By Kieran Mulvaney
In the wake of Manny Pacquiao’s controversial win over Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday, promoter Bob Arum underlined the old boxing adage that ‘styles make fights.’ He reminded media at the post-fight press conference that George Foreman thumped Joe Frazier both times they fought, Frazier went nip-and-tuck three times with Muhammad Ali, but Ali took apart Foreman. So what, if anything, does that mean for the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry, any upcoming HBO clashes and, down the road, a possible Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather superfight?
The third fight underlined what had been well established by the previous two: that Marquez and Pacquiao have each other’s number. Marquez is sufficiently effective to nullify Pacquiao’s strengths, but his style in doing so is unlikely ever to be enough to render him an obvious winner. He is at his best when his opponent comes at him, enabling him to return fire with counterpunching combinations. That can disrupt his foe’s aggression, but sometimes a reliance on sitting back and waiting for your opponent to make his move first, no matter how effective, can make it difficult to clearly elevate yourself over him, at least in the eyes of the judges.
Upcoming HBO Fights
What can the ‘styles make fights’ dictum tell us about upcoming HBO matchups? Frankly, that the bouts may be more closely-fought than is immediately apparent. Both Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Saul Alvarez enter their contests as big favorites over Peter Manfredo Jr and Kermit Cintron respectively. But both Mexican fighters are more comfortable against opponents who are there to be hit and willing to exchange, and while Manfredo does not have the quick hands of Sebastian Zbik, who gave Chavez all he could handle recently, he doesn’t have clay feet like Andy Lee, whom JCC Jr sent into retirement last year. And if Alvarez can have early-round problems against blown-up welterweight Alfonso Gomez, he could be in a world of hurt against Cintron – who, as Alfredo Angulo can testify, can be surprisingly dangerous when allowed to box and move. Conversely, Cintron has been known to fold mentally under pressure of the sort Alvarez brings. It all promises genuine intrigue …
Marquez is a counter-puncher. Mayweather is a counter-puncher. But they are different sides of a similar coin. Marquez thrives on being attacked and responding with flurries; Mayweather seeks to stymie his foe’s offense entirely and pick his man apart with lightning-fast solo punches. Will that have the same effect against Pacquiao as JMM’s counter-combinations? As the dust settles over the coming weeks and months, we should learn whether or not we will soon have the chance to find out for sure, the only way that matters: In the ring.