LIKE a dog chasing the last remaining bone on the planet, Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez has been hot on the trail of Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao since their epic first encounter in May 2004 ended in a stalemate.
Unfortunately for Marquez, after two more fights, 24 rounds and 2,144 total punches exchanged, he has yet to score a victory over Pacquiao. Pacquiao hammered out a split-decision win over Marquez in their rematch in March 2008 for the World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight championship. In November 2011, in a showdown for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight diadem, Pacquiao dodged defeat with a controversial majority decision.
Marquez has since been hankering for a fourth showdown, telling anybody within spitting distance that he beat Pacquiao in their last two encounters. The Mexican went as far as writing a book detailing how he supposedly beat Pacquiao.
On December 8, Marquez will get a chance to prove that the glove is mightier than the pen when he collides with Pacquiao for the fourth time at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Boxing pundits aver that Marquez was chosen as Pacquiao’s next foe only because American Floyd Mayweather Jr. remains unavailable. From a financial standpoint, Marquez is also more bankable compared to American Timothy Bradley, Jr., who defeated Pacquiao in June. The third meeting between Marquez and Pacquiao drew 1.4 million pay-per-view subscriptions, way better than the 900,000 buys the Pacquiao-Bradley tussle posted. Had he opted for a rematch with Bradley, Pacquiao would have taken a pay cut.
From where this writer sits, however, Marquez clinched the final showdown because this time around, it is Pacquiao who badly needs the Mexican’s fistic services.
It is Pacquiao who needs Marquez now because other than Mayweather Jr., there is no other fighter around who can re-ignite the fire in the Pacman’s belly. When Pacquiao met Marquez for the third time last year, the Filipino was the heavy favorite to whip the Mexican. The majority opinion at the time was that Marquez was over the hill and incapable of competing with Pacquiao at welterweight (147 pounds). As it turned out, a bulked-up Marquez more than stood his ground; he came close to dethroning Pacquiao as WBO welterweight king.
It was after the close call with Marquez that loose whispers about Pacquiao not being the same explosive fighter really started to gain momentum. Early this year, the prestigious Sports Illustrated predicted that should a fourth meeting take place, Marquez will finally get that long overdue victory over Pacquiao.
Pacquiao needs Marquez because an impressive win in their final showdown will not only put an end to their rivalry, it will send his critics chirping with the birds. More importantly, a decisive win will also convince ring experts that Pacquiao is more than ready to challenge the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr.
For some reason, after three fights spread in three weight divisions (featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight), Pacquiao still cannot solve Marquez’s counter-punching style. Marquez’s lead right hand always ends up smacking a lunging Pacquiao on the face. Mayweather, who handily defeated Marquez in September 2009, is clearly the best counterpuncher in the sport today. If Pacquiao cannot even solve Marquez’s style, he would not stand a chance against Mayweather Jr. As the cocky Mayweather Jr. told Fight Hype: “I’m just saying that, you know, if (Pacquiao’s) having a problem with Marquez, I mean, Marquez is a good counterpuncher, but I’m the best ever to do it!”
Marquez’s career will be defined by the outcome of his rivalry with Pacquiao. The same does not hold true with Pacquiao. If Pacquiao beats Marquez, he will move on to the last fight in his agenda – the megabuck showdown with Mayweather Jr. next year.
It is a victory over Mayweather Jr. that will plate in gold Pacquiao’s fistic legacy. To reiterate, however, Pacquiao needs Marquez now, as it is the Mexican who can give us an idea on how the Filipino ring icon will ultimately fare against Mayweather Jr.