Classic Fights: Bradley-Provodnikov and Paquiao-Marquez 4

You could make a strong case that both Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez are coming off of the fights of their lives. Bradley is making his return to the ring after a hellacious battle with Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year that saw the current welterweight champ barely make it out of the first two rounds and touch the canvas with just 15 seconds left in the fight. But Bradley somehow managed to pull through, controlling most of the middle rounds, in what is surely a fight of the year candidate.

Watch the full Bradley-Provodnikov fight here:

 

Juan Manuel Marquez electrified the boxing public with a sensational knockout over Manny Pacquiao last December. Coming up empty-handed (0-2-1, to be exact) after three razor-thin decisions with Pacquiao, Marquez didn't let the fight go to the judges when he landed a perfectly timed counter that laid Pacquiao out. But it wasn't just a one-punch fight. Marquez's perfect shot came after almost six rounds of intense back-and-forth action that saw both fighters bloodied and at the top of their games.

Watch the full Pacquiao-Marquez 4 fight here:

Closing the Year with Boxing’s Best

by Kieran Mulvaney

What to do when HBO’s live boxing broadcasts have wrapped for the year? Revisit the very best bouts from an action-packed 2012, of course. The last 12 months have provided some jaw-dropping action, and for five days, beginning December 25, HBO will be showcasing seven of the year’s best examples of boxing brilliance. All times are ET/PT.


Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto
Tuesday, December 25 at 11 PM


In May, Puerto Rican superstar Cotto put his junior middleweight belt on the line against pound-for-pound king Mayweather. In one of the finest performances of his likely Hall-of-Fame career, Cotto pushed Money May to the edge, forcing Mayweather to dig deeper than he has had to in at least 10 years.

 

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez
Wednesday, December 26 at 11 PM

 

Martinez was regarded as the true middleweight champion. But Chavez had the belt he coveted, and Martinez agitated for over a year for an opportunity to take it from him. When the chance came, the Argentine appeared well on his way to doing what he had sought to do, until a dramatic finale that was one of the most explosive rounds of the year.

 

Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto
Thursday, December 27 at 11 PM

 

Three years ago, Guerrero was campaigning as a junior lightweight, having begun his professional career as a featherweight. One month ago, he appeared on HBO World Championship Boxing in just his second bout as a welterweight, taking on a hard-hitting former 147-pound-title-holder whose own professional debut had been at 162 pounds – almost 37 pounds heavier than Guerrero’s. But Guerrero was the aggressor, dragging Berto into an old-fashioned down-and-dirty street fight that was one of the roughest, toughest and best of 2012.

 

Antonio DeMarco vs. Adrien Broner
Friday, December 28 at 11 PM

 

Flashy Adrien “The Problem” Broner inspires a gamut of emotions – and it’s safe to say that few if any of them are ‘indifference.’ Love him or hate him, it is hard not to respect him; increasingly tipped as the sport’s next big star, Broner went a long way to establishing his bona fides with a devastating and dominant performance against Mexican DeMarco.

 

Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson
Friday, December 28 at 11:45 PM

 

Light-heavyweight titlist Dawson took the unusual step of dropping down in weight to take on super middleweight kingpin Ward. He may still be regretting it, after Ward – in many pundits’ eyes, second only to Mayweather on the pound-for-pound list – opened his full bag of tricks and cemented his place among boxing’s elite.

 

Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
Saturday, December 29 at 11 PM

 

The moment this junior welterweight clash was signed, boxing fans everywhere had the date circled on their calendars. Both Rios and Alvarado entered the contest unbeaten and with reputations for possessing that rare combination of immovable object and irresistible force. There seemed no way this could fail to be a serious Fight of the Year candidate, and so it proved. Each man dished out and received hellacious punishment, and the contest swayed back and forth, with first one man and the other seizing advantage and momentum, until an ending that seemed to come almost out of the blue.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4
Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11:40 PM

 

Pacquiao and Marquez had pursued each other like Ahab and the whale, across eight years and 36 rounds, before meeting for a fourth time on December 8. Each man insisted beforehand that this would be their final battle, but after six rounds that exceeded even the dizzying heights of their previous encounters, and a conclusive, concussive ending that was among the most shocking and emphatic in years, who would bet against a fifth?

