Fight Review: Pacquiao-Marquez I

We can't predict what will happen Saturday in Las Vegas, but a review of the first two fights between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez can certainly give us a notion of how their third bout might play out. Today, we analyze their first matchup.

Pacquiao-Marquez I
May 8, 2004
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas

It seems like ages ago when Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez first met in the ring -- and in some ways, it was. Marquez was 30, Pacquiao just 25, yet each already had a career's worth of ring experience: Pacquiao was 38-2-1 with 29 KOs, Marquez was 42-2-0 with 33 KOs. Marquez came in holding the WBA and IBF featherweight belts, but with no signature wins over a big-time opponent. Pacquiao was coming off a giant win over Marco Antonio Barrera less than six months earlier. How long ago was this? The undercard featured prospect Miguel Cotto, his hair in cornrows.

Pacquiao approached the ring bouncing and smiling, wearing a bright red sash knotted Asian-style around his head, a white hooded robe, and vivid red trunks with gold flames on the legs. Marquez wore a classic white robe over a white towel with a head hole cut in it, and white shorts trimmed with red. Both had weighed in at 125 pounds. Judges Burt Clements, Guy Jutras and John Stewart sat at ringside. Referee Joe Cortez told the boxers he expected una pelea limpia -- a clean fight -- and they were under way.

Round 1: Pacquiao's devastating assault

Both fighters come out jumpy, parrying and sending out quick feeler shots. Sometimes, when fighters stay contained and defensive, it's not immediately clear there's a lefty-versus-righty matchup, but here it's obvious, with the left-handed Pacquiao and orthodox Marquez stretched out and moving, their jabbing arms extended like mirror images, their backs facing the same side of the ring. Inside a minute, Pacquiao touches Marquez with a right, and Marquez returns fire with a left hook to the body and a right over the top. He can compete on speed. At center ring, Marquez lands two more quick shots that make Pacquiao hop back half a step. Pacquiao jabs and thinks he's created a hole, but Marquez clocks him with a short left jab and a right that sends him back again toward the ropes. Then, as quickly as Pacquiao can bounce off the ropes, the momentum shifts.

Pacquiao nearly runs forward, and before the TV announcers are done describing Marquez's small flurry, Pacquiao has feinted with his right jab, landed a jab and smacked Marquez with a straight left that ushers him to a seat on the canvas, with 1:31 left in the round. Marquez stands up by the count of five, then Pacquiao gets really busy, jumping in with combos: Jab-left, jab-jab-left. On the third set, he plasters Marquez in the face and puts him down again, with more than a minute still to go in the round. Marquez again flings himself upright within moments. Pacquiao chases him across the ring and catches him with a lead left and a right that sends Marquez falling backward onto the ropes, adding a left to the ear as Marquez sprawls like a crab, before Cortez intervenes to start the third knockdown count of the round. Lying on his back, Marquez puts his gloves over his face. He takes eight to rise this time. There are 32 second left in the worst round of his life. Pacquiao lands a big left. Then another, and another. But Marquez stands his ground -- even fires back. Finally, the barrage lets up and the bell rings.

Round 2: Marquez resets

Pacquiao continues to fire his deadly straight left to the face of Marquez, which is reddened by a bloody, broken nose. Marquez backs up and tries to get a read on Pacquiao's timing. Halfway into the round, Pacquiao comes in with a flurry and Marquez leans back, then repels him with a left jab, a right cross to the head and a digging left uppercut. It calms Pacquiao down a little. Marquez is ducking and countering. He's starting to do what he was supposed to do. Still, he throws and lands at about half of Pacquiao's punch output for the round.

Rounds 3-6: Marquez counters and controls

For Marquez, Round 3 starts as a range-finding, recalibrating period. He counters when he can, slinging body shots and quick flurries when Pacquiao overextends himself and leans in. Back in the corner after Round 3, pushing a Vaseline-gobbed swab into Marquez's bloody nose, trainer Nacho Berestain tells his fighter that he won the last two rounds, but advises: "Don't let him catch you like he did in the first round." Ya think?

In Round 4, Marquez continues to counter effectively and close the gap in scoring. Halfway through the fifth, Marquez catches Pacquiao leaning in and rocks his head back with a hard right. Pacquiao raises his arms -- his way of signaling he's OK and girding for a rebuttal -- and comes back with two big lefts. But as he moves forward to follow up, Marquez sticks a hard jab in his face. Marquez scores with a right-hand lead and a left-hand body shot, smacks Pacquiao to the ropes, and Pacquiao bounces off, his fists flying. Pacquiao has a small cut on his right eyelid. In Round 6, Marquez connects with a big, hooking right over Pacquiao's held-low left that nearly wobbles Pacquiao, driving him to the ropes. Pacquiao springs back again, shooting punches. But the round ends with another series of effective blows from Marquez. Pacquiao's punch output is down to 35 for Round 6, after totals of 73 and 77 in the opening rounds.

Rounds 7-10: Pacquiao adjusts, reasserts

In the corner, trainer Freddie Roach urges Pacquiao to use a double jab with a left behind it to back up Marquez and stop him from controlling the fight. Pacquiao responds and reasserts his offense in Round 7, connecting with a hard, straight left to Marquez's face as the frame ends. The pace slows in the eighth as the fighters parry and spy for openings, and it picks up again in the ninth as Pacquiao rediscovers his rhythm. Pacquiao's rushes are working again, though not always; about half the time he's getting clipped by Marquez on the way in. The difference comes whenever Marquez disrupts Pacquiao's charge into the neutral zone.

This late in the fight, some of the quick-twitch movement that got Marquez through the post-barrage early rounds has faded. He continues to counter and stage offensive bursts, but by the 10th he's leaning and lunging more with his punches, and Pacquiao is having better success with his punching raids, finding a home with his damaging straight left again.

Rounds 11-12: Scrapping for advantage

The tired fighters trade flurries at a slower interval, each looking for openings, counters and potshot opportunities. Pacquiao's left is still dangerous. Marquez's missile-command defense is shot up but still operable. At the 10-second clapper of Round 11, they both swing freely, but none of the shots solidly score. Neither takes the round decisively.

In the corner, Roach asks Pacquiao for a double left. Berestain tells Marquez he's ahead in the fight. The fighters touch gloves for the final round. The crowd stands. Marquez fires more early on, as they revolve in the ring. Pacquiao lands a few lefts. Marquez shoots in some rights to the head and body. Neither scores heavily as they dance to the final bell.

Aftermath: Too close to call

During the fight, both men showed a mix of youthful tenacity and veteran's ability to learn and adapt. Each had to adjust, solve his opponent and surge back more than once to defy a relentless beating. That Pacquiao was able to summon it last displayed fortitude that many devastating sluggers lack, because they usually don't need it.

The final PunchStat numbers: Pacquiao threw more punches (639 to 547). Marquez landed more -- with a 29 percent connect rate to Pacquiao's 23 percent. But Pacquiao's connect rate was higher for power shots. The judges' scores come in and diverge widely, reflecting three distinct opinions. Stewart has it 115-110 for Pacquiao. Jutras has it 115-110 for Marquez. Clements has it 113-113. It's a draw. Marquez keeps his title belts. It's revealed that Clements scored the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao instead of the 10-6 score that a three-knockdown round normally should get. Had he made it 10-6, Pacquiao would be a split-decision winner. Fans were thrilled, but neither fighter left satisfied.

• Pacquiao-Marquez II Fight Review

Don Steinberg, a winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America's award for best column in 2005, covers boxing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.