By Eric Raskin
CompuBox has compiled a chart comparing and contrasting the career statistics of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, and as you might suspect with two fighters who’ve shared 24 rounds and are separated by a single point on the judges’ scorecards, these two future Hall of Famers line up quite evenly in most categories. Because sometimes it takes two HBO.com writers to do the work of one man, Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney pulled up chairs in the MGM Grand press room to put their heads together and discuss what these numbers might mean for Saturday’s showdown:
Raskin: One of the greatest disparities between Pacquiao and Marquez appears on the very first line of this chart: age. Marquez is six years Pacquiao’s senior at 38 – is he still in his prime?
Mulvaney: Marquez seems to me to be one of those very few lighter-weight fighters who hasn’t diminished with age. He’s still beating very good younger fighters. But, possibly as a concession to age or possibly because he wants to be more TV-attractive and earn more money, he has changed his style some: He’s less of a pinpoint counterpuncher and more flat-footed and aggressive.
Raskin: Interesting. I would say Marquez has slipped a little—I don’t think the struggles he had in the first Juan Diaz fight and the Michael Katsidis fight were entirely of his own choosing. Still, I think he’s close enough to his prime to give Pacquiao problems once again. That said, Pacquiao appears as good as ever at age 32. Have you seen anything at all to suggest otherwise?
Mulvaney: I have the slightest of suspicions that he may have peaked. I wonder if the destruction of Miguel Cotto will prove to be his high-water mark. I know Shane Mosley was mostly trying to survive, but I was taken by the difficulty Manny had in closing him down, even as he won every round.
Raskin: You’re right about the Mosley fight—he didn’t quite look like vintage Pacquiao as he struggled to finish off Sugar Shane. Let’s look at this fascinating similarity between Pacquiao and Marquez in terms of total fights, wins, and knockouts. Were you as surprised as I was by just how close those numbers are?
Mulvaney: I was blown away by that figure. What are the odds that two fighters would have so many career fights and have virtually identical records? Of course, as you dig deeper, the differences emerge, and the number of total rounds each has fought is telling, I think.
Raskin: Indeed, Marquez’s fights last 1.4 rounds longer on average, which speaks to the fact that Pacquiao is much more of a knockout artist than Marquez is—and this is after Manny’s rounds-per-fight stats have been inflated by four straight fights reaching the 12th round since he moved up to welterweight. Both have fought outstanding competition overall, but I’d say Pacquiao’s level of opposition rates a bit higher than Marquez’s, so his record is more impressive. Agree?
Mulvaney: Both guys have Hall of Fame resumes. But you’re right, just look at the names Pacquiao has faced—Erik Morales three times, Marco Antonio Barrera twice, as well as the likes of Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. And, as you say, up until the point when he started facing guys much bigger than him, he was blowing them out. He might have finished Cotto much earlier too, had Miguel not entered survival mode.
Raskin: Yes, “survival mode” is a developing theme with Pacquiao opponents. But I think we can both agree that it seems highly unlikely that Marquez will develop an “I just want to last the distance” mentality. When you look at this 14-fight win streak that Manny is on (another category in which he’s ahead of Marquez, who is on just a three-fight win streak), not many were tough, close fights. Is there any chance that Pacquiao won’t be mentally prepared for another grueling fight, considering he hasn’t been in one in a couple of years?
Mulvaney: One of the amazing things about Pacquiao is that, no matter how much chaos swirls around him, he never loses focus. He’ll enter that ring with the eye of the tiger and be ready to go. And I totally agree about Marquez. The very fact that he has bulked up for this fight suggests he’s preparing to get in there and throw leather.
Raskin: I’m glad you pointed out Marquez bulking up, because I happen to believe that’s to his disadvantage. I’d like to see him weigh about 135 and try to beat Pacquiao with speed and skill. In any case, there’s one category in this side-by-side comparison where Marquez holds a distinct edge: knockout losses. The Mexican has never been KO’d. Pacquiao has been twice. My question for you is: Is there anybody besides Floyd Mayweather who places any stock whatsoever in those two knockout losses Manny has suffered?
Mulvaney: Manny’s stoppage losses are irrelevant. He was 12 years old and weighed 36 pounds, or something like that. He is a much-improved fighter over the guy who lost to Morales, never mind the guy who was knocked out years ago.
Raskin: Correction: Manny was an embryo weighing four pounds, seven ounces when he lost his flyweight belt. Now that that’s cleared up … let’s make predictions. I say it’s another excellent, competitive fight with Marquez frustrating Manny at times but ultimately succumbing to Pacquiao’s power in about nine rounds. What’s your pick?
Mulvaney: My feeling is similar, but I’m thinking the end may come a little earlier. If Marquez does indeed elect to be more aggressive than before, then it will be a lot of fun while it lasts – but it won’t last. I think that Marquez will suffer his first stoppage loss.