The fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night in Las Vegas is what it is. No one (other than the people making a lot of money from it) is “excited” about it. Sure, it’ll likely be a close, exciting fight, like the previous three times they met in the ring, but will it really “settle things once and for all” like the fighters and promotions claim? Wasn’t that what the third fight was supposed to do?
Pacquiao-Marquez is a strange rivalry. Trilogies usually have one guy winning and first fight, the other guy winning the second, and then a third fight to determine the ultimate victor. In this case, Pacquiao is officially undefeated against Marquez after three fights (going 2-0-1, although the first fight, a draw, would have gone Pacquiao’s way had one of the judges scored round 1 correctly and given Pacquiao a 10-6 round instead of a 10-7 round after he dropped Marquez three times), but many experts and fans believe Marquez won all three.
So what does this fourth fight achieve? It won’t change the results of the first three bouts. Maybe Pacquiao will knock Marquez out. Maybe Marquez will finally get the victory he deserves. Or perhaps, there will be another controversial decision. Then what? Are we going to see a fifth fight?
Even Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has said it before: that Pacquiao and Marquez could fight each other a hundred times and it will be close and controversial every time. Should we believe anything different will happen this time?
Interestingly, when I looked around online for predictions, boxing experts and writers are predicting a close but uncontroversial Marquez decision. The reasoning is that after the outrage surrounding fight no. 3, which many felt Marquez won comfortably, the judges will be, consciously or subconsciously, influenced to favour Marquez in their scoring. These are, of course, the same people that predicted Pacquiao would steamroll Marquez and knock him out in their previous fight.
There are other factors too. Marquez is looking huge, buffed and cut, meaning he has transitioned to welterweight extremely well and appears to have added power without losing much speed. Pacquiao, on the other hand, hasn’t looked impressive since he beat Antonio Margarito more than two years ago (and hasn’t knocked out or even knocked down an opponent since Miguel Cotto a year before that). He’s obviously slowing down and appears to have lost the devastating form that took him to the very top of most pound-for-pound lists, they say. All other things being equal, the logical outcome is a Marquez points win.
The few that are backing Pacquiao insist he is a different fighter and will finally knock Marquez out. They say Pacquaio had leg cramps last fight (and that he won’t have them again this time), he was distracted (watching a Boston Celtics game before the fight) and his personal life was in complete disarray (his marriage was on the rocks and he was gambling, philandering and drinking).
I’m not sure I buy all of that because we never hear any of the negative stuff about Pacquiao until after his fight or just before his next fight to explain lacklustre performances. It just comes off like a poor excuse. And let’s not forget, Pacquiao supposedly turned his life around prior to his previous fight with Tim Bradley, and he lost that one (though to be fair, everyone apart from the judges thought he won, albeit not very impressively).
Pacquiao supporters also point to suggestions that Marquez, wary of the judges, will be going for a knockout himself and negate his biggest strength: counterpunching. That’s unlikely to me, because he’s a counterpuncher by nature. Marquez said it himself that he will be more aggressive but won’t be looking for the KO, though if the opportunity presents itself he would go for it.
What holds more water is the way Freddie Roach has been talking about Pacquiao. Freddie talks up Pacquiao’s conditioning and form before every fight, but this time he seems genuinely excited. He was eager to point out how Pacquiao has knocked down his sparring partners four times during the camp, which has not happened in a long time. That means a lot more to me than all that religious awakening stuff.
And I also haven’t forgotten that Marquez is 39 years old. Granted, he’s aged well and is no ordinary 39-year-old, but there is a chance his counterpunching reflexes and speed are just that little slower than last time.
So how do I see the fight panning out? Honestly, I don’t know. Conventional wisdom suggests another close fight, one that could go either way. Everyone is guessing that it will either be a clear(er) Marquez decision or a Pacquiao KO. Given that I’ve been wrong in just about all my boxing predictions ever, I thought I’d go out on a limb and guess something different from the mainstream. Accordingly, my prediction is that Pacquiao will shock everyone and win a clear cut decision. I don’t think he will knock Marquez out, but I do believe there could be knockdowns and there will be punishment.