IT MIGHT NOT be the biggest potential fight in the world, but tonight’s contest between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez is a must-see affair for all boxing fans.
Much is known about Manny, the world’s best boxer, but the Mexican Marquez is a lesser light among the general public.
However, the 38-year-old is a three-weight world champion, and is ranked at around number five on most pound-for-pound lists.
Perhaps more importantly, he’s also forced Pacquiao to be at his very best in both of their previous meetings.
A short seven years have passed since their first meeting, which like tonight was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In August 2004, Pacquiao was coming off a stunning upset of Marco Antonio Barrera and he carried that good form into this fight, knocking his opponent three times in the first.
He seemed to be cruising to victory, but Marquez fought back in the remaining 11 rounds. He rattled Pacquiao on a number of occasions, and almost stole the victory – one of the three judges even called the contest in his favour by 5 points. Ultimately though, a draw was declared the result.
Despite the close and dramatic nature of this battle, it would be four more years before they fought again and once more, it was to be a titanic contest. Marquez was floored in the third, and hurt in the 10th, but more than held his own. Pacquiao would edge a split decision from the judges on this occasion, but many pundits felt the win should have gone to the Mexican.
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Those who tune in tonight will hope for a repeat of those two contests, but as we look ahead to their third encounter, what can we learn from the previous two? Firstly, it’s clear that Marquez has it in his arsenal to trouble Pacquaio. Their second contest in 2008 is the last time Manny did not dominate a fight.
Without question, he has won most of the rounds between the pair, primarily due to his counter-punching, but I feel that will be negated somewhat tonight. Pacquiao has improved immeasurably as a boxer, and these technical skills mean he is a different and a better fighter than years ago.
Another reason why I feel that Pacquiao will win comes on the scales. Tonight, they fight at a catch-weight of 144lbs, whereas their previous contests have been at 126lbs and 130lbs respectively. Marquez has fought at this division only once before, when he was outclassed by Floyd Mayweather two years ago, while Manny has shown that he can more than handle what has been an astonishing climb up the scale.
He’s also younger, and I wonder whether Marquez’s 38 years will show later tonight. Despite that, it should be a compelling contest. I predict a points win for Pacquaio, and a fairly comfortable one at that, but if the Mexican can pull out one more big performance then there will be no doubt that Pacquaio-Marquez could be added to the list of all-time great trilogies in boxing history, along with the likes of Gatti-Ward, Barrera-Morales and, fittingly Ali-Frazier.