Pacquiao vs. Marquez Part…Does It Matter?
Fans (and the reputation of boxing) deserve better than to witness another laboring performance that’s big on hype yet short on pugilistic dynamism…
Yes they share a historic rivalry. Yes all three fights have been very competitive—filled with high-level exchanges, judicial controversy, and passionate boxing. But at the end of the day, the boxing world needs to ask itself this: “What else can we possibly learn about this rivalry?” Do we really think there’s going to be a new wrinkle unveiled as Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) and Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) fight for the fourth time on Saturday? Particularly when there are other intriguing fights looming for Manny Pacquiao, do we really need to see this exhausted rivalry play itself out another time, or similar to a movie franchise that tries to stretch out an epic sequel/trilogy one film too many, are we diluting this once wonderful rivalry by cheapening its prestige with overexposure?
In their last fight, the boxing world was nearly unanimous in its consensus that Marquez did enough to eke out a victory, albeit by a razor thin margin. This likely had as much to do with the boxing world feeling that Marquez should have won at least one of the three highly competitive bouts as much as it was a resoundingly dominant performance for Marquez. Not that Juan Manuel didn’t box well—he certainly did—landing the cleaner shots against an often off-target and flat Pacquiao—but it wasn’t as if any fighter really landed memorable punches in a fight that further typified the canceling out effect these two warriors feature when they face each other in the squared circle. I reckon that no matter how many times Pacquiao and Marquez fight—be it 4 or 14—the fight will develop a similar texture almost every time as the pattern continues to emerge: A spirited Pacquiao flurry; a brilliant Marquez counterpunch. Ultra aggression from Manny as he comes forward; supreme timing from Marquez as he gets Manny out of position and scores—ad infinitum. The dynamic that manifests from these eye-catching and contrasting styles has been fascinating, or was once fascinating—but is it still the fight that the fans and the boxing world want and need to see?
This isn’t to say that Pacquiao-Marquez IV isn’t significant—it most certainly is. For Marquez, he has been an exceptional model of consistency throughout his storied career, and he is still generating high-level performances, even at 39 years old. For Pacquiao—still just 33—his performances have visibly depreciated in recent fights. Though he clearly out-boxed Timothy Bradley (despite what the judges said), Manny yet again failed to create the electricity that had come to typify his fighting style when he was knocking out guys left right right with whirlwind tsunamis of power punching displays from all angles. In his third bout against Marquez, Pacquiao looked arguably worse than he’s ever looked since he became an elite fighter. He was reaching wildly, finding mostly air with his offensive assaults, and time and time again was out of position and vulnerable for Marquez counters, which scored fairly easily. His footwork had slowed down, his punches lacked the thudding impact they once landed with, and there were far too many moments of unsightly boxing from Pacquiao that gave the boxing world the sense that perhaps the Mayweather-Pacquiao superfight was finally expired after failing to be made when it was ripe.
“I just want to knock out Marquez to shut him and Nacho (Beristain) up,” exclaimed Freddie Roach in a recent interview featured on HBO’s 24/7 series covering this fourth (and hopefully final) installment. If this sounds similar to what Freddie said during the last fight, it’s because it’s exactly what Freddie said in the last fight. This is almost a stalled moment in Pacquiao’s career. If he doesn’t look glimmering against Marquez, his stock takes a further hit and he may very well retire in 2013 in what would be a disappointingly unglamorous exit from the sport for the fighter regarded as the undisputed king of boxing just a couple years ago. Alas, this is the consequence of mismanaging a fighter in his prime, and a symptom of the fractured organizational structure of a sport which can’t seem to help itself simply by having the will to make the organic superfights happen when the buildup reaches such a crescendo that the entire world would tune in with great anticipation.
Conversely, there’s always intrigue lying dormant in this theater of the unexpected. If Pacquiao does happen to look dynamic, all of a sudden the Mayweather fight is instantaneously revived. Further, if Pacquiao knocks Marquez out—something which many experts deem unthinkable at the moment (and understandably so)—all of a sudden short-term memory loss will set in yet again in the boxing world and we will momentarily forget just how ordinary Pacquiao has looked in his last few fights.
So yes, there are still some intriguing scenarios that could feasibly play themselves out as we strap in one more time to witness this masterful rivalry—but the fans (and the very reputation of boxing itself) deserve better than to witness another laboring performance that’s big on hype yet short on pugilistic dynamism.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4 can be seen LIVE on HBO PPV on Saturday, Dec. 8th at 9 PM ET / 6 PM PT.