by Kieran Mulvaney
Most weeks begin on Monday. Fight week in Las Vegas officially kicks off on Tuesday morning. That’s when the fighters make their arrivals at the MGM Grand, to be met first by cheering fans and then by probing reporters. After Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao waved to the waiting throng, they and their trainers took turns talking with about a dozen writers, to break down Saturday’s fight, and the three fights they’ve already had.
Juan Manuel Marquez and Nacho Beristain
As far as Juan Manuel Marquez is concerned, there shouldn’t be any need for a fourth fight. He is adamant that he won all three of his previous encounters with Manny Pacquiao, especially their most recent contest last year. Asked what he would feel if this fight unfolded like that one, and ended with the same result, he says that “I’ll feel very angry. I’ll want to …” The word doesn’t quite come out of his mouth, sounds like an amalgam of ‘kick’ or ‘kill’, but the combination punching/strangling motion he is making with his hands makes his meaning quite clear.
“All I ask is that the judges are objective, that they really see the fight, and judge on what is happening in the ring, not on what they think is happening,” he adds. “I think that sometimes they look for more aggressiveness than sometimes is there. But obviously if I’m using intelligence and doing my job, I don’t need to be more aggressive. I felt that in the third fight I was more aggressive; I came out to get him a few times. There’s no more I can do than that.”
Aggressive. It’s a word Marquez uses a lot. But, typical of the cerebral boxer that he is, he uses it often in combination with another word.
“I need to change to maybe be more aggressive, but I need to be aggressive with intelligence,” he explains. “Counterpunches, throw a lot of punches with intelligence.”
That intelligence, adds trainer Nacho Beristain, is why Marquez has always given Pacquiao trouble in the ring.
“What we have in Juan is a guy who’s thinking in the ring all the time, who’s making adjustments all the time,” the trainer explains. “He has the technique, he has the skills to do a lot of different things. The other guy doesn’t. He’s just very strong, unpredictable, explosive; you never know where he’s going to come from. But that’s how Juan’s able to counter everything, because he’s able to make the adjustments.”
Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach
Pacquiao is rarely talkative, rarely controversial.
Asked about his hugely disputed loss to Timothy Bradley earlier this year, he offers only that, “I always respect the opinion of the judges and the commissions.” Prodded to say that he is tired of seeing Juan Manuel Marquez, he smiles and says, “I love everyone.” He adds for good measure that is “trying to maintain good fights and give to the people.”
That’s who he is: always ready to answer a question, but in a quiet voice that is almost never raised in opposition to another.
Then there’s Freddie Roach.
“We’re going to knock him out. End of story,” he says about Saturday’s fight with Marquez. The Mexican, he admits, is “a very good fighter.” But “I think Manny’s a lot better in this fight than he was in the third fight. I don’t think he’s really seen the best Manny yet. I think the best Manny’s going to be too much for him. Styles make fights and they know each other’s style. It’s always a very good boxing match. But we’re a little hungrier this time and we’re going to put all our chips on the table, I think.”
Even though he and his man were booed after their controversial win over Marquez last time, says the Hall-of-Fame trainer, if Pacquiao doesn’t score a knockout, he’ll “be satisfied with a decision win.”
Asked a similar question, Pacquiao comes as close as at any time in the discussion to talking smack and making a bold prediction.
Would he be disappointed if he failed to knock Marquez out?
He pauses, thinks about it, and smiles.
“Kind of, yes.”