Pacquiao-Marquez strictly business

Despite three action-packed fights, fighters void of love or hate for each other

Updated: December 6, 2012, 12:55 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- The rivalry between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, which has stretched across nine years and three brutal fights, has left boxing fans with indelible memories of their violent confrontations and the fighters with no more or less personal passion for each other than when they started.

As they head into a fourth fight Saturday (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET, $59.95) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, both are hungry for a definitive victory in a series that so far has produced three controversial decisions: a draw in a 2004 featherweight championship fight, and two incredibly close wins for Pacquiao -- a split decision in a 2008 junior lightweight title fight, and a majority decision in a welterweight title fight in November 2011.

Yet through it all, Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) and Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) have remained all business with each other, evoking neither love nor hate.

"I don't think they feel anything [toward each other.] I find not even a hint of interaction between the two," Top Rank's Bob Arum, who has been the promoter or co-promoter for each chapter of the series, said before the final news conference Wednesday. "I think there's maybe some animosity on Marquez's part because he didn't get decisions he thought he was entitled to, but he doesn't hold it against Pacquiao. And Pacquiao respects Marquez. What's not to respect? But there's no real feeling between the two that I can sense. Nothing."

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, also sees no particular relationship between the fighters.

"They're both gentlemen. They have no dislike for each other, but they're not friendly, either," Roach said. "There's just no emotion. They're not bad with each other, but they're not overly friendly. They'll say hi to each other and that's about it."

To Marquez, his relationship with Pacquiao is easy to explain.

"I think that the relationship with him is one of respect," Marquez said. "It is a professional relationship and the last three fights we have had were wars, so I know he respects me and I respect him."

So often in boxing, fighters who face each other multiple times develop some sort of lasting bond, for good or bad.

Sometimes the fighters become great friends, as Micky Ward did with the late Arturo Gatti during their legendary trilogy. They became so close that Ward, who retired after their third fight in 2003, later trained Gatti.

Pacquiao and Erik Morales, who fought three times, also became friends, to the point that Morales even traveled to Pacquiao's home country of the Philippines to shoot a beer commercial with him -- then party with him afterward.

Arum has seen fighters go both ways. He saw the good of the friendship forged between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, who famously fought six times, and the bad of the sour relationship between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, whose trilogy is perhaps boxing's most famous.

"[A friendship] never quite happened with Ali and Frazier because of a resentment on Frazier's part," said Arum, who promoted more than 20 Ali fights. "But generally there was great love and affection between LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson. At the time I was promoting the [Marvin] Hagler-[Thomas] Hearns fight, Jake was getting married again at the Barbary Coast [in Las Vegas] and they had the wedding ceremony the night before the fight. The best man at the wedding was Ray Robinson.

"I asked Jake later why he was the best man at the wedding and he said, 'No, [Robinson] is the best man. He beat me five out of six times.' They just had a great love for each other."

Other rivals can't stand the sight of each other, as is the case with Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, who also fought a historic trilogy during the 2000s.

"And they still can't stand each other," said Arum, who promoted their three fights.

Ward and Gatti did not know each other particularly well before their first fight, but by the third, they had developed a friendship, even though it did not prevent them from trying to take each other's head off when the bell rang.

"You fight three fights like me and Arturo did and you have two choices," Ward said. "You can either become enemies or you can be friends. With me and Arturo, it was friends. Whatever the choice is, there will be respect."

Pacquiao and Marquez, apparently, have not gotten that memo. While they do respect each other, there is no other relationship to speak of, positively or negatively.

"I don't see them being friends after the fights like Morales and Pacquiao," said Fernando Beltran, the Mexican promoter who handles Marquez and used to co-promote Morales. "Morales went to the Philippines and got drunk with Manny after they did a commercial. There were no hard feelings and they were hugging each other. I don't see Marquez doing that with Manny. Marquez is different. He sees this as a business. He's a professional."

Said Arum: "They don't react to each other. They're polite and nice to each other but there's no real reaction."

About the closest thing they have done that might suggest a relationship came during a promotional appearance in Mexico City on a television show on TV Azteca, where they sang a duet.

"I remember that I was more on key than he was," Pacquiao said jokingly.

Other than that, there is precious little emotion when they talk about each other. Pacquiao weakly proclaimed that they are friends, even though there is no evidence of it.

"We are friends outside the ring, but inside the ring we have a job to do," Pacquiao said. "All my opponents, I have always treated them as my friend, my brother. We are just doing our job in the ring. We have a job to do, to do our best and make the people happy. I never hate my opponent outside of the ring. It is just my job to fight and there is nothing personal. I guess we are kind of friends because I look at all of my opponents as a friend."

Roach is not quite as detached about Marquez.

"I can't stand it because he says he won all three times and it pisses me off," Roach said. "But not Manny. Manny's a gentleman and I'm not. But the thing is, Manny doesn't see people that way. Manny is an easygoing guy. He doesn't hate anyone. It's a sport to Manny. It's nothing personal."

If Marquez has any beef, it is not with Pacquiao. It is a grudge against the judges he believes cheated him out of victories in all three fights, especially the one in November 2011.

"I think we respect each other as professionals. We're professional boxers. We both do our jobs," Marquez said. "But after what happened in the first three fights I don't think we can ever have a personal relationship. Inside the ring there's a respect that will always be there. Outside of it, who knows?"

Arum is a bit perplexed by the fact there is neither love nor hate between the surefire future Hall of Famers.

"There is no emotion between them," Arum said. "It's like they never fought each other or ever really knew each other. For me, it's really strange that after [three fights and a fourth promotion] spanning a decade, it's like they don't know each other as people."

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