 

Marquez Alters Pacquiao’s Present And Future, Not His Past

by Eric Raskin

Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Don't miss the fight replay Saturday night at 9:30 PM ET/PT on HBO Sports.

Powerful images elicit powerful responses. And within the context of sports, the image of Manny Pacquiao leaving a full-body sweat stain on the canvas, eyes shut and body shut down, is as powerful as it gets. An image that indelible creates a lasting memory.

The challenge is to not let it color other memories, memories it has no business intruding upon.

Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny Pacquiao - Photo Credit: Will HartJuan Manuel Marquez knocking Pacquiao unconscious is a moment that those who witnessed it will never forget. It absolutely should impact our current opinions of Pacquiao and our opinions of what he’s capable of in the future. But if you stumbled down the wormhole of social media in the immediate aftermath of Marquez-Pacquiao IV, you also saw a rushing undercurrent of observers using it to revise history. And that’s unfair. If this destructive loss causes people to rewrite and lose sight of who Pacquiao was and what he meant during his remarkable pugilistic prime, that would be a sad aftereffect of an otherwise spectacular night for boxing.

So let’s have a brief history lesson, shall we? Here is a partial list of the men Pacquiao has defeated over the course of his career: Marquez (twice, officially), Marco Antonio Barrera (twice), Erik Morales (twice), Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Oscar Larios, Lehlo Ledwaba, and Chatchai Sasakul. That list includes five guaranteed Hall of Famers (Marquez, Barrera, Morales, De La Hoya, and Mosley), one probable Hall of Famer (Cotto), and one possible Hall of Famer (Hatton).

Pacquiao has won straps in eight different divisions, from flyweight up to junior middleweight. In four of those divisions, Pac-Man won lineal championships. Even if some of his achievements are cheapened by the proliferation of titles and the politics of boxing, the numbers are remarkable. 

Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny Pacquiao - Photo Credit: Will HartIf you believed Pacquiao was the Fighter of the Decade at the end of the ’00s, he still is the fighter of that decade. It’s perfectly reasonable to opine that Floyd Mayweather was “better” than Pacquiao all along (as some insisted at the time and others have theorized in the past year or so). But the Filipino fireball accomplished more during those 10 years. He went 23-1-2 with 20 knockouts against opposition that trumps anyone’s. The only blemishes were a technical draw against Agapito Sanchez, a draw against Marquez, and a close loss to Morales that was twice avenged.

Pacquiao has been the face of boxing from the moment he thumped Oscar De La Hoya until now. He carried the torch from Naseem Hamed in terms of elevating the financial ceiling  of sub-lightweight fighters. He reached new heights for foreign-born fighters in terms of capturing the attention and fascination of the American public. (Which is to say nothing of what he meant to Filipinos, a standard by which he could be judged the most important athlete ever.)

Pacquiao went from a supremely talented one-handed puncher to a supremely skilled two-fisted boxer who sat among the top two on every pound-for-pound list for five years. And he did it while ranking among the most exciting fighters of his time, a distinction most practitioners of the Sweet Science must sacrifice in order to keep winning.

Over the past two or three years, Pacquiao, who turns 34 in about a week, has slowed down. And twice in that span, Pacquiao has faced Marquez, who clearly has the style and skill to neutralize Pac-Man. Nearly every fighter loses to someone eventually, whether it’s Father Time or a specific opponent who has his number. For Pacquiao, it was a little bit of both.

Kenny Bayless, Manny Pacquiao - Photo Credit: Will HartPacquiao lost on Saturday night. He lost in brutal fashion. It is a part of the narrative of Pacquiao’s career, and a part that will rightly appear in boldface type or all caps.

But it shouldn’t erase any of the chapters that came before it.

***

As for the winner of Saturday’s expectations-exceeding slugfest, let us waste no time in beating the drum for the fight that needs to happen next: Marquez vs. Brandon Rios. They were the winners of the two most thrilling fights of 2012. Rios is a junior welterweight. Marquez weighed in just three pounds over the junior welter limit for Saturday’s fight. I recall thinking in 2000 and 2001 that it would be a terrible shame if Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, the two most exciting fighters of their era, who were then arriving at the same weight (140 pounds, coincidentally), never fought each other. We all know what happened when we were spared that what-if.

