Pacquiao-Marquez III: Close, Controversial Pacquiao Win

November 13, 2011 in Boxing, Sport by pacejmiller

Does this look like the face of a winner?

Seems like some things will never change.  Few people believed that the old adage ‘styles make fights’ would apply every single time, but once again it prevailed tonight.

Despite what many expected would be a brutal annihilation, Manny Pacquiao just won a close, controversial majority decision over arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez (114-114, 115-113, 116-112).

Plenty of people thought Marquez won the first two fights, in 2004 and 2008, and the same will be said for fight number three.  I’ve only watched the fight once, but I had it a 114-114 draw.  However, I cannot begrudge anyone for thinking this was a 115-114, 115-113 or 116-114 fight in Marquez’s favour.  In fact, when I heard the scores being announced, I had a feeling that perhaps an upset was written in the stars.

Honestly, it was that difficult to score.  Several boxing analysts on ESPN had it a draw.  Some had Pacquiao winning by one round.  Others said it was another robbery.  Certainly, from the boos that showered the ring immediately after the decision was announced and Marquez left the ring in disgust (in fact, objects were being showered too), it appears many ringsiders felt the same.  I was also just on the ESPN message board and the overwhelming sentiment is that Pacquiao should have lost.  Not sure if it is just the anti-Pacquiao or pro-Mayweather trolls but it is what it is.

I watched the fight via online streaming, and it was commentated by a British station which featured Pacquiao stablemate Amir Khan.  Interestingly, they had Marquez winning the fight, and winning it easily, and Khan even said before the decision was announced that he’d be open to fighting Marquez if Pacquiao loses.  I’d be very fascinated to see how the commentators from other stations called the fight (apparently Harold Lederman from HBO had it 116-112 for Pacquiao).

If you have watched the fight with the commentary on, I suggest watching it again without any commentary — because they tend to be very misleading.  Watch the fight without the views and opinions of others and decide for yourself.  Did Pacquiao earn the victory or was Marquez robbed (again)?

Fight analysis

Pacquiao weighed 143 and Marquez weighed142 at the weigh-in the day before.  Both were under the catch weight limit of 144 pounds.  Marquez looked huge, at least as big as Pacquiao, and in contrast with his fight against Mayweather, his midsection was much more taut.  Pacquiao, as usual, looked ripped and fantastic.

Unlike the previous two fights, this one was more technical and more of a chess match.  No knockdowns but still a brilliant and exciting fight from start to finish.

To be fair, Pacquiao did look a lot more cautious in the earlier rounds and he appeared utterly confused at times.  He simply didn’t know how to solve Marquez’s style.  He didn’t throw as many combinations as I thought he would, or perhaps it was Marquez’s counterpunching that discouraged him from doing so.

Marquez, to his credit, bulked up successfully this time and fought using a perfect game plan.  He stood his ground, throwing jabs and rapid combinations to unsettle Pacquaio, and when Pacquiao unloaded a shot Marquez simply took a step back to get out of range, and then immediately followed with a counter combination in return.  He also threw some hard body combos, especially earlier in the fight.

To the casual observer it might appear as though Marquez was the more successful fighter throughout, but Pacquiao, who was clearly the aggressor in the latter stages of the fight, did block a lot of the combos and landed a few hard shots of his own.

I gave the first round, a ‘feel-out’ round, to Pacquiao, who was more aggressive and landed the better shots.  From there, Marquez won most of the rounds up to the midway mark, prompting Freddie Roach to tell Pacquiao in between rounds that he was behind and had to pick it up.  Pacquiao listened to his trainer and increased his work rate, but Marquez still fought very efficiently.  Those second-half rounds became very hard to score, and even if most of them they went to Pacquiao they were still extremely close rounds.  I had the fight dead even at the end of round 10.  The last two rounds were practically a wash.  I had Pacquiao winning the 11th and Marquez the 12th, but they could have easily been the other way around (two of the three judges gave the last round to Pacquiao).

When the fight ended, Marquez raised an arm in victory, and Pacquiao retreated to his corner to pray.  Boxers in close fights always think they won, but upon seeing that scene I thought maybe Marquez did achieve the upset after all.  When the first score was announced, 114-114, I thought we were on our way to a majority draw.  I still thought it might end up a draw when they announced the second score, 115-113.  The third score, 116-112, raised an eyebrow.  The fight was too close to deserve that scoreline.

I think a draw would have been the right result, but I couldn’t fault judges for a 2-point swing in either direction.  Perhaps Pacquiao, with his reputation as the reigning champ and P4P king, had enough influence, subconscious or not, to pull the judges to rule in his favour.

Post-fight quotes

Marquez:

“This is the second robbery of the two that we had, and I think this was even more clear than the first.  We won with the clearer punches. The audience protested because they saw us win again. I thought I got robbed. It happens again and again. I don’t know what else I can do to win.”

“It’s hard when you’re fighting your rival and the three judges, too.”

Nacho Beristain (Marquez’s trainer):

“I’ve always confided in this commission here, but this has been a robbery in the utmost.”

Pacquiao:

“The fans of Marquez, of course, aren’t happy, but my fans are happy.  I clearly won the fight. He is a good fighter, but I do my best. It is very clear that I won the fight.”

“He was ready for my punches.  I thought I blocked a lot of his punches.”

Re Mayweather: “Anytime, anytime, I am a fighter. My job is to fight.”

“Let’s get it on,  Let’s make the fight happen and give the people a good fight.”

Freddie Roach (Pacquiao’s trainer):

“It was a very close fight. It could have gone either way.  I asked Manny to move to the right and he didn’t.”

Punch stats

Those suggesting a robbery might want to take a look at the punch stats.  Of course, they are not fully accurate and are open to interpretation, but according to Compubox Pacquiao landed 176/578 punches (30%), while Marquez landed 138/436 (32%).

Pacquiao also had the edge in power punches, 117/274 (43%) to 100/254 (39%).

Per round, Pacquiao averaged 14 of 49 punches, Marquez averaged 11 of 36.

Not to say that this is proof of a Pacquiao victory, because it is not, but it does add weight to the suggestion that this was a close fight that could have gone either way.

Where to from here?

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter (and Marquez’s promoter for this one fight) has suggested a fourth fight between the two in May to decide once and for all who is the better fighter.  I dunno.  I thought this fight would be it.  They could fight 100 times and the result might be the same every time.

I say let Pacquiao fight someone else (ah hem, MAYWEATHER — who must have loved the result and might finally be willing to take the fight now given how it turned out) and regardless of whether he wins or loses, and if Marquez is willing, let their fourth fight be the last of Pacquiao’s career and let him ride off into the sunset.

Mayweather recently announced through a spokesperson that his next fight is in May, and they alluded to the ‘little fella’ as his next opponent, which everyone assumes is Pacquiao.

As for the drug testing problems that have derailed two prior negotiations?  Both Pacquiao and Arum have said it is not a problem anymore.  Pacquiao is now willing to be subjected to Olympic style blood testing (ie random up to the date of the fight), and the only problem was that Mayweather allegedly had an issue with Pacquiao training overseas, as this would mean that two drug testing associations are required to carry out the tests (as the Philippines is out of the USADA’s jurisdiction).  But provided it is still Olympic style drug testing carried out by a credible testing body, it is hard to see this being the issue holding back potentially the most lucrative boxing match of all time.

So now we wait and see.  And hope.

PS: On paper, you may argue that Pacquiao has widened the gap.  The first fight was a draw, the second a split decision and now a majority decision…