Pacquiao-Marquez III: Close, Controversial Pacquiao Win

November 13, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

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…

Fight Prediction: Pacquiao-Marquez III

November 10, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

Man, time flies.

Just three days from now on the 12th of November 2011, pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao will take on his nemesis (no, not Floyd Mayweather Jr), Mexican warrior Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

As most boxing aficionados know, Pacquiao and Marquez had engaged in two previous wars back in 2004 and 2008, resulting in a controversial draw (115-110, 110-115, 113-113) and a narrow, but equally controversial split decision for Pacquiao (115-112, 112-115, 114-113).  Officially, the history books currently read 1-1-0 in favour of Pacquiao, but in those who have watched the fights know that it could very well have been the other way around.

This third contest will determine once and for all who is the superior boxer, and if Pacquiao wins, pave the way for a Mayweather superfight next year (Floyd has apparently circled 5 May 2012 on his calendar as the date, but no one is holding their breath given the number of false alarms over the years).

There are several reasons why Pacquiao is the overwhelming favourite this time despite how close the first two fights were.

1. Weight

The first fight was at featherweight (126 pounds) and the second fight was at super featherweight (130 pounds).  This third fight is at a catch weight of 144 pounds.  It is well documented that Pacquiao struggled with his weight management at those lighter weights, and as we know, Pacquiao has fought around welterweight for 5 out of his last 6 bouts (Hatton being the exception at junior welterweight), and not only is he undefeated at this weight, he has demolished all those before him.  Pacquiao has grown into a fully-fledged welterweight and it appears 144 might be his optimum weight (as he had to take extra protein to get above that in other fights).

On the other hand, Marquez has been a lightweight (135 pounds) since the second Pacquiao fight and has only ventured above that once — when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2009.  In that fight, the contract weight was also a catch weight of 144 pounds (later stretched to 146 as Mayweather failed to make weight), and Marquez struggled to boost his weight up to 142 pounds, looking a little flabby around the middle on fight night.  And as we saw on that night, Marquez was not very good at this unfamiliar weight, though it could be argued that it was Mayweather’s brilliance that made him look that way.

If the videos on HBO’s 24/7 shows can be trusted, Marquez has bulked up a lot more successfully this time and has allegedly managed to preserve his speed.  This makes things more interesting, but in any case, there is no question that at 144 pounds, the cards are stacked firmly on Pacquiao’s side.

2. Age:

Boxers are getting older and older these days, and Marquez turned 38 in August.  On the other hand, Pacquiao does not turn 33 until December.  Five years is significant, but what is more concerning for Marquez is that few fighters don’t start to see significant declines past the age of 35-36.  Marquez might be the exception to the rule, as he has looked very good in almost all his recent fights, including a recent first round KO in July against Likar Ramos (who probably took a dive, but nonetheless…).

Marquez has a style that ages well, but at 32 Pacquiao is clearly in his prime, whereas Marquez may have slowed by half a step since the last time the two touched gloves.

3: Improvement:

Some people don’t believe fighters at an elite level can improve significantly, but many agree that Pacquiao is a much better fighter now than when he last fought Marquez.  Better defense, more patient, less reckless, better at following Freddie Roach’s game plans, effective punching power in both hands (instead of just the left).  And at this higher weight, he appears to be more durable, has more stamina, more power, and is arguably faster than he was before.

As for Marquez, because of his age and perhaps because he has been in Pacquiao’s shadow the last few years, not many are suggesting that he has improved much, if at all.

If we assume Pacquiao and Marquez were dead even back in 2008, it’s not surprising that most are expecting Pacquiao to walk through Marquez this time given his supposed improvement and Marquez’s supposed lack of improvement.

Prediction

There are plenty of boxing fans and experts out there who genuinely believe that Marquez won both fights.  You can judge for yourself at ESPN, which is currently showing both fights in their entirety (I and II).  You may think that, despite the 3 knockdowns in the first fight and the single knockdown in fight two, Marquez has Pacquiao’s number stylistically and won both fights, but you cannot possibly say that the fights were not close.

Fact is, even if you watch the second fight immediately after the first, you should be able to see a noticeable improvement in Pacquiao’s abilities.  That was more than 3.5 years ago.  Then watch some of his more recent fights at welterweight, and the contrast in his style and physical appearance will be astounding.

Remember, the first fight was before Pacquiao lost to Erik Morales (whom he annihilated in two subsequent rematches) and the second fight was before Pacquiao delivered beatdowns to De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito and Mosley.  As good as Marquez is, do you see him beating any of those guys at 144 pounds?

Like most pundits, I find it difficult to believe that Marquez will have anything more than a puncher’s chance this third time.  Pacquiao proved that he is taking the fight seriously on 24/7, and his training camp is reportedly one of his best ever, with insiders saying that he has taken it to another level.  Unlike the crappy Mosley fight, Pacquiao has plenty of motivation and he has said as much.  On the other hand, Marquez remains confident because he honestly thinks he beat Pacquiao twice already — but will this confidence backfire when he realises that the person he faces on Saturday night is not the same guy he faced before (ie the guy that kept throwing right jab-left cross combos all night long)?

I see Marquez fighting valiantly and tagging Pacquiao with a few good shots, and maybe even steal few rounds here and there.  He is an extremely intelligent and crafty fighter who has shown he can figure out other fighters’ styles during a fight and historically has given Pacquiao fits.  But I also see the explosive Pacquiao hitting Marquez with a fair deal of big blows, and the added power at 144 pounds will likely lead to several knockdowns and perhaps even a cut or two.

Marquez has never been knocked out and I respect him too much to expect it to happen this time.  That is why I am predicting a wide and uncontroversial unanimous decision for Pacquiao.  It will be closer than some experts predicted and unlike the recent string of disappointing big name fights, this one will be action-packed from start to finish and a contender for fight of the year.  In the end, Pacquiao will win more rounds and coupled with the knockdowns, it will be a comfortable but hard fought victory and a fitting end to a marvellous trilogy.

Can’t wait!

Pacquiao-Marquez III Locked In For November!

May 19, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

Promo pic taken for Pacquiao-Marquez II back in 2008

That was a surprise.  Just a couple of weeks after Manny Pacquiao thoroughly dismantled a pathetically timid Shane Mosley, Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum has announced that a deal has been reached with Mexican warrior Juan Manuel Marquez to take on Pacquiao on 12 November 2011, most likely at the MGM in Las Vegas.  All Pacquiao has to do is sign, and it assumed that he will.

With Floyd Mayweather Jr now looking more and more unlikely to never fight again, the Marquez fight was the one that most wanted Pacquiao to take instead of Mosley (Andre Berto, who has since lost, was the third alternative).  It made sense, considering Marquez was the last guy to give Pacquiao any real trouble in the ring.  In their two previous wars (May 2004 and March 2008), Marquez came away with a draw and a split decision loss despite being knocked down four times in the two bouts, though many ringsiders and boxing analysts believe Marquez won both fights.

However, Arum coaxed Pacquiao into accepting the easier and probably more lucrative option in the ageing legend Mosley, and Marquez was left to wait on the sidelines.  That said, even before the Mosley fight, there were rumours that Arum had made an offer to Marquez for Pacquiao’s next fight — rumours that turned out to be true.

Terms of the fight

The bout, scheduled for 12 November 2011 (probably at the MGM), will be for Pacquiao’s welterweight title, but it will be a catch weight bout at 144 pounds.

Marquez, idle since a November 2010 KO of Michael Katsidis, will take an interim fight on 2 July 2011 against David Diaz, the man Pacquiao beat the crap out of just before the De la Hoya fight.  Of course, if Marquez loses, the Pacquiao fight will be off.

Marquez gave Pacquiao all he could handle in their first two fights

Under the terms, Marquez will get a guaranteed $5 million for the bout, a percentage of PPV earnings over a certain amount, and a $10 guarantee for a rematch in the event Marquez wins.

Marquez’s own production company will promote the bout.  His promotional contract with De la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions expired earlier this year, even though Golden Boy had the right to match any offer given to Marquez.  Golden Boy declined to match Arum’s offer.

Seems to me Arum has planned all of this pretty well in sticking it to Golden Boy.  Arum and Golden Boy have had a horrible history, most of it stemming from the rights to promote Pacquiao, which Arum won and now controls.

Arum has been quite ruthless in keeping Pacquiao money away from Golden Boy since the Ricky Hatton fight.  Cotto and Margarito are both from Top Rank’s stable, and Clottey was not a Golden Boy fighter.  Shane Mosley used to be a part owner of Golden Boy, but gave it up to take on Pacquiao.  Now Marquez, a former Golden Boy man, will also go into the fight with nothing to do with them.

Early pre-fight analysis

Very interesting match up, at least on paper.  There are those out there who think Marquez will win this time because he appears to have ‘figured out’ Pacquiao’s style.

Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz said: ‘It’s the same old story — styles make fights, and, for some reason, I believe if we fight Marquez 10 times, we will have controversy 10 times because he’s figured something out about Manny that no other fighter can do.  We’ve had him down three times [sic — it was four], but he’s able to adapt and adjust. I think it will be a very close fight again if we decide to pick that fight.’

Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach said: ‘I’m a little bit scared of that fight.  I think Marquez might have our number.  He can do well with certain styles and he seems to do well with our style.  I think we’re bigger and better now, but that’s my good solution, that we’re bigger and better now.’

Having said all of that, Roach finished with: ‘I actually want this fight.  I love this fight.  I would love to shut them up.’

Pacquiao is 1-0-1 against Marquez

To be frank, notwithstanding all the supposed success Marquez has had with Pacquiao in the past (albeit being 0-1-1 on paper), I think this third time around will be a mismatch.  You can’t discount Marquez’s skills and heart, but my early instinct tells me Pacquiao could be the first to knock him out.

For me, the two biggest factors for this fight are: (1) it will be at 144 pounds; and (2) Pacquiao is a different fighter now to the one from 2005 and 2008.

The 144 pound catch weight is significant.  Pacquiao’s weight for his last few bouts have been: 145 (Mosley), 144.6 (Margarito), 145.75 (Clottey), 144 (Cotto).  In each of these fights Pacquiao apparently had to take extra meals to boost up his weight.  The last time Pacquiao fought below 140 was when he came in at 138 against Hatton for a junior welterweight fight.

On the other hand, Marquez’s weight for his last few fights: 134 (Katsidis), 133.5 (Diaz II), 142 (Mayweather), 134.25 (Diaz I), 135 (Casamayor).

What is telling about these weights is that Pacquiao has looked absolutely sensational at around 144, and if the extra meal before weigh-in reports are true, then 144 would be a perfect weight for Pacquiao to fight at.

On the other hand, with the exception of the Mayweather bout, Marquez came in at 135 or below for each of his last five bouts.  In the Mayweather fight, which Marquez lost in convincing fashion, he looked slow and flabby around the middle at just 142 pounds. (Marquez apparently had to drink his own urine just to get up to 142!)

The 144 catch weight is optimal for Pacquiao, and from the only instance we’ve seen, not very good for Marquez.  This is not necessarily fair, but Pacquiao is the big name here and should hold all the cards and the advantages.  That’s just the way it is.

This brings me to my second point: Pacquiao is a different fighter to the one that struggled against Marquez in 2005 and 2008.  Manny Pacquiao didn’t really become the Manny Pacquiao he is known as today until he made the jump to 140+ pounds.

Not only has he maintained his trademark speed from the lower weight classes (and arguably he has been even faster), Pacquiao now punches harder than he has ever punched, including enough power to KO Hatton with one punch, seriously hurt Cotto with another, and break Margarito’s orbital bone with a third.  Pacquiao has also become a more disciplined and more versatile than before, with an apparently steadier chin and a fortified defense.  Whereas before he was more of a reckless brawler (see video below), he is now technically sounder and knows how to follow Freddie Roach’s game plans to perfection.  Whereas before he was more of a one-handed fighter (with the left), he has now developed into a two-fisted punching machine.  Whereas before he was more of a predictable one-two puncher, he is now an unpredictable combo throwing machine that launches power shots from unorthodox angles.

The two fights against Marquez were 3 and 6 years ago, and were at 126 pounds (featherweight) and 130 pounds (super featherweight or junior lightweight).  Pacquiao will be a month shy of his 33rd birthday by the time the fight rolls around, whereas Marquez would have passed his 38th birthday.  Don’t forget Shane Mosley, who clearly slowed down a heap against Pacquiao, was 39 when he stepped into the ring a couple of weeks ago.

Besides, the two fights with Marquez were close fights, not outright robberies as some claim.  They were fights either fighter could have won, which is why they were controversial decisions.  And remember, one judge erroneously scored the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao instead of 10-6 (which is what should have been the score for a triple knockdown round), meaning that on paper, Pacquiao really should be 2-0 instead of 1-0-1 against Marquez.

If the two fights were close at 125 and 130 and when both fighters were 3 and 6 years younger, will they still be close now, at 144 pounds, and at the ages of 33 and 38?

Stylistically, Marquez could still pose problems for Pacquiao, but everything else points to a brutal beating.  If Pacquiao could take heavy blows from the likes of Cotto and Margarito on the chin, will Marquez’s punches still hurt him like they did before?  If Pacquiao’s punches could cause so much damage to De la Hoya, Hatton, Cotto and Margarito, would Marquez be able to take them like he did before?

Time will tell.