So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2012, Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4 on Dec. 8 on HBO pay-per-view. Previously: the undercard, previewed; why the fight matters. Next: a TQBR roundtable.
No matter their weight, no matter their age, no matter whether they're fighting at featherweight in 2004 or welterweight in 2012 -- no matter how much things change, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez stay precisely the same for one another. Pacquiao has grown more versatile in the ring, defying his essential nature as an explosive dynamo to become something more nuanced. Marquez has grown more aggressive in the ring, defying his essential nature as a thinking man's boxer to become an action hero like his rival Pacquiao. Since they first met, Pacquiao has become boxing's biggest U.S. star and its best fighter, only to lose both. Yet for all Pacquiao's adventures, every time he comes back to Marquez, the exact same fight is waiting for him.
This is the fight, though, this fourth fight, where I think one thing changes: Marquez finally beats Pacquiao. No more draws. No more disputed split decision losses. The two have been evenly matched for their entire rivalry, but all signs point to Marquez finally being just better enough to get the elusive win.
Usually, here at TQBR we break down the keys to the fight in extensive detail. But so little has changed since last time that it doesn't seem worth it. Pacquiao will still be faster, Marquez will still be the better counterpuncher. Marquez will still be the older man (age 39), Pacquiao will still have distractions outside the ring.
Yet some things are different from that pre-fight analysis. Marquez was a drastic betting underdog for Pacquiao-Marquez III because the previous occasion where Marquez had moved up to 147 pounds, against Floyd Mayweather, he was bullied in a scene something like the playground maneuver where the bigger kid holds his hand on the smaller kid's head, and the smaller kid swings punches that fall a foot short. Instead, Marquez grew into the weight class when he fought Pacquiao there, be it via legitimately training his body for the move or by hiring sketchy trainers to get him there sketchily. The fact remains, Marquez's size was't the liability it was widely thought to be.
Marquez had one fight since he last met Pacquiao, a bout against Serhiy Fedchenko where he looked a little shaky in spots yet won easily. But that might have been a style issue, as Fedchenko wasn't prone to engaging with Marquez as Pacquiao has been. Pacquiao has had one fight, too, a disputed loss to Timothy Bradley where he started strong, like vintage Pacquiao, and either relaxed or didn't have the necessary stamina to close strong.
The trend of recent Pacquiao and Marquez fights, be they separate from on another or in Pacquiao-Marquez III, is that Marquez has been the hungrier of the two fighters. Marquez fights still like a man with a chip on his shoulder, except for in his strange, periodic 12th round disappearing acts that arise from overconfidence. Pacquiao doesn't seem to want to hurt anyone, perhaps because he has struggled to reconcile boxing with his devout Christian faith or because he's just a nice guy. What's more, he never really took chances against Marquez or Bradley, when a little extra effort might have sealed the deal with fewer uncomfortable questions afterward.
In every Pacquiao-Marquez fight, Pacquiao succeeds in the rounds when he disregards Marquez's counterpunching and simply outworks him. Pacquiao's activity has helped win over judges in the three fights, but it comes with a price: Marquez has always been able to rattle Pacquiao with his power, to cut him up, to bruise and lump his face. Going to war like that might make Pacquiao smack his gloves together when he has stretches of zeal for trading punches, but Marquez has always had a way of mitigating those "happy warrior" impulses. Other fighters have hurt him. Marquez hurts him and confuses him. It saps his confidence and his willingness to charge forward into hell.
It's been years since we saw the Pacquiao who once fought with such all-consuming fire. In each fight, he appears to enjoy the endeavor less. He has made a show of taking this fight super-serious this time, of changing up his training habits to emphasize speed over power, but ultimately he's still been the same old half-distracted Pacquiao. Besides, what's more speed going to get him? He's already faster than Marquez. And when he tries to come up with a new game plan, like last fight where he started off as the counterpuncher, Marquez just adjusts again. Even if Pacquiao did have some secret plan to finally beat Marquez, I'm not sure how well it would work based on past strategic shifts. I say Pacquiao beats Marquez definitively if and only if he sells out, throws pain out the window and commits to throwing and landing more punches no matter how much Marquez hits him back.
I'm not convinced Pacquiao is willing to do that. And as Pacquiao's phsyical assets decline, the desire gap between Pacquiao and Marquez grows more important. I also think Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach has a point when he hints that the Las Vegas judges might feel like they "owe" Marquez one, after a few questionable decisions that went the other way. Stylistically, judges tend to favor Pacquiao's preference for coming forward over Marquez's preference for doing damage while backing up, but that slight psychological effect on the judges could be all Marquez needs.
Based on recent form, Marquez -- who deserved the victory over Pacquiao last time, too -- will finally get the official win. He knows he'll need to be aggressive enough to win over the judges, and unlike the previous two, Pacquiao never hurt him the third time, so the penalty is not the same for Marquez being overly aggressive. And if he gets that win, boxing's greatest rivalry will read in the record books less like a series of close fights where Pacquiao came out on top, and more like a rivalry where each man won, lost and tied. Marquez would, finally, not be an admirable runner-up. He would be the man who finally toppled the most fearsome enemy of his career.
