by Gary Purfield
As the PPV fight draws closer, many in the boxing media and fans have written off Juan Manuel Marquez in his third attempt to conquer Manny Pacquiao. It is widely believed that Pacquiao has been able to move up in weight without losing a step while Marquez does not have this ability. It is also believed that Pacquiao has become a more complete fighter since the first two meetings and that puts him a step above Marquez in class.
But before we crown Manny, let’s consider the opposition. Juan Manuel Marquez is still widely considered one of the elite fighters in the sport at age 38 and ranked #4 on the Boxing Tribune’s P4P list. Marquez went toe to toe with Pacquiao in two very close bouts where many thought he deserved the decision. To just simply dismiss the Mexican warrior is absurd. Several factors point to this being very competitive again and Marquez having as good a chance to win the third fight as he had in the previous two.
Intelligence/experience: Juan Manuel Marquez is arguably the most intelligent boxer in the game today. He is constantly thinking and adjusting in the ring. He can fight in a multitude of styles, often adjusting styles within rounds at the drop of a dime. Attack, counter punch, box, brawl, it does not matter because he is effective at anything.
He has now had twenty four rounds to dissect Manny Pacquiao. Marquez is the last fighter you want to have that kind of a book on you. With all due respect to Manny and great trainer Freddie Roach, the more they see each other the more it benefits a brilliant tactician like Marquez. He simply has more tools.
Increased Power: In the first two fights Pacquiao was the power puncher and scored a total of four knockdowns. At the time Marquez was not considered a power puncher but more of a technician. He has evolved into a knockout artist who causes serious damage to opponents by sitting down on perfectly placed punches.
Following the first Pacquiao fight Marquez was 6-1 (2 KO). Since the second fight where he has gone up in weight chasing Pacquiao, Marquez is 5-1 (4 KO). The only loss was to Mayweather where he was out of his element against a bigger, faster opponent (more on this factor later). The knockouts are coming against bigger opponents and they are emphatic. He blasted Joel Casamayor, brutally finished Juan Diaz, and beat the tough Michael Katsidis to the point that it had to be stopped.
Marquez has learned to include serious power into his tactical skills and this could be a big factor. In the first two fights, Manny was willing and able to eat Marquez’s shots to deliver his own. This strategy could have a vastly different result in the third go round.
Improved ability to increase weight: Yes, the first foray into welterweight was a disaster. What do you expect when your plan to go from 135lbs to 147lbs is eat raw quail eggs, throwing big rocks, and drink your own piss? He realized he had to do things differently.
Marquez has worked with Angel Hernandez (or Heredia) throughout this camp to eat and train to bulk up in more intelligent fashion. Yes, Hernandez is a former known steroids dealer. But this does not change that he also has an extensive background in modern exercise science and nutrition. Marquez should be able to gain the weight and maintain his skills far better than in the Mayweather bout.
He also has more time to put on the weight. Against Mayweather, Marquez had only seven months between the Diaz fight to move to welterweight. Marquez fought Katsidis at lightweight one year ago. Since then he has chased Pacquiao and begun increasing weight. He has only fought a tune-up against Likar Ramos since then to get his feet wet above 140lbs. The extra time will make a big difference. Remember Pacquiao fought De La Hoya at welterweight but did not weigh 147. He then fought Hatton at 140 before returning to welterweight in a catch weight of 145 against Cotto. Manny did not instantly become a welterweight. It was done over time which Marquez has now had. Don’t assume he cannot move up in weight just like his rival.
Manny’s improved skill, really?: No doubt about it, Pacquiao has become a more well-rounded fighter. He has a better right hand and has improved his defense with better footwork. But let us not kid ourselves. At heart the Filipino icon will always be an aggressive come forward seek and destroy fighter. And Marquez will always be the intelligent boxer that can goad Pacquiao into fighting this way. Marquez will always have the ability to move the fight in the direction he wants and make Pacquiao fight his fight.
Intangibles/Marquez’s hunger: I am stretching on this one, but it may play a factor. Juan Manuel Marquez is extremely bitter about the first two fights. He truly believes he won both. He truly believes that if he was given the wins he would be the giant icon that Pacquiao has become. He has watched Manny become a crossover superstar and it burns him to the bone every day.
Marquez has chased Pacquiao up in weight to get his chance at redemption. For four years, one of the most intelligent fighters ever has thought about what he will do when he gets his third chance. For four years one of the biggest hearts in boxing has stewed and prepared for going life and death to gain the win that has eluded him. Marquez will spill every drop of blood to get this win. Don’t underestimate what he has put into training and what he will do in the ring to get this win.
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