by Kieran Mulvaney
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have now fought each other for 36 closely-contested rounds. On Saturday, they will contest up to 12 more -- at the end of which, both men insist, the epic rivalry will be over. Jim Lampley has called the entirety of the action, from the first punch of the first round of the first fight, from ringside for HBO; here, he looks back on the key elements in the fights that have taken place and the things to look for in the bout that lies ahead.
We should all give thanks to Joe Cortez.
I think Larry Merchant made a great point on the first 24/7 episode. The single greatest turning point was that Joe Cortez allowed Marquez to continue out of the first round. Without that decision, I don’t think we even get a rematch, much less a trilogy, much less four fights between these guys. It all depends on Joe Cortez having the wisdom to know who Juan Manuel Marquez was, and giving him the chance to go on into the second round.
One punch was all it took.
Round three of the second fight: Marquez goes down on a straight left hand by Manny Pacquiao. It’s the difference in the fight, and it’s the difference in the first two fights, that Pacquiao is able to get him off his feet. And if there’s one thing for Marquez to regret in all the three fights, it’s going down in the third round of the second fight, because if he doesn’t taste the canvas at that moment, he wins the fight. On the other hand, he almost went down a second time, and if you look carefully at the video, his glove touched the canvas. It could have been called a knockdown, and if it had been, the fight wouldn’t have been nearly as close.
Will Marquez be more aggressive in the fourth fight?
I think we’ll find out tomorrow night whether Marquez has decided that, after falling short on the judges’ scorecards with his existing counterpunching strategy, it’s worthy of a change. He says that he’s going to fight more aggressively and try to knock Pacquiao out. If that takes place, in my view that most contributes to the probability that Marquez will get knocked out. Because if he’s going to become more aggressive, he’s going to put himself in harm’s way against Pacquiao’s proven greater punching power. Pacquiao’s had him down four times; Marquez has not yet been able to knock Pacquiao down. Although I think there’s a percentage play for Marquez in being more aggressive, and trying to make his point more forcefully in these fights, it also creates a big risk and would make for an interesting fight.
If we’re lucky, they’re not the fighters they used to be.
One possibility on Saturday is that, after so many rounds, they know each other so well, that we’re going to see Ali-Frazier II: a relatively dull fight in which neither guy is able to generate a risk quotient that will make it interesting. The other possibility is that they’re both beyond their peaks, and their defensive reflexes have slowed a little bit, and we get something like The Thrilla in Manila, where both Ali and Frazier were diminished and what we got was a spectacular piece of combat. That, I think, if you’re a pure fan, is what you have to hope for is that they are both just a little bit diminished and the result is a great, great fight.