I'm not buying into the narrative that JMM will be more reckless or aggressive in this fight because he sees it as the only guaranteed strategy to win. Marquez believes that he won all three fights, so why would he abandon counterpunching as his main tactic?
This will be an even more tactical fight than the third bout. These guys know each other so well, and I also think they're at the points in their respective careers in which neither will roll out any new tricks.
So this fight will be close, just like the first three bouts. But I doubt it will be anywhere near as exciting as the first two simply because neither guy is going to take a ton of chances.
Pacquiao will take this in a close unanimous decision. Probably 7-5 in rounds, 8-4 at most.
Finally, I also don't think Pacquiao is stressed about his legacy hanging in the balance in this fight -- because it's not. Pacman and the rest of the world knows he was screwed against Bradley. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and all-time great even if he loses this fight. Plus he'll still remain one of the two most bankable fighters in boxing even if he loses this fight by a close decision, and he will fight again. If he loses this bout, Pacquiao's record against Marquez still will be 2-1-1.
Pac will be ahead by a two after the first nine rounds. Then he'll, as is his custom lately, take the last three rounds off and that will let Marquez eek out a UD win.
I haven't seen Pacquiao in this Bruce Lee-esque shape ever since the Hatton fight. I believe he's going to be a lot more explosive this time after getting rid of some of the strength and conditioning training they used against bigger opponents. But like you said, Marquez (to Pacquiao at least) is like a sponge and just absorbs the style of the night and effectively adjusts on fight night. I see Pacquiao showcasing the old typhoon we all once saw earlier in his career and finally stopping Marquez on teh mid rounds. I'll throw a number and say round 6.
my prediction for this fight is manny will win by KO in round 9.
i believe that manny has won all three past fights with marquez. and he will prove it in the fourth fight. marquez was lucky to had drew decision in the first round.
arafat salahlaidn`s comment.
manny pacquiao will end Marquez ` career in this fight by knocking him out.
Tim, you make a compelling case. I think, however, that Manny channels his inner greatness for this fight and overwhelms the counter puncher. He is faster, more powerful, and generally greater skilled overall. He knows he is now fighting more for his legacy. I don't see this as a half-measure fight. I believe he'll be all in. If he is, Marquez goes down. Manny also is six important years younger, and time has a way of diminishing people. Possible TKO in the 7th.
@faoliveri If he realizes that his legacy is at stake, he should fight with more fire, and it would give him a much, much better chance of winning.
a more agressive pacquiao will only allow marquez to counter him more effectively. if roach and pacquiao haven't been able figure out marquez in 36 rounds, what make them think they'll be able to figure him out this time? also, marquez will be much more comfortable at welterweight (this third fight there) and will be much more stronger than in their 3rd fight. having said that, marquez needs to go for the KO because he isn't winning any kind of decision over pacquiao in vegas.
When Juanita quit backing off and running away from Pacman, JMM will hit the canvas! And Juanita can cry again why he lost.
@PascualTalento His style has gotten him pretty far. Not every fighter is come-forward all the time. Pacquiao backs up sometimes, too.
@Mel Clark Yes, it's Tim Bradley in disguise as Tim Starks. :)
Pacquaio must come to fight bringing hell with him, no hesitations, no mercy. Bring destruction to your enemy and no more Mr. Nice Guy.
Mr. Writer: Marquez become an aggressive fighter? I doubt that, next time be factual because the last time I check he's been backing-up almost the whole fight. The he claimed he won the fight. Yes he had some moments with Pacquiao but he was outlanded. The Compubox shows and thats a fact. Do your job better next time..
@dinodggio I said become "more" aggressive. If you look at how he fought prior to the Chris John loss and after, you'll see that he's much more aggressive now -- even though he backs up a lot, still.
Marquez must come to fight to defeat Pacquiao and not to fight to win "sympathy"..
if you know what I mean..
Pacquiao needs to be the "Old Manny Pacquiao in the past" rather than the "Old Manny Pacquiao in the future." Last fight, he tried to box Marquez intelligently, but he realized that he has a better chance of winning using his Buzzaw style of fighting.
There are 2 things that might happen after the fight. Tim may sing a happy song or he may not write for a while coz he could be totally wrong in his prediction. I believe that the latter is more realistic but let's see! :-)
@NoelRara Heh. I very well could be totally wrong in my prediction. I write predictions for fights almost every week. It would be impossible to get them all right.
I beg to disagree.Pacquiao will finally conquer Marquez.I'm sure about this.Filipinos are tough hombres.
@iriga city boy I don't doubt the toughness of Filipinos. But there are other tough people in the world, too.
Tim, if this happens, I hope you'll follow up the fight with a close look at Pacquiao's overall legacy, considering that fighters like Roberto Duran endured tough losses and still ended up as all-time greats.
Cause it's pretty clear that if Manny loses this one, it'll be time to hang 'em up at last.
@severuckOh, for sure. Manny is an all-time great no matter what happens next.
His foot has been halfway out the door for so long. He's talked about retirement for a long, long time. Maybe a real loss to Marquez would be the thing that makes him finally do it, I dunno.