On Saturday, Dec. 8, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will walk proudly to ring center at the star-studded MGM Grand Garden Arena, to find out who is the better man between them. In a sense, what better way to solve this seemingly unsolvable conundrum than having these two legendary prizefighters make war with their fists for a fourth and final time? For fight fans around the world, this is the best possible fight to be made that isn’t Mayweather Jr.–Pacquiao.
Both men feel they have a lot to prove. Marquez honestly believes he has won all three of their previous battles but has been robbed each time by the judges. Pacquiao believes he has won all three of his previous fights with Marquez too but, the difference, of course, is that, in fact, has two victories and a draw to show for his efforts. Their first bout was ruled a draw, even after Pacquiao dropped Marquez heavily to the canvas three times in the opening round.
Marquez rose from each knockdown and somehow managed to fight his way back into the fight. There is precious little we don’t know about each fighter and they can say the same thing about each other. They are intimate dance partners at this point in their shared fight history. For them, this is familiar ground.
They have been here before, readying to make war with each other. Three times precisely. It is hard to imagine what if anything they are experiencing emotionally that may be new to them or even perhaps give them some reason to pause. For some cosmic reason, Marquez and Pacquiao always manage to bring out the best in each other. They will try to live up to the script one more time in front of a worldwide audience that should be evenly divided straight down the middle in terms of who they are rooting for.
This fight is more than just a routine Las Vegas fistfight. This is a fight to decide boxing supremacy between Mexico and the Philippines. Both countries have given the world many great pugilists. This fourth touch-up between two of the sport’s three premier (remember Floyd “Money Man” Mayweather?) fighters has become very important for both countries and for boxing fans all over the world.
Pilipino fans are personally invested in Manny Pacquiao’s success in the ring and as a member of government as well. He is the face they put forward to the world. Manny Pacquiao is the Philippine’s way of saying to the rest of the world, “We are not as good as the rest of you, in fact, we are better!” While Marquez is certainly one of the three greatest lightweight champions of all time, he is but one great Mexican fighter lost in an ocean of great Mexican fighters.
Marquez has had to fight for fistic recognition in Mexico during his entire boxing career. He has been outshone in the past by Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, his brother Rafael Marquez and of course, Julio Cesar Chavez, the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. He has never complained about his position in Mexican boxing. He has bided his time and continued to fight on the world stage at a level rarely seen before.
Now, at long last, Marquez feels in his heart that it is his time to shine in Mexico. The former Mexican greats are retired now and Marquez is the only one left from that magical era, a faint echo from an historic fighting past. While younger fans may prefer younger Mexican fighters such as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the classic boxing fans, the ones who have seen the greats of the past perform, know that Marquez is a special fighter by any standard with which you care to measure him.
Yes, both men know each other well inside the squared circle. There will be little they see during the fight that they haven’t yet seen from each other in thirty-six previous rounds of Hall of Fame fisticuffs. Perhaps a more apropos question would be, how well do they know themselves? Have they plummeted the depths of their individual souls yet? Or, can they go deeper? Can they reach deeper from within to pull out some never before used hidden reservoir of strength or stamina or will? How far must they reach to make the other man quit?
Twelve more rounds is all they have against each other to make the world remember them by. They will go at it hammer and tongs, waging furious battle, overlooking pain, or refusing to even recognize its’ existence. In their previous fights, Pacquiao has injured his heel and his Achilles tendon and fought on at his typical frenetic pace. Marquez has fought injured many times during his career, always refusing to yield to pain whilst in the heat of battle.
There is no reason to believe that the fourth meeting between Pacquiao and Marquez will not be as tough and savagely hard fought, as their first three epic displays of fisticuffs. Their shared pugilistic history suggests that their fourth and likely final encounter will most likely be an exact replica of the first three. There is no reason to expect anything less from these two great fighters who, for some reason, seem to get up more for each other than they do for any other opponent.
Taking that into account, this fight may prove absolutely nothing new between these two men other than the fact that they are perfectly equal to each other once they are inside the squared circle. They are fighting again so one of them can come out ahead decisively, for all time.
Marquez and Pacquiao are the reasons why boxing is often referred to as the Sweet Science. They use their fists to do their brain’s bidding. They are the two most elite boxers in the sport today, getting ready to make a legacy in the ring that will define their era and each other. What makes their fourth and final battle so remarkable is that they are still capable of performing at the highest levels their sport demands, which is not easy given the battles they have already undergone, even against each other.
Each man is so perfectly suited to fight the other. Pacquiao is an aggressive southpaw, puncher/boxer. He likes to attack relentlessly, never giving his foe a chance to fight back, back up or even take a breath. Pacquiao is the hunter and he excels at cutting off the ring, wounding his prey and then going in for the kill. Pacquiao is that rare breed of fighter who becomes even more dangerous once he has his man hurt. He has had Marquez hurt on a number of occasions and yet, try as he might, was unable to finish him for good. That is what this fourth bout is all about. This time, Pacquiao is looking to finish Marquez for good.
The problem for Pacquiao is that Senor Marquez is not just another top-level fighter looking to put another loss on his record. Marquez is a super elite fighter among elite fighters and he is the best pure counter-puncher in the world today. If you throw a shot at him, for your sake, you better not miss. If you do, he will make you pay for it quickly, repeatedly and painfully. He will stand there in front of you and make you miss by the narrowest of margins, and just as quickly, make you pay for your error by catching you with powerful counter shots. Both men are able to move from offense to defense and back within the blink of an eye. Both fighters are masters at feinting foes precisely into position, to hit them with punches they never saw coming.
The mere fact that Pacquiao is a southpaw, should give him an advantage. It did briefly in the first round of their first fight, when Pacquiao caught and dropped Marquez three times in that opening round. Marquez made the proper adjustments and came roaring back, almost pulling off a huge comeback victory. Marquez is an orthodox fighter and yet, unlike almost every other orthodox fighter today, he has no problem at all with southpaws. This is why he always matches up so well against Pacquiao. Marquez believes he has won all of his three previous fights versus Pacquiao. Officially, his ledger reads one draw and two losses versus Pacquiao. Most experts agree their third fight was the closest of the three fights they have had so far. When the decision was announced in Pacquiao’s favor, Marquez angrily stormed out of the ring, saying he was through with boxing forever.
Time and a lot of money helped to convince Marquez that maybe one more fight against his career rival would be the best way to once and for all settle the score between these two immensely proud men. After all, isn’t that what they are really fighting for? Isn’t that the real prize, if we’re being honest about it? Pacquiao and Marquez are supposedly fighting for some meaningless hastily made last second WBO “Fighter Of The Decade” belt. It is merely one more worthless trinket to add to a trashcan full of them. These two great warriors do not need any belts to testify as to their ring greatness. In essence, they are really fighting for the championship of each other. Really, that’s all that counts. This bout is to decide once and for all, who is the better man between Marquez and Pacquiao. Now, that is a legacy of which they can both be proud.