|ESPN.com: Boxing||[Print without images]|
The first and only time Juan Manuel Marquez fought as a welterweight, he was knocked down and dominated over 12 rounds by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September 2009. Two years and two months later, he'll be in the same MGM Grand ring in Las Vegas, fighting as a welterweight for a second time. But this time he is confident the outcome will be different -- not just because he has fought Saturday's opponent, Manny Pacquiao, before and not just because he has taken a different approach to building himself up to the requisite weight.
"The biggest difference, obviously, is that Mayweather doesn't come to fight," he told a small group of reporters at the MGM on Monday. "He's a defensive fighter, he's not going to give you anything." By contrast, "Pacquiao is a great fighter, a spectacular fighter who's coming for you. We're going to be ready for him, and if he makes a mistake, we're going to make him pay for it. The other guy wouldn't make a mistake. He wouldn't fight."
It is, Marquez said, Pacquiao's relentless aggression that, as well as making for more compelling viewing, makes him a better fit for the way he fights.
"They always say that styles make fights, and I think my style happens to be difficult," he said. "All boxers have a difficult opponent, and I guess my style is the most difficult for Pacquiao."
It's a sentiment with which the fight's promoter, Bob Arum, agrees.
"It really comes down to the fact that the style of Marquez is such that it will always give Manny Pacquiao trouble," Arum said. "Manny only knows one style, and that's to attack, and Marquez is probably the best counterpuncher in boxing today, and he gets aggressive off the counterpunching. That will still be there, and Marquez has great recuperative powers."
Even so, Arum acknowledges that, for this upcoming third contest between the two men, Pacquiao will be the favorite, although he insists that it isn't because this bout will be fought at welterweight -- 17 pounds heavier than their last encounter -- a division in which the Filipino has been comfortable for two years.
"Now, if there's a difference in the fight, it is not the weight, it is not the strength, because Marquez has bulked up," Arum said. "The one reason why you have to favor Pacquiao is because when Marquez fought him the first two times, Pacquiao was a one-handed fighter. And now Pacquiao not only has a right hand, but his right hand is as powerful as the left hand, which means that he is, to my knowledge, the only fighter around today who is a true switch-hitter, who can hit as hard with the right hand as the left hand -- which, incidentally, Mr. Mayweather knows, and that's why he'll never fight him."
Marquez, however, is unfazed by any developments in Pacquiao's technique and style.
"Obviously he's changed over the years," Marquez said. "He uses his right hand more, he has a little more speed. But obviously I know all of that, so I've adjusted my work to that. My strategy is to nullify all of that."
Marquez remains convinced that he won both their previous encounters -- a draw in 2004 in which the Mexican recovered from being knocked down three times in the first round, and a split-decision loss in 2008 in which Marquez again visited the canvas, albeit this time only once. The second bout, Marquez believes, was a particularly clear win, a result of which he had no doubt. And indeed, anyone who was present at the postfight press conference can attest to the strength of aggrieved feelings within Camp Marquez that night. His countrymen and supporters, the fighter says, feel the same way, and they tell him so at every opportunity, a gesture of faith he intends to repay.
"They always tell me, you won the first two fights, you can do it again," he said. "All the fans tell me, do it for us; do it for Mexico. And that's what I do it for. I do it for me and my family, for Mexico and for all the fans who have always supported me."