Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to growing old. Over the past year and change, his skills have worsened noticeably and his inability to record a knockout has become increasingly obvious. His inevitable decline coupled with the controversial manner in which he earned wins over Juan Manuel Marquez in the past make the pair’s highly anticipated Dec. 8 showdown a must-watch event.
Pacquiao and Marquez have squared off three times before. In 2004, on their first go-round, the pair fought to a draw that would have been a Pacquiao win if the match were scored correctly. In 2008, the rematch, Marquez put up a valiant effort that many felt was enough for victory – but the judges ultimately ruled in the Filipino champ’s favor. In their third and most recent battle, Pacquiao won a majority decision that fans in the stands vehemently objected to.
As it stands: Marquez has never beaten his arch rival, and Pacquiao has never knocked out his.
During a news conference in Los Angeles on Monday, Pacquiao left no doubt in anyone’s mind about what his intentions were heading into this fight. As noted by Dan Rafael of ESPN:
"I want to erase the doubt of the last three fights," Pacquiao said. "There's so many people still asking if I won the fights. I think to myself, 'Something is wrong. I have to do it again.' This time, I will train hard to put this fight up in the history of boxing. I want to make this fight short. I want to knock him out."
He’s right. Pacquiao hasn’t recorded a knockout since 2009, and his inability to do so is what cost him against Timothy Bradley this past June. Bradley didn’t win that fight, obviously, but it never should have come down to what a pair of incompetent judges thought. The Manny of old wouldn’t have let that massacre go 12 rounds.
Of course, Pacquiao isn’t the only one who’s going to be looking for a knockout.
"I think I won all of the last three fights," Marquez said. "I would like the referee to raise my hand. Everybody knows I won the fights, and I don't know what happened with the judges. I have to take it out of the judges' hands this time."
At the end of the day, how Pacquiao wins this showdown is just as important as if he wins it. The judges aren’t just going to hand him anything; in fact, they might even try to right some past wrongs unless they're really blown away by his performance.
If he doesn’t knock Marquez out, if he doesn’t dominate, don’t be surprised if Manny walks out of the ring on Dec. 8 with his second consecutive defeat and a one-way ticket to retirement.