Finally, a win for Juan
So here we are yet again for a Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. It's No. 4, for those counting at home, and even though Pacquiao leads the all-time action series 2-0-1, he could easily be 0-3. Or 3-0. Or 1-1-1. Or 0-0-3.
In other words, the guys are made for each other, and their fights were that close.
Pacquiao is usually the aggressor, and Marquez is a great counterpuncher. They go together like peas in a pod, and through three fights -- however you saw them -- I'll bet you one thing: You scored all three of them close.
For the record, I had Marquez winning the first and second fights (despite getting knocked down three times in the first round of the first fight and also getting dropped in the second fight). I scored last November's third bout a draw, even though it seems that's the fight more people thought Marquez won than any other.
So when the editor emailed and said he needed a Hot Button pick for the fourth fight, my thought was, I have no idea whom to pick.
Based on their history, it's as much a 50-50 fight as I've ever seen. I simply have no real feel for exactly how it will go other than to believe it will be close. Honestly, I can see it going either way. I could even see either guy getting a knockout in a competitive fight. I could see another draw. Who knows?
But they force you to make a pick around these here parts, so I'm riding with the guy I had winning two fights so far, and that's Marquez.
I wish for a knockout, but alas, I have a hard time imagining a truly definitive outcome. And why wouldn't I? I was ringside for the first three bouts, and the fighters are essentially even-up after 36 rounds, with the only rounds that were truly decisive being those in which Marquez got knocked down and probably the second round of the first fight, when he was still clearing the cobwebs.
So based on my theory that we're going to see another tight fight, I think it's a law-of-averages thing. Eventually, Marquez is going to get the nod, whether he deserves it or not.
The judges are human. They know the history of this rivalry. So if there's a close round, which we all expect there to be plenty of, it isn't unreasonable to assume a judge might give Marquez the benefit of the doubt this time. That doesn't mean they're doing anything inappropriate. It's just human nature.
I think Marquez also has a slight advantage in that Adalaide Byrd, a longtime Nevada judge, will be an official ringside scorer. She was in New York last week as a judge for the Austin Trout-Miguel Cotto fight, which Trout won by a wide decision. Trout, like Marquez, is a counterpuncher. Byrd obviously likes counterpunchers. She gave Trout 11 out of the 12 rounds in a fight that most thought was at least two rounds closer. If Marquez counters as usual, expect Byrd's card to go his way. And this time, I think, at least one other judge will feel the same way and Marquez will finally get an official victory.
Fight No. 5 anyone? (Joking!)
This time, Manny leaves no doubt
Deep inside, there's likely a part of all of us that's involuntarily rooting for Juan Manuel Marquez to finally record a long-awaited victory over Manny Pacquiao in their fourth fight on Saturday.
It would only be fair, really, after Marquez was dealt such an unlucky hand going 0-2-1 despite three sensational performances against one of the greatest fighters of the modern era in the past eight years.
But if you're looking to handicap their fourth fight based on prior performances against each other, the only fight in the series that's applicable at this point is last year's meeting, their third. And even though Marquez exceeded expectations with an inspired performance at a catchweight of 144 pounds -- deserving better than the majority decision defeat he received -- there were telling clues hidden beneath the surface concerning how a fourth fight might play out.
The argument for a Marquez victory last November was built mainly upon his clean and heavy counterpunching in the first six rounds, when Pacquiao, almost exclusively the aggressor throughout the rivalry, was unsuccessful in the execution of his game plan to simply counter the counterpuncher.
But when Pacquiao, who later admitted to having overlooked Marquez heading into the fight, made the tactical adjustment in the seventh round to step up his activity level and go back on the offensive, the tenor of the fight began to change in his favor.
It's no secret that Pacquiao has been at his best in this series when taking the lead and getting off first -- a style that produced a total of four knockdowns in their first two bouts, saving Pacquiao both times on the scorecards. Considering that he and trainer Freddie Roach have predicted a return of the PacMan of old, it's a strategy that will only benefit Pacquiao in the face of judges who have historically rewarded his activity and advantages in punching power throughout the closer rounds in the rivalry.
Marquez was partially criticized for taking his foot off the gas late in their third fight, allowing Pacquiao to complete a spirited rally by stealing a series of close rounds. But it just as easily could have been fatigue from a fighter who, just shy of 40, emptied the tank completely for one final stand at the highest level.
There's no doubt that Pacquiao, at 33, is the fresher fighter. It also can't be overstated just how unprepared for the third fight Pacquiao was, with his marriage on the rocks after an admittedly tumultuous and distracted training camp. Not to mention, lost in his robbery defeat against Timothy Bradley Jr. in June was a thorough domination by Pacquiao of a young, tough and unbeaten fighter.
Agreeing to a fourth fight with Marquez could be seen as mostly a money grab for Team Pacquiao, but it's also a chance to finally put to rest the doubts lingering over his 2-0-1 record in the first three bouts -- something that means more to the Filipino icon than is adequately reported or, for that matter, believed.
Marquez is too proud and too tough to see his final chance at defeating Pacquiao end in a knockout defeat, as Roach has predicted. But in his own way, the old warrior will go out on his shield just the same, losing a decision that, for the first time in the rivalry, will come without dispute or controversy.
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