At the midway point of the round, Marquez landed a counter right cross on the button that twisted Pacquiao sideways. The dynamic southpaw pounded his gloves together as he often did during the heat of battle during his prime, a gesture to let his opponent know that he had come to fight.
The next minute and 20 seconds was riveting enough to sway a slight majority of fans to vote round five of Pacquiao-Marquez IV the Round of the Year for 2012 on RingTV.com’s year-end awards poll. The heated round garnered 30.5 percent of the vote even though it wasn’t as dramatic as the 12th round of the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. middleweight championship, which drew 26.7 percent of the votes. And it didn’t exhibit the sheer power that heavyweights Tomasz Adamek and Travis Walker displayed in trading knockdowns in the second round of their entertaining tussle, which earned 25.8 percent of the votes.
However, round five of Pacquiao-Marquez IV featured two future first-ballot hall of famers – each with an entire nation of devoted fans behind him – fighting their hearts out.
Pacquiao marched forward without fear after being rocked, launching one left-hand bomb after the other as Marquez deftly stepped around him in search of another opportunity to land his right-hand missile. With 44 seconds left both men fired their power shots with full leverage. Pacquiao’s left hit its target first. Marquez withstood the flush shot but his legs visibly stiffened. He tried to gain some distance without giving away that he had been stunned but Pacquiao sensed that he had the advantage and let it all hang out with 40 seconds to go in the round.
Pacquiao backed Marquez to the ropes where the Mexican veteran reacted the way he always has when pressed hard by a fiery antagonist – he let his hands go in beautiful combination. Marquez’s landed a few body shots that backed Pacquiao off enough for him to get off the ropes and engage without being cornered.
The two legends exchanged on even terms for the final 20 seconds of the bout, punching with the intensity of hungry fighters 10-15 years younger.
Statistically speaking it was rather lopsided in favor of Pacquiao, who landed 26 of 48 of his total punches (54 percent) to Marquez’s 10 of 46 (22 percent), according to CompuBox. He landed 5 of 11 jabs (45 percent) to 3 of 20 (15 percent) and 21 of 37 power shots (57 percent) to 7 of 26 (27 percent).
It was Pacquiao’s round, but Marquez made one to remember by making his punches count. And as Marquez proved in the following round, it only takes one to win a fight.
Next year-end award: KO of the Year
Photo / Al Bello-Getty Images