The most telling moment of Marquez-Pacquiao IV wasn’t necessarily the sixth-round knockout. In the fifth round, Pacquiao had Marquez hurt, and rather than run or hold, Marquez stood and brawled. Why? Because he knew those moments provided his best opportunity to hurt Pacquiao.

That’s the mentality Marquez brings to the table. Anyone who’s ever seen “Bam Bam” Rios compete knows the mentality he brings to the table.

Let’s bring those mentalities to the same table in 2013.

Marquez Ends It with Stunning Finality

by Kieran Mulvaney

Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny Pacquiao - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Read the 'Day After' Fight Update and be sure not to miss the fight replay Saturday night at 9:30 PM ET/PT on HBO Sports.

Juan Manuel Marquez was reeling. His face was swollen and bruised. His broken nose was streaming blood. He had ended the previous round on the receiving end of a furious Manny Pacquiao rally. And now, as the sixth came to a close, another Pacquiao left hand had him hurt, and backing into a corner.

And then it happened.

As Pacquaio leapt forward, Marquez uncorked a beautiful short counter right hand. Pacquaio didn’t even see it coming, and the combined force of the punch and his forward momentum exploded on his unprotected chin.  At that moment, the bell sounded to end the round, but it was too late to save him.

Pacquiao dropped like a stone, face first, to the canvas, his head lying beneath the bottom rope. Referee Kenny Bayless began the count as the arena erupted in unison, but it was immediately evident that there was no way Pacquiao was going to reach his feet before ten.  He lay there, immobile, as Bayless abandoned his count and waved the fight over.

Manny Pacquiao was out cold. Juan Manuel Marquez finally had the victory he had craved, and he had delivered it in emphatic style.

And we have our Fight of the Year.

HBO’s Jim Lampley had earlier prophesied that this fourth meeting between the arch-rivals might go one of two ways. Perhaps the two old warriors now knew each other so well that they would cancel each other out, and the fight would resemble Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier II, a relatively pedestrian affair by the standards of the battles that came before and after it. Or it might be more like Ali-Frazier III, the Thrilla in Manila, by which time the two greats had slowed just enough that they were less able to avoid each other’s blows and thus wound up producing arguably the greatest heavyweight title fight of all time.

In the event, it was undeniably the latter, so much so that, for all that some had questioned whether we needed to see a fourth installment in this rivalry, by the time it was all over there was already talk of a fifth.

“Why not?” said promoter Bob Arum. “Have you seen a more exciting fight in years?”

The atmosphere was intense from the outset, a capacity crowd of 16,348 seemingly dominated by Marquez fans that sang along to their fighter’s entrance music and booed their hero’s nemesis as the Filipino made his way to the ring.

But although sentiment in the media room all week had been that Marquez had the edge and the momentum, that his counterpunching style would once more give Pacquiao fits, and that the Pacman’s perceived decline in skills and speed would prove fatal, it was the man from the Philippines who began the contest more brightly, moving in and out, finding his range and landing straight left hands.

When Marquez did land in the early going, it was with a left hook; rarely his weapon of choice against Pacquiao, the fact that he was deploying it to some effect ironically underlined the success Pacquiao was having in cutting off the ring, moving right and landing his southpaw left.

The rounds were close, the boxing skilled. Each man sought to find openings where they existed, and to create them when they didn’t. Jabbing was largely an afterthought, as Pacquaio sought to dart in with his left hand and Marquez moved to counter with straight rights and the aforementioned left hook.

The third was settling into a similar pattern when Marquez launched an overhand right. It flew through the air in an arc like a missile, landing with perfect precision on Pacquiao’s jaw and knocking him down.  It was a strong punch and a solid knockdown – the fifth of the four-fight series, but the first scored by Marquez – but Pacquiao displayed the hint of a wry smile before standing up. He recovered in a fourth round that was more cagey and tactical, and then in the fifth, he landed a straight left that sent Marquez backward and down. Whereas Marquez had been measured following his knockdown of Pacquiao, Pacquiao smelled blood, and the fifth ended with him teeing off on Marquez, landing straight left after straight left.

