Manny Pacquiao entered each of his three previous showdowns versus Juan Manuel Marquez as a heavy favorite. There is a reason for that. The Filipino champion, for all of the criticism he has taken over the course of his career, has always been able to be quick and yet powerful in a way that few others in boxing have been over the last decade.
And while Marquez admittedly always put up an excellent fight (and in a lot of people’s eyes actually won at least one), it was always moreso because of how well his style matched up with Pacquiao’s, not because of any specific tools that Pacquiao was lacking.
Or at least that used to be the case.
This past June, when he lost to Timothy Bradley, for the first time in a long time Pacquiao couldn’t dominate an opponent he really should have dominated. Bradley was thoroughly and completely outfought from the onset. He was hobbled. He was hurt. And yet, for whatever reason, the Filipino champ just couldn’t put him out of his misery.
Now, it’s important to note two things here:
1.) He did technically dominate Bradley (the stats speak for themselves), he just wasn’t able to secure a knockout he should have been able to secure
2.) He has had past fights where he didn’t dominate, but that was because his opponents ran away from him. (Ex: Shane Mosley.)
Because of Pacquiao’s inability to put Bradley away (or knock anyone out in three years), he’s entering his fourth showdown against Marquez a favorite, but not as heavy a favorite as you would probably expect him to be. The reason that he’s lost some of his luster in oddsmakers' minds, apparently, is because they question whether he still has the sort of speed and power that made him who he was. Based on the Bradley fight we know he definitely still has speed – the doubts mainly surround the power.
During a recent interview, Nonito Donaire weighed in Pacquiao-Marquez IV and offered up some interesting takes on that very topic.
When asked who he was picking this one, Donaire said this (via Chris Robinson of The Examiner):
“For me, I’m always going to go with somebody who has that advantage. And I think that Manny, who has speed and his power, and if he can push it, I think that he’s going to win the fight. I think if Manny can bring in his speed and be smart about it like he has in the beginning; just that sheer, raw talent that he has, that raw energy that he has, I think that he can overwhelm Marquez.”
While Donaire was obviously leaning Pacquiao, he was careful to caution fans not to get overconfident about what would happen.
“But again, Marquez already has his number," he said. “Both fighters know each other well. It might look to be the same type of fight to me. Unless somebody has a different idea heading into this fight, I think it’s going to be a close fight.”
He’s right. Marquez had Pacquiao’s number before the champ lost a step, so it’s only reasonable to assume that the same would hold true now. At the same time, Marquez is 39 years old. Because of his style he has been able to avoid some of the pitfalls that usually take fighters down as they age, but he’s still not immune to the process.
This is a make or break fight for Pacquiao. If he can show that he still has his signature speed-power combination, that will make folks feel a lot better about next year’s inevitable Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. Dream Match. If he can’t show that he still has it, though, the Filipino champ might opt to hang up his gloves a lot sooner than any of us previously thought he would.