In today’s cartoonish boxing world, it’s a little staggering when you see a pre-fight press conference that doesn’t devolve into a pretend fight that was choreographed beforehand. And yet, when Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez met for a recent press conference to hype their November 12 showdown, there were none of the usual shenanigans.
Needless to say, it was very refreshing.
So what sparked the maturity that we so rarely see from fighters these days? Is it a matter of both men being too old for that kind nonsense? Is there already enough hype for the fight for them to not need to go into sideshow-mode with a tired, old bit? Or, perhaps, do the two guys actually like and respect one another, despite their somewhat controversial history?
All signs point to the answer being behind door No. 3.
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By this point, everyone knows what has transpired between Pacquiao and Marquez over the last seven years. The pair originally met in 2004 and fought to a very contentious draw, with both men maintaining they deserved the victory. Then in 2008, they met for a second time, with Pacquiao ultimately emerging victorious – much to Marquez’s chagrin.
Marquez, of course, famously contested the end result of both matches for years. He desperately wanted a rematch to prove that he was better than Pacquiao, and even went so far as to travel to the Philippines to issue a challenge in person. He also took to wearing a shirt on which he frankly maintained that he had won both bouts against his Filipino counterpart.
Three years and change have passed since these two have last squared off, and this Saturday’s showing promises to be crucial to both men’s legacies. Marquez, for his part, needs to defy nearly everyone’s forecast and avoid an early-round knock out blow from the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Pacquiao, on the flip side, has to put Marquez down quickly – understanding full well that folks don’t want to see this go down to a decision.
And yet despite everything that’s on the line for both fighters, they seem strangely at peace around one another. Beyond the general competitiveness that you would expect from any pair of rivals, they are very cordial and respectful to each other.
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Neither one appears willing to take the bait as it relates to bashing the other too much.
"A lot of people know me. I don't like talking outside of the ring," Marquez said recently. "I do my job in the ring and I prepare myself very hard because I want to give another great show, another great fight."
Pacquiao was similarly hesitant to partake in too much pre-fight trash talk.
"I'm always praying," said Pacquiao. "Not praying for myself, but for all the fighters who are going to fight on Saturday, especially my opponent, that nobody will get hurt. Well, I mean badly hurt."
Who knows, perhaps this is the dawning of a new age. Maybe fighters will finally realize that their dumb, predictable pre-fight antics don’t really build up enthusiasm for coming fights so much as they insult the intelligence of the fans.
Either way, whether or not this becomes protocol, it’s nice to see Pacquiao and Marquez -- two veterans in the sport -- take the lead and show the rest of boxing how it’s done.