On Saturday night, after nothing but brutal, taxing rounds – Manny Pacquiao was convinced that he had lost to Juan Manuel Marquez.
You don’t need to be a body language expert to distinguish the difference in moods between Pacquiao and Marquez when the bell sounded following the 12th round.
Marquez was jovial, his head was held high and his arms were raised even higher. Without even hearing the final decision he knew that he had shocked the world and made a legitimate fight out what most assumed would be a massacre. He had won, and there was no doubt in his mind that he had won.
Conversely, Pacquiao’s slumped shoulders and lowered head told a very different story. He had come into this bout with the burden of an expected knock out and a clear-cut objective to prove once and for all that he was better than the man who had claimed to have beaten him twice before. Only he wasn’t. The same exact technique that stumped the Filipino champion in 2004 when this pair met for the first time was still effective all these years later. When the fight ended, you could clearly see it on Pacquiao’s face; he believed that he had gotten defeated. He knelt in his corner and prayed quietly, hoping that what he expected to happen wouldn’t ultimately come to fruition.
Of course, we all know what happened from there. Two out of three judges gave the match to Pacquiao, the crowd booed, and some (read: we) called it an absolute robbery. Heck, earlier today Opposing Viewspublished a detailed analysis of precisely why it was a robbery.
But something interesting has happened over the last 24 hours. The once beloved Pacquiao has become vilified by the fans and media who believe he caught a break he didn’t deserve yesterday – and the response has been enormous.
It all began right after the announcement of the decision on Saturday night, when fans rained down random foods and drinks onto the ring to express their anger at the end result.
The reaction then spread online to Twitter and various blogs, with folks everywhere proclaiming that Pacquiao was neither the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world nor as good as he had previously been rated. Shockingly, only Floyd Mayweather Jr. reserved his opinion on what transpired on the eve of November 12, though you can bet that the silence won’t last long.
And lastly came the pundits. They absolutely tore into Pacquiao, but the rhetoric was very different than your typical, unbiased, detached boxing analysis. Most of the folks correctly pointed out that Pacquiao got outclassed and outhustled throughout, but they did it with a twang of attitude. A certain negativity and mean-spiritedness that felt like it was the byproduct of built-up aggression against the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The hostility was palpable.
Look, there are plenty of things to dislike about Pacquiao. His tendency to blindly follow promoter Bob Arum springs to mind. The way he’s handled Mayweather hasn’t been great either.
But that doesn’t make this ridiculous vilification that has occurred over the last day right. Pacquiao came in with a ton of expectations for a quick knock out, and Marquez came in playing with house money. The latter fighter had nothing to lose and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that deep down, everyone is rooting for you to upset the other guy.
Pacquiao ended up winning. He shouldn’t have won. The match should have been a draw or a Marquez win – nobody is denying that. However, how is the crazy judgment of two out of three bad judges the Filipino champion’s fault?
After the victory, despite the fact that he knew Marquez had his number, Pacquiao immediately said he would agree to a rematch versus Marquez.
“Yes I want to give him a rematch,” he said after the bout.
No ducking, no excuses. A straight-up answer.
What more could he do?
This vitriol that’s suddenly been directed at Pacquiao, frankly, is mind-blowing. It’s amazing how quickly folks will turn on you.
At the end of the day, maybe we’ll get the fourth installment of Pacquiao vs. Marquez. Maybe we won’t. If we don’t, perhaps this will ultimately pave the way for the Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight the world has been pining away for.
Either way, though – let’s appreciate Saturday night’s showing for what it was. Two of the best in the world going at it, proving that fights aren’t won on paper, and reviving intrigue in a sport that seems to grab the front of sports pages once every six months.
Both Pacquiao and Marquez are special boxers, and there is no need to denigrate or tear down or shred one to be able to fully appreciate the other.