By Eric Raskin
We often think of upcoming fights in terms of what’s at stake for each individual boxer. Rarely do we think about them in terms of what’s at stake for the two opponents collectively. But in Pacquiao-Marquez III, if these two rivals can produce a fight as competitive and compelling as their first two bouts, they will have done something truly special together: author arguably the best boxing trilogy of an era absolutely loaded with classic three-fight series.
Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales got the fun started in the year 2000. Then Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward battled similarly spectacularly over 30 epic rounds. In the mid-2000s, Morales engaged Pacquiao in another unforgettable trilogy. And though they technically fought four times, the first three fights of the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez series were as jaw-dropping as any of the aforementioned group. Just how unique has this “golden age of trilogies” been? In the previous three decades combined, there were only two trilogies that would legitimately fit in with those listed above: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier and Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield.
Now Pacquiao-Marquez is poised to join that list, and perhaps stand atop it.
As a survivor of one of these legendary series, Ward insists that being a part of something like that serves as a source of everlasting pride.
“Whenever someone says Arturo’s name, they say my name with it. That’s really something,” Ward said. “It makes all the hard training and all the cuts, the stitches, the bruises, it makes it all worthwhile when you’re remembered like this. As bad as it was when I was in there, when I look back now, I’m glad I went through it. Being part of a great fight, that might get you remembered forever. But being part of a great trilogy takes it to another level.”
That’s what Pacquiao and Marquez are working toward together (even if that’s not either man’s primary goal). Through two fights that went the 12-round distance, on the six official judges’ cards combined, Pacquiao leads by a score 679-678. That’s right: One point separates them after 24 rounds.
We can only hope the third chapter of the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry will be as competitive as the first two. Some predict Pacquiao will be too big and too strong for “Dinamita” now; others think that Marquez’s style will always cause Pac-Man problems, thus creating another classic triple.
No matter what, this has been the greatest era for trilogies that fight fans have ever seen. And it doesn’t necessarily have to end here. Maybe Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito will go from their December rematch to an eventual rubber match. Maybe if Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight once, they’ll go on to fight three times.
As fans, we’re all blessed when a great trilogy comes along. And that extends to ex-fighters who are now in the role of fan.
“I don’t know which of these trilogies is the best. I just know that I like watching them,” Ward said. “You sit back, you watch—and you’re just glad it isn’t you in there.”