Lee Groves

10: Greatest one-punch finishes

6. Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao IV – Dec. 8, 2012, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nev.

When Marquez-Pacquiao IV was first announced, the boxing universe was divided. Some of them sighed “oh no, not again” while others viewed it as an opportunity to provide closure to what had been a wonderful yet controversial series. Each fight followed a similar script: Two-way action, tough-to-score rounds, sudden bursts of power by Pacquiao and long stretches of masterful boxing by Marquez. The results were a draw and two close decisions for “The Pac Man” but in many eyes Marquez was three-for-three.

The 39-year-old Marquez came into the match nearly eight months removed from a 12-round win over Serhiy Fedchenko while Pacquiao was victimized by a logic-defying decision loss of his own against Timothy Bradley. The big question was whether the two future Hall of Famers could rise to the occasion one more time, and in the end the answer was a definitive “yes.”

Pacquiao opened as a 6-to-1 favorite but a tsunami of late Marquez money closed the gap to 9-to-5. Any concerns surrounding age and attrition evaporated in round one as Pacquiao demonstrated mobility and head movement that hadn’t been seen in years while Marquez showed off his usual razor-sharp skills. Over the first seven-and-a-half minutes it appeared the same dynamics were in play: Fast-twitch skirmishes in which neither man dominated for long stretches, but with Pacquiao holding a slight edge.

With 1:19 remaining in round three, however, the trajectory of the past three-and-a-quarter fights forever changed. A looping right that caught Pacquiao leaning away still had enough power to send him crashing to the floor; the first knockdown Marquez had scored in 39 rounds against the Filipino. Although Marquez’s fans always had faith in their man, it was an entirely different thing to see that faith translated into reality. As Marquez chased after Pacquiao, they chanted “si se puede” – roughly translated as “yes we can.”

A last minute surge earned Pacquiao an edge in round four and 66 seconds into the fifth a left cross scored a flash knockdown. A follow-up right hook staggered Marquez and soon blood was gushing from his nose. Refusing to clinch, Marquez instead chose to fight and he did it well enough to last out the round. But in doing so one punch from Marquez proved noteworthy in retrospect — a flush right cross that nailed Pacquiao coming in. Marquez’s considerable boxing intelligence told him that might be a tool that could work later on. How right he proved to be.

With blood cascading down his face Marquez continued to struggle in round six. Although the Mexican was fighting bravely, the action and the math were working against him as he trailed 47-46 on all three cards. A big left cross staggered Marquez with 66 seconds remaining but again the Mexican fought his way out of trouble.

In the closing seconds of the round another big blow caused Marquez to stumble forward toward the ropes and when both men reset Marquez was near the strands while Pacquiao prepared to launch another charge. Like a spider laying in wait for the unsuspecting fly Marquez spied his target, plotted his next move and sprung the trap at the perfect moment. As Pacquiao moved in, Marquez fired a superbly timed right to the point of the chin that caused Pacquiao to pitch forward on his face with alarming speed. Referee Bayless knew a count was unnecessary and within moments medical personnel swarmed around Pacquiao. More than a minute passed before Pacquiao regained some semblance of consciousness but the final result would remain in the record books forever.

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