5 reasons Pacquiao will beat Marquez
LAS VEGAS -- The previous two bouts between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez offer ample opportunity for in-depth analysis of Saturday's fight at the MGM Grand. The strengths and weaknesses of both fighters are evidenced in the extraordinary 24 rounds that already have been disputed between them, and it's clear even after the years that have passed since then that many of those traits have held up over time and will play a key role in the outcome of the fight ahead.
When they met both times years ago, the fighters appeared evenly matched in key areas, but over time Pacquiao has grown (or at least maintained his skills) more than Marquez in most cases. Based on that assessment, it seems Marquez will have more trouble trying to look good enough to clinch a points victory. Pacquiao has plenty of tools in his bag of tricks, but to beat Marquez he will likely have to use some combination of these five features:
Bigger is better
The fast-paced action of the first two fights is long gone. Both fighters have grown to become small welterweights now, and even though both of them have done a commendable job of adding pounds without losing speed or mobility, it's clear they won't be as swift as they were in their first two encounters. That said, it is Pacquiao who has been more comfortable and seemingly a more natural fit at the new weight, carrying his strength (he hasn't been knocked down in three fights above 140) with him as he has moved up. Marquez, on the other hand, was pummeled by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his lone fight thus far at welterweight, and lately he has struggled even at his natural weight of 135. Pacquiao, who has somehow found a way to make the most of his extra weight, has a big edge here.
Settle the score and move on
Pacquiao has a way of winning fights decisively. If he fails to score a knockout, he outpunches his opponent so convincingly that he typically leaves no doubt about who won a fight even before the scorecards are read. Against Marquez, he faces a man who still believes he won both their past battles (a draw and a Pacquiao decision), and who firmly believes he can win again. Because Marquez still hasn't claimed an official victory against Pacquiao, the onus would seem to be on him. But in truth, Pacquiao should feel pressure to put a conclusive end to their rivalry and demonstrate that even the most efficient game plan for defeating him can be defused. He'll be motivated to send a message to Mayweather and teach him a lesson about how to put on an exciting fight, as a prelude to what could prove to be the greatest match in modern boxing. This motivation will prove decisive if Pacquiao gets a chance to step on the gas and score a highlight-reel stoppage. No merciful calls for the ref to stop the carnage, as in the Antonio Margarito fight. This time, someone's gotta go down.
Anything you can do
In the first two fights, Pacquiao was always a step ahead of Marquez in speed, mobility and punching accuracy, among other things. It seemed the Filipino congressman was able to outperform Marquez in every aspect of the fight, either by the slightest edge or a wide margin. And there is nothing in the previous fights of either man that suggests a decisive change in strategy that could translate into a reversal of fortune. In other words, Pacquiao should continue to outdo Marquez in almost every area, unless he gets carried away and falls into one of Marquez's many traps. Marquez has a way of prompting an opponent to lunge, allowing the Mexican to apply his fabulous counterpunching skills. But if Pacquiao waits for Marquez to attack him instead of jumping out of his range and into his comfort zone, he will still hold an advantage in every aspect of the fight, just as he did in the two previous encounters.
Power, power, power
The theory that more weight brings more power isn't always true. But in this case, it is. Despite the fact that Pacquiao hasn't scored a knockout in his three fights at 147 or above, it was clear in all of those bouts that he was the power puncher in the ring -- be it against Joshua Clottey, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley or even a much bigger Margarito. In other words, Pacquiao is a proven puncher who can rumble with bigger guys while not showing any visible chin problems. Marquez, on the other hand, is making only his second appearance above 140 (not counting the Likar Ramos fiasco) after his dismal appearance against Mayweather. The question is not if, but rather when, Pacquiao will land his big bombs. And from that moment on, the fight could turn into an ugly affair for Marquez, who has been checked by much smaller fighters as recently as two fights ago and isn't getting any stronger at this age.
Time on his side
With rare exceptions, it's true that the most thrilling trilogies in boxing happen within a restricted time frame that allows the fighters to keep their momentum going and to approach the rematch and the subsequent rubber match with the same intensity, knowing they'll be fighting the same fighter with the same strengths and weaknesses from the previous fight. Not true in this case. From their ages (almost 33 for Pacquiao, a whopping 38 for Marquez) to their accumulation of knowledge and skill over the years, both are now very different fighters than those who gave us those extraordinary fights back in '04 and '08. Yet if someone has benefited from that long stretch between fights, it's Pacquiao, who has learned to use his right hand with greater efficiency, has noticeably improved his defense, and has become a far better all-around fighter than the relatively crude brawler he was against Marquez the first times around. If Pacquiao can turn this fight into a showcase of his improvements over the past two or three years, Marquez will definitely feel he's fighting a completely different boxer, and his old recipe for success against Pacquiao will prove less effective than it was in the first fights.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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