This was epic stuff: two experienced, exceptionally skilled fighters, both destined for the Hall-of-Fame, tied together like Ahab and the whale, destined to pursue each other through the years until one or both could pursue no more. Each man feinted and slipped punches, came back with short combination counterpunches, and then retreated in the face of counters from the other. And mixed in with the skillful boxing were pockets of explosive violence. At no stage did the crowd cease roaring.

As the sixth round progressed, it felt as if the end might be near, albeit not in the manner that unfolded. Marquez was struggling now as Pacquiao pressed his advantage, but the Mexican never lost belief, never lost composure or concentration, and when Pacquiao overreached, he struck.

“I threw the perfect punch,” said Marquez, with what may actually be understatement.

“I felt that for the last three rounds, he was going for the knockout,” the victor continued. “I knew I could be knocked out at any time. But I also knew, after I knocked him down, that I could knock him out.”

Indeed he could. And did.

“I got hit by a punch I didn’t see,” admitted Pacquiao.

Pacquiao and Marquez had fought each other tooth and nail, across eight years and 36 rounds, with so little to separate them that equally valid cases could be made for either man to have won all three. Their fourth fight was the first to have a concussive, conclusive ending. Marquez, after one disputed draw and two disputed defeats, finally had his win. And with it, he had won the rivalry.

Unless, of course, it continues. Unless, there is a fifth and perhaps even a sixth fight.

Why not?

In the co-main event, after his promoter 50 Cent had descended from the rafters on a harness while singing his hit “My Life,” Yuriorkis Gamboa survived a knockdown, and administered two of his own, to defeat Michael Farenas in a super featherweight contest. Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez totally outfoxed and outboxed Mercito Gesta of the Philippines, to inflict the first defeat on Gesta’s record and retain a lightweight title. And Javier Fortuna outworked a game Patrick Hyland to win a decision in the opening bout of the broadcast.

Read the 'Day After' Fight Update.

Pacquiao/Marquez Camps Looking Towards Toe-to-Toe 'War in the Ring'

ESPN's Bernardo Osuna caught up with both fighters after Friday's weigh-in to hear about their plans and expectations for tonight's climactic showdown in Las Vegas.

Writers and Fighters Predict Pacquiao-Marquez IV

by Kieran Mulvaney

Officially, Manny Pacquiao has won two of his three meetings with Juan Manuel Marquez, and Marquez has won none. But there are plenty of different opinions over who “really’ should have won their previous fights, and there are plenty of different opinions over who will win their fourth one. We hit the phone and patrolled the media room at the MGM Grand to gather the predictions of some fighters and writers.

Robert Guerrero, welterweight titlist

Juan Manuel Marquez - Photo Credit: Will HartI like Marquez by decision. I think it’s going to be a lot like the last fight, I just think the determination that Marquez has to pull out a win will be the difference. He knows he has to pull it off big to get the win, and he looks in great shape.  In the last fight, his trainer told him to ease off at the end; this time, he’ll have that pedal to the metal all the way.

Lem Satterfield, RingTV.com

I think it’s going to be Marquez by decision. I think the element of the two new judges, who last week scored a fight for Austin Trout (against Miguel Cotto) on what is basically Miguel Cotto’s home turf, gives me the perception that they’re going to come in here with a balanced view of the fight. This tells me that if Marquez fights as well as he did last time – given that the majority of the media and everyone else who saw the fight thought that he won – he has a good chance.

Ron Borges, Boston Herald

I like Marquez by decision. I think if you put them side-by-side-by-side-by-side, if that’s enough sides, the previous fights all sort of look alike. If you take the previous 36 rounds and put them in a pot, you get a draw. Move a point around here and there, and Marquez is 2-0-1 instead of 0-2-1. I don’t see any way it can go any differently.

Robert Garcia, former junior lightweight champion and current Trainer of the Year

I think we’re going to have a great fight. A lot of people think a fourth fight is already too much. I think we could have five and six and we’re always going to want to watch it because they always bring out the best in each other. The fights are always so close and I think we’re going to see another close fight. It could go either way.

Rich Marotta, KFI Radio Los Angeles

I’m taking Marquez by decision. I think the fight will be fairly similar to the first three fights. I’ve picked Juan Manuel Marquez three times, and I thought that he’s won three times. I’ve scored all the fights for him on my personal scorecard, and I don’t see any reason to go any different. I think that’s how he’ll fight tomorrow night. He might be a little bit more aggressive, but I think it’ll be a close fight but I think that Marquez’ style just confounds Pacquiao.

Joe Saraceno, USA Today

Manny Pacquiao - Photo Credit: Will HartI’ll take Pacquiao by late rounds stoppage. Marquez is bigger and has more armor on him, and I think that might slow him down. I think they might end up exchanging, and I think Manny might get the better of it. I know Manny’s very serious for the fight, more than perhaps he has been for some recent fights.

Brandon Rios, junior welterweight titlist

It’s going to be a great fight, a really close fight, but I think Pacquiao will win by split decision. I see knockdowns because they’re both predicting knockouts, so it should be a good fight.

Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports

I see a fight that is very similar to the last one. And I’m taking Pacquiao by decision.

Ryan Songalia, BoxingScene.com

I think we’re going to have a fight that looks a lot like the first three. My issue is wondering whether Manny is still a hungry fighter. I think it was Joe Louis who said, ‘It’s hard to get up and go running in the morning when you’re wearing silk pajamas.’ Manny has silk pajamas with diamonds in them. I hope it doesn’t look like an older man’s fight, with both fighters throwing a lot less punches – although I think Marquez will throw fewer punches anyway because he’s bulked up. Until they get in the ring we’re talking out our asses anyway, right? But I’m going with Manny by majority decision.

Norm Frauenheim, 15Rounds.com

I’ll pick it as a draw. A lot of people think that would be terrible for the sport of boxing, but I’m not convinced of that, because I think it will cause a lot of debate and who knows? Maybe we see a fifth fight. Maybe we need a best of seven series. I think one of the issues with Pacquiao – and I do believe he’s more engaged with this fight – is that as he’s gone up in weight, he’s lost some power. I don’t believe he can knock Marquez out.

Tris Dixon, Boxing News

I’ve got three schools of thoughts on this, actually. The first is that it’s going to be real nip-and-tuck like the other three, that it’s going to go down to the wire and could go either way. The second is that Manny just had a bad night at the office the last time they met, and he is actually bigger and stronger and can just wipe out Marquez. And the third is that now Marquez has his strength and conditioning on message, that he could actually be far bigger and stronger than Manny on the night. I’m more inclined to go with the styles-make-fights thing, which is option number one. So I think it will go nip-and-tuck, and I think the judges will be crucial on the night, as they often are in Vegas, and I think they could vote for Marquez

Watch all Four Epsiodes of 24/7: Pacquiao/Marquez 4

Please visit HBO.com to view the 24/7: Pacquiao-Marquez 4 Episode Finale, which will be posted here shortly. 

Marquez Makes Noise in Pacquiao’s House

by Kieran Mulvaney

Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez - Photo Credit: Will Hart

The MGM Grand has, over the last several years, become Manny Pacquiao’s home turf. When he has fought in the big green building – or, for that matter, in the gold building across the street called the Mandalay Bay – he has been the undisputed fan favorite, the casino transformed temporarily into an annex of Manila.

But whether he wants one or not, Pacquiao now has a roommate, and one who is clearly bucking to evict him entirely. It was first notable the last time he fought Juan Manuel Marquez, when the cries of “Si se puede” threatened to drown out the roars of Pacquiao’s traveling support, and when the announcement that the Filipino had won a majority decision was greeted not with roars of relief but a cascade of disapproving boos.

The scene was repeated at Friday’s weigh-in for Pacquiao-Marquez IV: Pacquiao, as always, had plenty of support among the 6,000 or so assembled in the Grand Garden Arena. But Marquez, it seemed, had more. It isn’t so much that Pacquiao’s fan base is shrinking, more that Marquez’ fan base is growing.

And so, for that matter, is Marquez. He weighed in four pounds lighter than Pacquiao, but he looked substantially larger. His chest appeared several shirt sizes bigger than at any time in his career, and his biceps bulged as he flexed.

Marquez also showed an unwavering intensity. Pacquiao smiled, Marquez stared. Pacquiao talked of wanting a good fight, Marquez spoke of a war.

Perceptions mean nothing once the punches start flying. But right now, one day before the bell rings, there is a growing sense that the tide may be turning in this long-running rivalry.

Click for Weigh-In Slideshow