One second after it was announced that Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez would meet in the ring for the third time on November 12 of this year, the end result was deemed a foregone conclusion.
Everyone ranging from pundits to fans to odds makers unanimously came together and anointed Pacquiao the winner, no ands, ifs or ors about it.
In fact, aside from Teddy Atlas and 90-year-old Angelo Dundee, there hasn’t been a single notable boxing personality who has suggested the impossible will happen – that Old Man Marquez will pull off an upset against his Filipino counterpart.
And therein may lay the problem for Pacquiao.
For all of the talk about how he’s a politician, athlete and unique, one-of-a-kind human being, it’s also worth noting what Pacquiao is first and foremost – a competitor. It was his inherent need to compete and be the best in the sport which made him an international icon that catapulted Manny slowly but surely from “pretty good” to “very good” to “amazing” and, finally, to “the best.”
It was his need to prove that no opponent was too big, long or strong that motivated the Filipino champion to hold titles in eight different division. And it’s that same essential need to compete that has caused him to keep trekking through the present-day boxing landscape, even though worthy fighters are scarce.
Without that need to compete -- which he is clearly lacking this time around -- it will be interesting to see how fiery Pacquiao will be coming out of the gate on November 12. Equally fascinating will be seeing what kind of intensity Pacquiao exhibits throughout the rest of the match.
Already, his conditioning coach Alex Ariza is planting the seeds for his fighter. He doesn’t just believe that Pacquiao will win, rather, he’s expecting a full on knockout victory.
“It (knockout) will be earlier than you would think,” Ariza told the Inquirer, when asked if the two fighters’ past will come into play.
“[Pacquiao] is more complete now. He has much more speed, power and explosiveness.”
Ariza, of course, wasn’t in Pacquiao’s corner back in 2008 when he defeated Marquez in that classic duel. A duel, mind you, that many observers maintained that Marquez deserved to win. Despite his lack of experience against one of the more noteworthy characters from Pacquiao’s past, Ariza has seemingly made it a personal mission to taunt Marquez. Not too long ago, he went on record saying that the Filipino champion would “wreck” his opponent when it was all said and done.
While it may have initially appeared as though Ariza was just being boastful, perhaps he was really just giving his fighter some much-needed motivation. It’s a given that Pacquiao will defeat Marquez when they square off, but by putting the prospect of a knockout out there, Ariza is giving Pacquiao something to shoot for.
Who knows? Perhaps all of this is unnecessary talk. Maybe Pacquiao is so much better than Marquez at this point in their respective careers that it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s properly motivated.
But maybe it does. And if it does, Marquez may have finally found the chink in Pacquiao’s armor that he’s so desperately searched for.