LAS VEGAS – Hang on to your seats and please, don’t blink.
The moment both of them arrived at the same site of their 12-round fight Saturday night (Sunday, Manila time), Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez agreed this will be the last time the two of them will meet in the ring, a duel that guarantees non-stop, and toe-to-toe exchanges between the two boxing stars.
Marquez was the first to make the declaration. Pacquiao seconded him a few moments later.
“I don’t think so,” said Marquez about the possibility of a fifth match with his Filipino rival. "Maybe this would be the last fight with Manny. I don’t know what will happen in the ring, but maybe this will be the last time."
Pacquiao, 33, thinks so, too.
“I think this is the last fight with him,” said the Filipino boxer turned congressman.
But Pacquiao was evasive when asked if he ever gets tired of fighting Marquez.
"I love everyone," he said smiling.
This then could also be the last formal arrival ceremony for both fighters at the lobby of the MGM Grand, where Marquez’s entourage that included trainer Nacho Beristain and strength and conditioning coach Angel Heredia, were welcomed on Tuesday by a band singing the Mariachi.
On the other hand, a Bayanihan dance troupe based in Las Vegas did the same for Pacquiao and his group composed of trainer Freddie Roach, assistants Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri, and strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza.
In one of boxing’s most riveting rivalries, Pacquiao scored a victory in their 2008 rematch (split decision) and 2011 return bout (majority decision), while settling for a draw in their first meeting in 2004 which Pacquiao considered as his best performance against Marquez, whom he knocked down three times in the first round in a blazing start.
Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach also believes this marks the final duel between the two future boxing Hall of Famers. And without question, he sees the `Pacman’ winning it.
“The last time we’ll knock him out. End of the story,” he said.
If not, the 52-year-old five-time Trainer of the year said he’ll be happy to settle for another decision.
“The thing is you have three close fights. Manny has always been the aggressor and aggressors always win the close rounds,” he explains. “It could be that way again and I’ll be satisfied if the decision went like that again because I think Manny won all three fights. I have no problem with that.”