By Ivan G. Goldman
Manny Pacquiao will face 39-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez a fourth time on Saturday, not because it was the best match he could make at the time, but because it was the best deal he could make at the time.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Marquez and Pacquiao, 33, always put on compelling fights, though they’re marred by controversy as soon as the decision is announced. It leaves fans wondering whether they got their money’s worth, but they’re willing to plunk down cash to see them. That’s what keeps the series alive.
A December 8 date was open, and it had to be filled with somebody. There was a process of elimination at work. A rematch with Timothy Bradley sparked mostly yawns from fans because their first encounter ended up on the dull side, and Pacquiao is rarely in a dull fight. Bradley can squawk all he wants, but if you want the big money you should make it a big fight inside the ring, not just during the pre-fight marketing phase.
Floyd Mayweather, fresh out of jail, was hiding out in his Las Vegas mansion and working his way through an apparent love triangle that involved a girlfriend and friend and business associate 50 Cent. Mayweather and his advisors have long since ruled out a match against explosive southpaw Pacquiao, though Floyd occasionally says something to indicate he hopes the bout will take place (as though he’s had nothing to do with years and years of making sure it doesn’t).
Canelo Alvarez, another fan favorite, is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, which is at war with Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum. Canelo is too big for Manny anyway. Unlike Antonio Margarito, a big guy that Pacquiao crushed with ease, Canelo doesn’t need loaded gloves to pack thunder. Fighting Margarito was a pure business decision for Pacquiao — good money, little risk. Cheato Margarito was also promoted by Arum, who was happy to take commissions from both ends of the deal.
Robert Guerrero? Also promoted by Golden Boy. Ditto Danny Garcia. You get the feeling that this stupid feud between the two biggest promotional camps is hurting the sport? Well, you’re wrong. It’s disabling the sport. And not just around the welterweight division. If baseball were as dumb and ungovernable as boxing, the American and National Leagues would refuse to play a World Series. The NFL, caught in a short, dumb feud with the AFL, fixed it by joining forces with the upstart league back in 1966, and the owners have been laughing their way to the bank ever since. You’ll notice that football is now, no contest, the Number One sport in America and gaining fans around the world. Also take note that its biggest games — the playoffs — are available to fans, not cordoned off behind a $70 pay-per-view wall. But I digress.
If you look down the list of potential opponents, you can find plenty of good fights for Pacquiao, but not plenty of good money fights. Devon Alexander, Andre Berto, and Mike Jones have all had bad moments in the last few months, which didn’t add to their fan base. Miguel Cotto? Sorry, Pacquiao already stopped him. He’s used up. Paulie Malignaggi brings plenty of excitement and drive to all his contests, but not enough fans agree because he lacks kayo power.
Pacquiao’s biggest problem right now? Marquez. A stirring, non-controversial victory by the very old Marquez could lead the cruel pencil of fate to cross Manny off the superstar list. Marquez, who’s obsessed with defeating Pacquiao just once for the record books after a draw and two losses, has been known to drink his own urine in a misguided, anti-scientific desperation tactic that’s supposed to help his performance. This time he hired a guy named Angel Hernandez as a strength coach. Marquez looks bigger, and he’s testy when asked about it. Angel Hernandez used to call himself Angel Heredia. Though convicted of no crimes, Angel Whatever His Last Name Really Is has apparently admitted supplying banned PEDs to former clients.
Incidentally, if you watched the latest HBO 24/7 series on Pacquiao-Marquez 4 I admire your perseverance. Me, I’m looking forward to the fight itself, but I couldn’t bear any more of the absurd, vacuous hype.
Arum is already talking about Brandon Rios, 31-0 (23 KOs), as Pacquiao’s next opponent. Hard-charging Rios, 26, is also promoted by Arum, but let’s face it. That’s a darn good fight.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE