Pacquiao knocked out cold by Marquez!

December 9, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP

What a fight, what a stunning KO! This was an outcome few people saw coming, but boy was it a glorious finale to a rivalry between two ultimate warriors. In their fourth and best fight, Juan Manuel Marquez KO’d Manny Pacquiao with a crushing right hand counter at full force that connected flush on the Filipino’s chin with a second left in the sixth round, sending Pacquiao crumpling to the canvas like a sack of potatoes. It was every bit as devastating as the Pacquiao punch that KO’d Ricky Hatton or the Sergio Martinez punch that KO’d Paul Williams. I’m not sure if there was a count but it didn’t matter because Pacquiao was out cold for several minutes afterwards, though fortunately he was eventually able to get up and congratulate his conqueror.

It was a remarkable action fight full of twists and turns. Pacquiao (who weighed in yesterday at the welter limit of 147 pounds) started out the aggressor and most probably took the first two rounds by landing more punches and more effective punches than Marquez (143 pounds). The lead left hand proved effective for Pacquiao while Marquez appeared willing to spend more time to figure things out, using body blows to try and slow his opponent down and set up power shots up top.

It turned out to be the right strategy for Marquez, as just when it appeared Pacquiao might start cruising to a points victory, Marquez turned the tables in the third round with a huge overhand right after a body feint than floored Pacquiao for the first time in their four fights. It was a demonstration of the kind of power that the “new” Marquez possessed at welterweight, and it showed that his muscles were not just for show.

Pacquiao got up and survived the round, and it seemed like Marquez might begin to overpower the Pac-man. But instead, Pacquiao was able to find his legs and gutted out a fourth round that could have gone either way.

In the fifth, Pacquiao grew even more aggressive and evened the tables with a straight left hand that struck Marquez on the chin, forcing the Mexican to land his glove on the floor. The knockdown was not a devastating one but it showed that Pacquiao still carried some sting in his punches. As expected, Marquez came back valiantly with some big blows of his own, until Pacquiao unleashed a punishing right hook that clearly hurt him. This time, it was Marquez that had to hang on until the end of the round, and to his credit he did so fighting out of the corners.

Things looked great for Pacquiao for most of the sixth round as he busted up Marquez’s face with more sharp punches, widening the gap on the Compubox scores (which Pacquiao dominated 94 at 37% to 52 to 21%). He appeared to be hurting his opponent and even prompted suggestions that he might finish Marquez off soon.

But I don’t think it was a lucky punch that turned out the lights for Pacquiao because Marquez had clearly been timing that right hand counter all night, and he just happened to land it perfectly. Pacquiao was getting confident and perhaps a little careless, and it was obvious he was trying to finish off the sixth round on a strong note. And so when Pacquiao lunged forward with a right hand with a second left in the round it played right into Marquez’s hands. The Mexican warrior craftily evaded the blow and launched a beautiful right hand that connected right on the button – from behind you could see the crushing force jolt Pacquiao’s cranium. He collapsed face first to the canvas and seconds later Marquez was celebrating on the corner post.

What a sensational, action packed fight. No matter who you were going for, you have to admire the skills and hearts of the two fighters.  It certainly lends credibility to the argument that Marquez is the better fighter and has been all along, or at least the suggestion that Marquez is Pacquiao’s kryptonite.

I’d prefer to see the two of them fight someone else now or retire. In the aftermath of the KO there were immediate rumblings about a fifth fight, but I think Marquez has nothing left to prove against Pacquiao. Yes, Pacquiao was winning the fight up to that point (leading 47-46 on all three scorecards and probably would have gotten the sixth round too had the fight not ended there) and had hurt Marquez, but that KO was a perfect ending to their rivalry — there could not have been a more definitive conclusion after so many close fights. If they keep fighting, when will it ever end?

This whole time boxing fans were thinking Floyd Mayweather Jr was Pacquiao’s fated rival but as it turned out Marquez held that role all along. I guess now we will never see Mayweather-Pacquiao, but at the same time I don’t think too many people care anymore after being jerked around for so many years. Pacquiao said immediately after the fight that he is not going to retire and is going to come back, but I think it’s a good time for him to hang up the gloves. No shame in going out on a punch like that from an opponent like Marquez. But on the other hand, if they fight again, I’m pretty sure I’ll be watching.

As for me, I was wrong again in my prediction. From now on I’m going to live like this guy.

Fight Prediction: Pacquiao-Marquez IV

December 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

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.

Not again! Pacquiao-Marquez IV set for December 8

September 16, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

It’s decisions like these that make it so hard for me to keep following boxing. Manny Pacquiao, fresh off his ludicrous decision loss to Timothy Bradley, has decided to fight Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. The bout is scheduled for December 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and everyone involved will make lots of money.

In fact, it appears money was the driving factor for this bout. Floyd Mayweather Jr, the guy who represents the most dough, just got out of prison and has shown no interest in fighting this year, so the bout everyone wants to see is still out of the question. (And let’s face it, even if all the stars were aligned these two would probably still refuse to fight.)

Consequently, Pacquiao was presented with three options, all three of whom he has fought before. The apparent order of interest from Pacquiao was as follows:

1. Miguel Cotto, who refused to come down in weight and chose to fight Austin Trout in New York instead. Pacquiao dominated and knocked out Cotto in a catchweight fight in 2009 that was actually closer in the first few rounds than most people remember. It was also financially lucrative, with Pacquaio getting a reported $22 million to Cotto’s $12 million.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez, who has fought Pacquiao three times, with Pacquiao leading 2-0-1 (the two wins were a split and majority decision). Many people continue to insist that Marquez won all three. The last time they fought was in November last year, with Pacquiao escaping with a majority decision and Marquez storming off in disgust.

3. Timothy Bradley, who outpointed Pacquiao in a June fight Pacquiao clearly dominated, and even sparking a post-bout review into the iffy decision. Bradley continues to be thought of as a minor draw despite the victory.

Is this picture wrong to you? Shouldn’t the order of preference be the other way around? Shouldn’t Pacquiao be furious with the Bradley decision and want an immediate rematch so he could knock him out, regardless of how much money he would be making? And if Bradley’s not available, shouldn’t Marquez be more enticing than Cotto considering many people think Pacquiao lost to him three times already? And what’s the point of fighting Cotto again when he’s already knocked him out convincingly? And if you really wanted to fight him that bad, then why not fight at the higher weight rather than forcing Cotto to drop down in weight again?

As a Pacquiao fan for many years, this is a massively disappointing piece of news. I’m disappointed in him, personally. I’m sure even some of his most fervent fans feel the same.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s long-time trainer, made his objections known — he wanted Bradley. “Manny knew I would prefer Bradley,” he said. “I think the money was a huge factor. Bradley doesn’t bring the people Marquez does. But I would have rather had revenge for that bad decision in June.”

Roach also knows fighting Marquez for a fourth time represented an enormous risk because of the controversy surrounding their last bout. Chances are Pacquaio would start off down three rounds on the scorecards as the judges might feel like they need to right a past wrong, he said.

I agree. From a quality perspective, Pacquiao-Marquez IV is obviously higher than Pacquiao-Bradley II, but it’s a stupid move from a career perspective for Pacquiao. With dwindling skills and a political career to look after, he doesn’t have that many fights left. That loss to Bradley didn’t harm his career that much because everyone knew he won. But a legitimate loss to Marquez, which is highly likely by the way, will kill just about all interest in the Mayweather fight. Moreover, it will be an affirmation for the many people that believed Pacquiao has never been as good as Marquez and should have lost all four bouts.

Of course, nothing is a surprise anymore with Bob Arum running the show and whispering in Pacquiao’s ear. Arum is scum who only cares about how much money Pacquiao can make him and keep making him. We’ve all tried to rationalise some of Pacquiao’s questionable opponents in the past, but it’s gotten to a point where everything looks like an excuse now. There’s no excuse for this one. If he wanted to settle the score with Marquez, there is no reason why it couldn’t have come after avenging the loss to Bradley, or even after setting up the Mayweather fight (win or lose).

I have a feeling a few years from now, we’ll be looking back at Pacquiao’s career (and Mayweather’s, for that matter) and be saying, “He was so good, but it’s such a shame he tarnished his legacy with such stupid career choices.”

Fight Preview: Pacquiao vs Bradley

June 9, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

Wow, is it the weekend of June 9 already? Pound-for-pound king (or the no. 2 behind Floyd Mayweather Jr, depending on your perspective) Manny Pacquiao is about to face off against undefeated but relatively unknown junior welter champion Timothy Bradley, who is coming up to 147 for the biggest challenge and payday of his career.

This is a weird fight. Bradley is virtually unknown but a lot of people are predicting an upset, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael. Many believe a boxer is only as good as his last fight, and Pacquaio has looked frighteningly human in this last couple of bouts. About a year ago, Pacquiao dominated an over-the-hill Shane Mosley but couldn’t chase him down to knock him out. It was a horrible fight. Then at the end of 2011, he eked out a majority draw in his third encounter with Juan Manuel Marquez, and probably more than half felt Pacquiao not only lost but he lost convincingly.

And there’s been a lot of weird news popping up before this fight. First of all, Pacquiao has apparently had this “calf problem” for a very long time now (read here), even though we didn’t hear about it until after his bouts with Mosley and Marquez. Excuse, perhaps? Secondly, Pacquiao’s long-time conditioning coach, Alex Ariza (the guy credited with  his amazing rise through the weight classes), made himself look like a complete douche by causing a major rift through the Pacquiao camp. He apparently left the Pacquiao camp during training to assist a fighter in another country after obtaining Pacquiao’s consent, but he “forgot” to tell Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach or his other client, Amir Khan. Khan has since fired Ariza and Roach apparently said Ariza will not be in Manny’s corner on fight night. Thirdly, Pacquiao caused a mini storm when he was accused of making homophobic remarks during an interview, but as it turned out, he was misleadingly misquoted.

Lastly, and most bizarrely, Pacquiao has apparently re-devoted himself to Catholicism. Hang on, wasn’t he a devout Catholic before? Well, if the articles are to be believed, not really. He was never really that dedicated to his training either, so they say. According to the new stories, Pacquiao was a gambling, drinking, smoking, womanising dick that spent a lot of late nights out during training and frequently came in tired. He was also on the verge of a divorce because his wife Jinkee was sick of his philandering. Now, he has sold all of his bars and nightclubs and has re-dedicated himself to God, and no longer goes out at night. Instead, he studies the Bible whenever he can. This means a happy Pacquiao, a happy Jinkee and a fitter, healthier Manny.

What I find strange is how none of this stuff ever came out earlier. Was there a gag team working overtime to avoid negative press for Pacquiao, or did journalists stop themselves from articles that made Manny appear in a bad light? For years, at least internationally, Pacquiao has had the image of a clean cut saint, but as it turned out, he’s a bit of a hypocrite. Not that it was a surprise. And not that it has anything to do with his ability as a boxer and the other positive things he has done for his country and people. I just find it bewildering that this stuff is coming out now — after Pacquiao has rectified the problem, so to speak.

Bradley, on the other hand, has been called a ‘live underdog.’ He’s young (28 to Pacquiao’s 33), fast (some say just as fast as Pacquiao), super fit, ambitious, hard working and motivated — after all, this is by far the biggest fight of his career, and a magnificent chance to put his name on the world map. A lot of people say he’s never fought anyone on Pacquiao’s level, but his resume is not all that bad. He beat Junior Witter when Witter was still good. He virtually shut out previously unbeaten Lamont Peterson, who went on to beat Amir Khan, a guy who gives Pacquiao fits in sparring. He also handed Devon Alexander his first and only loss. Come to think of it, he’s arguably the first in-prime opponent Pacquiao has faced in a very long time. Could he potentially ‘expose’ Pacquiao as an overrated fighter who looked good because of carefully selected match ups?

That’s why this is such a weird fight. We are supposed to be believe that Pacquiao’s life was in disarray before and that everything is rosy now. But how much of that is marketing and how of it is genuine? And is Bradley a sheltered pretender or the real deal?

Oh, and the weigh-in, which took place earlier today. Bradley, who is coming up from 140, weighed-in at 146 and looked absolutely shredded, whereas Pacquiao came in at the welterweight limit of 147 and to be honest didn’t look as ripped as he did at his peak. This is the heaviest Pacqiuao has ever fought at; remember, when he fought Margarito at a catch weight of 150, he came in at 144. Is this yet another sign that Pacquiao might not be 100% or could be taking Bradley lightly?

The weigh in

I think anything is possible in this fight. Bradley is regarded as a feather-fisted boxer (only 12 KOs from 28 wins and a no contest) so it is unlikely that he can knock Pacquiao out. But a clinical decision in Bradley’s favour is certainly not out of the question. Pacquiao, who is fighting the 6oth bout of his career (54-3-2, with 38KOs), also has the ability to make quick work of Bradley. He is the favourite but only a 3-1 favourite (he was a 6-1 favourite against Mexican great Marquez, and look how that turned out).

Stranger things have happened in boxing, and for some reason I feel uneasy about this fight for Pacquiao. However, after going out on a limb last time and predicting that Miguel Cotto would beat Floyd Mayweather Jr, I’m going to bet on the favourite this time. While it would not blow my mind to see an upset, I think Pacquiao could surprise everyone by putting in a dominant performance against Bradley. I’ve seen some clips of Bradley and he seems a little wild and his defense is suspect (funnily that’s what everyone has said about Pacquiao throughout his career). I think it’s likely Pacquiao will overwhelm him with precision flurries and knock him out by the 10th round.

Brilliant Mayweather beats Cotto, I face facts

May 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

I finally got a chance to watch the Mayweather-Cotto bout fought last night in Las Vegas.

Just the day before, when previewing the fight, despite admitting that Floyd Mayweather Jr had all the advantages, I decided to go out on a limb and pick Miguel Cotto to score a stunning upset. Part of it is because Mayweather is 35 and is going to prison in less than a month. But subconsciously, it may have simply been because I wanted Mayweather to lose his perfect now-43 and 0 record.

And now, after Mayweather defeated Cotto in a unanimous victory (117-111, 117-111, 118-110), I have to give the man props and eat crow. Quite simply, Mayweather was sensational, and together with the game but outclassed Cotto, put together the most exciting fight of his illustrious career — which hasn’t always had a lot of action.

Watching the fight after already having read the fight recaps was a strange experience because it turned out slightly different to what I had expected. I thought Cotto would come out strong and fade in the later rounds, but it was Mayweather who came out on the offensive, being, surprisingly, the more aggressive fighter in peppering Cotto with jabs and right hands. After the first three rounds I wondered how Cotto would be able to get back into it, given that Mayweather was clearly faster, sharper and more accurate with all his punches.

But to Cotto’s effort — the dude is a flat out warrior — he fought back like a champion, busting up Mayweather’s nose and making him bleed profusely from the nostrils and mouth for the majority of the second half of the fight. It was the first time I had seen so much blood on Mayweather’s face. I’m not sure if it was a strategic decision by Mayweather to make the fight more exciting by often exchanging with Cotto in the corners (and if so, good on him), but the fact is Mayweather took Cotto’s best shots and dished back his own, and then some.

The difference between the two fighters was clear. Cotto was more plodding, looking to trap Mayweather against the ropes and the corners where he could unleash furious body blows and powerful head shots. The problem was, even when he got Mayweather where he wanted he still couldn’t do significant damage — for the most part — due to the incredible defensive reflexes and that famous shoulder roll of his opponent.

On the other hand, Mayweather simply controlled distance and pace like a masterful technician. Hate the man as much as you want for being an arrogant show-off, a wife-beater or a racist, but watching him fight last night was an absolute pleasure. He was always moving to a distance that suited his offense, which allowed him to get off first with his lightning quick hands. When Cotto closed the gap, he either opened it up again or closed it up even more so that Cotto couldn’t get off his own shots. When Cotto appeared to be getting the other hand with his relentless pressure, Mayweather just used his arms to tie up Cotto’s gloves. And later on in the fight, Mayweather adjusted and found a new weapon — the left uppercut — that became his most effective weapon down the stretch. He was just flat out better.

Let’s not forget Cotto here because his effort ensured that we were able to see Mayweather at his best — Money himself admitted afterwards, with rare marks on his face, that Cotto was the toughest guy he had ever fought. I had the fight a little closer than the judges in the end with a 8-4 scorecard (116-112), but there was no doubt Mayweather had won it convincingly. There was no feeling that Mayweather would have faded had the fight continued either. In fact, round 12 was probably Mayweather’s best round, in which he rocked Cotto with several vicious left uppercuts and right hands.

Cotto left the ring before interviews, and Mayweather, as usual, was back to his irritating self, basically ignoring all of Larry Merchant’s questions to say only what he wanted to say. Needless to say, Manny Pacquiao’s name came up and it was the usual excuses, showing that there’s almost no point in expecting something to happen at this point.

But that’s still not going to stop people from fantasising about what might happen if they do eventually meet in the ring. And despite years of having believed that Pacquiao has the tools to beat Mayweather, after this fight and Pacquiao’s last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, maybe I’m not so sure any more.

Supporters from either side are going to point to their common opponents as evidence that their guy will win. Pacquiao beat Oscar de lay Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and now Miguel Cotto with more ease and in more dominating fashion (though it is impossible to overlook that they fought at different weights — especially Cotto, who weighed 154 for Mayweather and just 145 against Pacquiao; and the popular argument that Mayweather had softened them up first). Mayweather, on the other hand beat Marquez, a guy many believe bested Pacquiao one or two or maybe even three times, with utmost ease (though that was at a catch weight too ).

Previously, I believed that Pacquiao’s relentless activity, punching power and endless stamina would eventually wear down Mayweather en route to a points win. But I realised that was an oversimplification of the facts. It’s not that Mayweather doesn’t like to throw — he showed against Cotto that he can be a very active offensive fighter himself, landing 179 of 687 punches compared to 105 of 506 from Cotto — it’s just that he prefers to just do enough to win. That’s why Mayweather hasn’t been as impressive as Pacquiao in beating up some of their common opponents.

I was also wrong about Mayweather’s inability to throw combinations. Before this fight I thought he had become more of a pot shot puncher who threw only one or two punches at a time. But against Cotto, he was tearing it up with sick combinations from all angles. These combinations were different to Pacquiao’s, which tend to be quicker but wilder; Mayweather’s combinations were more methodical, not in rapid Pacquiao-like succession but each one was snappy and dead on the mark , and arguably, even more effective.

If the two were to match up now, you’d have to pick Mayweather, with his bigger size, longer reach and superior defense, as the favourite. As much as I like Pacquiao and want him to win, it’s time to face the reality of the situation.

But does that mean Pacquiao is sure to lose? I don’t think so either. After having watched Cotto land a few on Mayweather despite his orthodox style and plodding speed, I still believe Pacquiao has the best chance of beating Mayweather than anyone else on the planet. If Cotto could land some effective punches throughout the fight, then surely Pacquiao, with his blazing speed and footwork, could as well — and with greater snap and power. Pacquiao is also less likely to fade, as Cotto did a little when he put together a string of three solid rounds from around the mid-point of the fight. However, what I see as Pacquiao’s greatest advantages are his southpaw stance (kryptonite against the shoulder roll) and his bizarre punching angles and timing, which could catch Mayweather off guard. That said, Mayweather is better than adjusting mid-fight than anyone else in boxing, so perhaps that’s not saying much either.

What is maybe more worrying for Pacquiao now is Mayweather’s offense. We all know Pacquiao can get a little out of control at times, and against Mayweather, the ultimate counter puncher, he will surely pay for it. It might depend on how disciplined Pacquiao can be, because we know he’s going to be pissed off. I suppose what I am trying to say is that Mayweather might have become more of a favourite after the Cotto fight, but Pacquiao may also have a bigger chance of winning than he had before. Does that even make sense?

At the end of the day, there are going to be people from both camps who are going to defend their guy no matter what. Right now Mayweather seems to have the upper hand, but who knows if that will change if Pacquiao comes out and blasts Tim Bradley away on June 9.

So all of this back and forth banter between the two sides is rather pointless because no one will really know for sure until these two get it on. Unfortunately, right now it looks as unlikely as ever.

 
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