Three things are certain in this world: 1.) Juan Manuel Marquez has been the biggest, most legitimate foe -- not named Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- to threaten Manny Pacquiao’s reign as the pound-for-pound king, 2.) Marquez may very well have been robbed in one of the two times that he met Pacquiao, 3.) Marquez has less than no chance of beating Pacquiao on November 12. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
The history between Pacquiao and Marquez has almost been as epic as the pair’s in-ring dramatics, and in order to understand how they’ve gotten to here, it’s important to examine their road to this point.
In 2004 the duo clashed for the first time, putting on a boxing exhibition of what technical skill, determination and heart were supposed to look like. During the first round, an especially aggressive Pacquiao caught a surprisingly lackadaisical Marquez with an ideally timed shot and sent him to the canvas. This would happen twice more, with Marquez getting dropped a total of three times before being mercifully saved by the end-of-round bell.
Shockingly enough, Marquez emerged in the second round -- and for the rest of the match, really -- as if the initial damage he took never happened. He counter-punched Pacquiao effectively, moved well, and seemingly had no trouble effortlessly winning the middle rounds. His display of heart and resolve after some initial tribulations won the judges over, and the match was eventually ruled a draw.
A case could have been made for either man winning that fight; however, going by the judges’ scorecards – Pacquiao should have won. After the fact, one of the judges -- who scored the match 113-113 -- later admitted that he incorrectly tabulated his score, and that if he had properly accounted for Pacquiao’s knockdown of Marquez, would have ruled the match in Pacquiao’s favor – thus giving the Filipino superstar a split decision victory.
In March 2008, Pacquiao and Marquez went to battle for the second time. Fans and critics alike hoped for a more clear victor this time around, but it was to no avail. Despite the fact that Marquez landed 21 percent of his jabs as opposed to the 14 percent that Pacquiao connected with, and 42 percent more power punches than the 37 percent than Pacquiao did, the judges ruled in favor of the future congressman. The judges’ 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113 scorecards showed that Pacquiao’s third-round knockdown of Marquez was ultimately the difference-maker in yet another close fight.
Almost immediately afterwards, Marquez and Golden Boy demanded a rematch. Richard Schaefer famously threw a $6 million guarantee down for the potential third-fight to what -- at the time -- was the most desired bout around, but Pacquiao and Top Rank rebuffed the offer. Despite Marquez’s best efforts to secure a third fight and an undeniable public sentiment that a third and deciding battle between Pacquiao and Marquez was the event that everyone wanted, Pacquiao instead opted to move up in weight and never look back again.
So, given how close the prior two matches were, how could anyone possibly justify Marquez not having a shot against Pacquiao this around? Easy. Times have changed.
When Pacquiao opted to move up in weight -- and the reasons for that are very debatable -- he consciously or unconsciously made one of the most brilliant decisions of his fighting career. For better or worse, it was at this point that he and his backers at Top Rank began to select opponents in a more thought-out and savvy manner, thus building up Pacquiao’s confidence and allowing him to grow and develop as a fighter without risking serious injury.
He fought Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton who appeared to be shells of their former selves by the time they took him on. He mercilessly pummeled Miguel Cotto. He had Joshua Clottey hiding behind his fists for the duration of their fight. He almost sent the notably larger Antonio Margarito to the morgue. And, most recently, he embarrassed a once-proud fighter in “Sugar” Shane Mosley to the point where the latter was begging his corner to throw in the towel.
Courtesy of Freddy Roach’s marvelous scheduling and coaching, Pacquiao invariably learned and developed new aspects to his fighting repertoire that hadn’t existed prior. And perhaps more importantly, he preserved himself and his body. Pacquiao evolved as a boxer from 2008 to 2010, all the while never sustaining any of the longstanding damage that typically comes with garnering that sort of experience.
In the mean time, Marquez was far less wise with his opponent selections. Although he matched up against, and ultimately beat the likes of Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz in the early going, his desire to compete seemed to dissipate. On one hand, he was willing to fight -- and get completely and utterly drummed by -- Mayweather, but on the other hand he also opted to go against the likes of Michael Katsidis and Likar Ramos. Sure, he embarrassed the latter in their recent fight, did anyone really anticipate a different outcome? Marquez was expected to be the winner either way, just not in the first round 40-something seconds in. Impressive? Yes. Earth-shattering? No.
Over the last few years, Pacquiao has developed and fine-tuned his style to no end. When the Filipino superstar starts to shift and move inward towards his opponents, it’s all but game over. He inevitably places himself in the best possible position to land quick, strong and efficient blows to his in-ring counterparts, all the while maintaining a good defensive stance.
In order for Pacquiao’s opponents to counteract the Filipino fighter’s brilliant position, they almost have to retreat and start their approach all over again. This is why so many of the matches in the latter portion of Pacquiao’s career feature his opponents running away from him. It’s not because they’re scared of the damage that he’ll inflict -- except Clottey and Mosley -- but rather, they’re in an impossible situation to do any damage of their own whenever Pacquiao moves in close.
Whereas Marquez has seemingly slowed down and become less athletic over the years, Pacquiao has gotten more refined and collected. He’s a smarter fighter now, and what he’s lost in internal hunger he’s more than made up for in lack of damage sustained. At no point over the last two to three years has Pacquiao ever taken a beating like the kind Marquez got from Mayweather.
Marquez is a good fighter, and his first two matches against Pacquiao were exhilarating to no end. He looked poised to end the Filipino star’s reign, and if Pacquiao and/or Top Rank had accepted that challenge for a third fight, history might be very different for all involved. But they didn’t, and history remains intact.
Marquez’s big dreams of beating Pacquiao are endearing in a way, but completely out of whack with reality. He’s done.
There is only one man in boxing who can compete, challenge and beat Manny Pacquiao, and as soon as Pacquiao is done systematically destroying Marquez, he’ll likely move on to face that man.