When Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez launched their rivalry in a May 2004 featherweight title fight, Pacquiao already had won belts at junior bantamweight and flyweight, was recognized as The Ring's then-current featherweight lineal champ and was coming off a ballyhooed beat down of Marco Antonio Barrera.
Marquez, age 30 at the time, was the older fighter by five years, held two belts at 126 pounds and was considered the superior technician, but had no signature wins of his own. When they squared off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, neither could have known how significantly the other would shape his career -- or that more than eight years later they would be set to climb into that same ring at the MGM on Dec. 8 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) to face each other for a fourth time, undoubtedly further defining each other's fighting legacies.
ESPN.com enlisted HBO to gather the fighters' thoughts as they reviewed each of their first three bouts and looked ahead to fight No. 4. Today, Pacquiao and Marquez discuss their first clash.
The first fight with Juan Manuel Marquez was very exciting. Everyone was saying that it was a matchup between the two best featherweights, and that was contagious to me. I trained very hard with Freddie Roach and I was really looking forward to it.
After I knocked Marquez down for the third time in the first round and I headed back to the corner, I was thinking, It's over. If I throw a few more left hands, I've got him and I can end this in the second round. Freddie was telling me the same thing.
So I threw more lefts at Marquez, but the problem was I didn't land them this time. I might have been a little impatient trying to end the fight, and looking back now those misses gave him time to recuperate a bit and adjust his game plan against me.
I was really surprised at how hard Marquez fought and got himself back into the fight. That really impressed me. But better than that, we gave the fans a great fight to watch.
Toward the latter rounds, because I was wearing socks that were very thin, I had developed blisters on my feet, making it very difficult for me to move as effectively as I had during the earlier rounds. I had to fight more flat-footed than we had trained. After the fight, when I took my boots off, my socks were worn through and they were very bloody.
Going into the last two rounds of the fight, Freddie told me I had to really pick it up and take the last two rounds to "seal the deal," which I did. No question, I won those last two rounds and I hurt him in the 12th round when he came out in a southpaw stance and I was able to land some very hard shots. I remember him looking unsteady after I hit him.
It was called a draw, but if the one judge had correctly scored the first round 10–6 [accounting for the three knockdowns] instead of 10-7, I would have won the decision. But then again, maybe we wouldn't have had the great fights together that followed if he had.
Juan Manuel Marquez
I was very excited to face Manny Pacquiao. In his previous fight, he had moved up to featherweight and totally destroyed Marco Antonio Barrera in impressive fashion. After seeing that fight, my trainer Nacho Beristain and I put in the hardest training camp I had ever had in preparation for defending my titles against Pacquiao.
In the first minute of the fight, I was getting to Pacquiao easily. He seemed very tentative, and I decided this would be a good time to be more aggressive -- as a surprise attack -- and back him up.
But I got careless because of the early success I had with my aggressive offensive attack, and Pacquiao caught me twice with punches I didn't even see. His speed and his movement were extraordinary.
When I got up from the first two knockdowns, I was even more determined to get him. I was impatient and careless, and that was a mistake because he knocked me down a third time. This time I saw the punch but I couldn't block it. As I went down that third time in Round 1, all I could think about was all the work that I had done for this fight and how I wasn't going to allow it to be wasted in the first round.
I got up, went to my corner and didn't feel all that bad physically because my conditioning was great.
In the corner between rounds, Nacho emphasized that there were still 11 rounds left in this fight and that if I stuck to our training camp strategy, I could pull myself out of the hole that had me down so deep after just one round. "Win one round at a time. You can do it. This is still your fight to win. You're the better and more complete fighter," Nacho said.
After a tough second round, I got my legs under me and [I thought] won the next 10 rounds. I attacked him before he could get set and stayed away from his left hand. He had no other weapons besides his left and he had no answers to my counterpunching and movement.
I got up from three first-round knockdowns and gave him a boxing lesson for the final 10 rounds. I won the fight, no doubt in my mind, and I'm sure there was no doubt in Pacquiao's either.