By Eric Raskin
“Obsession” is a word that has a negative connotation attached to it. It conjures up images of stalking, of Glenn Close boiling bunny rabbits.
But there are also good obsessions. Juan Manuel Marquez has been obsessed for the past three years with fighting Manny Pacquiao a third time, and now that he has the fight, he’s obsessed with officially defeating the man he feels he’s already defeated twice. It’s this unyielding desire to prevail that (a) gives Marquez a better chance of winning than any of Pacquiao’s other recent opponents and (b) all but guarantees a fan-friendly fight.
HBO analyst Emanuel Steward, who will be providing color commentary on Saturday night, called this Marquez’s “dream fight,” a bout he’s been intently focused on for the last three years. He added that when fighters land their dream fights, “they usually take advantage of them.”
If the first two fights are any indication, Marquez will not concede defeat until Pacquiao knocks him unconscious.
“Marquez is so tough,” marveled former fighter Micky Ward, who knows a thing or two about toughness. “He fights better when he’s hurt, and that’s a great trait, you know? I thought [Arturo] Gatti was the closest thing in boxing to Jason [Voorhees, from the Friday The 13th movies]. Then I saw Marquez get up three times against Pacquiao.”
Though Marquez is a sure-shot first-ballot Hall of Famer, he still believes he has a lot to prove. When he fought Pacquiao the first time, in 2004, he had yet to achieve the sort of stardom that his Mexican compatriots Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales had. When he fought Pacquiao the second time, in ’08, he had an upset loss to little-known Chris John to erase from boxing fans’ minds. Coming into Saturday’s third crack at Pac, Marquez is out to redeem himself for a one-sided defeat to Floyd Mayweather.
That’s part of why Steward is predicting another all-out war.
“These guys can’t be boring, because they’re both guys who want to get instant revenge right away for every punch, they both want to have the final say-so,” Steward said. “And remember, Manny got wobbled in those first two fights too. It’s drama anytime these two guys fight. I just can’t see this being a bad fight. There’s a lot of pride involved.”
Pacquiao was asked this week whether it’s a mistake to bring emotion into a fight, as it seems Marquez will. “I think sometimes it’s a mistake,” Pacquiao said. “But sometimes it’s good for a fighter to do that.”
Whether it’s good for him or not, Marquez will fight with some degree of emotion this weekend. He was obsessed with getting a third shot at Pacquiao. And he’s obsessed with finally getting credit for a win over him.
That’s great news for fans of offense-oriented action, regardless of whether it helps or hurts Marquez’s chances of springing the upset.