By Kirk Jackson
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez met in an epic clash Dec. 8 2012 for the fourth time in their well-documented rivalry for the WBO “Champion of the Decade” title.
Photo: Chris Farina/TOP RANK
So many things have been on the line each time these warriors stepped in the ring to square off with one another.
Fighting for the pride of their country, with Pacquiao representing the Philippines and Marquez representing Mexico.
Fighting for personal pride, trying to determine who is the best between them. Entering the fourth fight, Pacquiao lead the series with two wins via decision and there was also a draw between the two fighters. Marquez however, feels he won all three of their fights and there are some people who agree with his assessment.
They fought for championship belts: In 2004 for the WBA Super World featherweight and IBF featherweight titles.
In 2008 for the WBC featherweight title and in 2011, the WBO welterweight and WBC Diamond belt titles.
And most recently, they fought for the WBO “Champion of the Decade” title.
A title rather unheard of, it seems like Bob Arum and the WBO commission concocted a scheme to hand another title to one of their favorite fighters, Pacquiao.
It’s easy to overreact and get caught in the moment when something spectacular happens within the realm boxing, or sports in general. In this case, regarding Pacquiao’s KO loss at the hands of Marquez in their fourth fight.
A devastating loss towards the end of a fighter’s career does not necessarily determine the overall skill of the fighter and it should not undermine the list of accomplishments that fighter achieved.
However, the exposure of a knock-out loss can certainly highlight a flaw in a fighter, which many members of the media and other “boxing experts” have overlooked for the duration of a certain fighter’s career.
The same flaws that eventually lead to this fighter’s KO defeat against Marquez.
The most staggering flaw is Pacquiao’s apparent lack of defense. He gets hit an awful lot for a fighter at an elite level. He also has problems making adjustments during the course of a fight and has troubles against counter-punchers like Marquez.
The reason Pacquiao’s deficiencies are being highlighted is to show perhaps Marquez is a better overall fighter and the true fighter of the decade (00-09).
It’s a tough decision to make, but the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) named Pacquiao as a fighter of the decade (00-09).
A decade that featured the prominence of Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe, Floyd Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez.
In the case of Marquez he finished the decade with 20 wins, three defeats losses and with one draw. Capturing seven world titles across three weight divisions, he defeated notable fighters such as Juan Diaz, Joel Casamayor, Rocky Juarez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Derrick Gainer and Orlando Salido.
His defeats against Pacquiao and Chris John are deemed as controversial by many and his other loss was against Mayweather. Even the draw against Pacquiao in their first fight is disputed.
Mayweather ended the decade with an 18-0 record, including a 13-0 record in championship fights. Mayweather fought against 14 guys who were former, current, or would go on to become world champions.
Fighting in four different weight classes and capturing four world titles in the process, Mayweather went up against notable names such as Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah, Arturo Gatti, Carlos Baldomir, Diego Corrales, Jesus Chavez, Emmanuel Augustus, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Jose Luis Castillo and Sharmba Mitchell.
Hopkins finished with 14 victories and three losses.
Hopkins is the only man to capture every world title from the four major sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF) scoring valuable wins over Felix Trinidad, Antwun Echols, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya, Kelly Pavlik, Winky Wright and Antonio Tarver.
Hopkins also captured light heavyweight world titles and his three defeats against Jermain Taylor (twice) and Joe Calzaghe are controversial and highly debated.
Pacquiao finished with 24 victories, one loss against Erik Morales and two draws, one against Marquez and the other a technical draw in a foul-fest of a fight against Agapito Sanchez.
Pacquiao won six titles during the decade, spanning over six weight classes, defeating the likes of Morales (twice), Barrera (twice), Hatton, De La Hoya, Marquez, Joshua Clottey, Oscar Larios and Miguel Cotto.
Calzaghe finished the decade undefeated with a 19-0 record, unifying the division capturing all of the belts held by the four major sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF).
Notable fighters include Roy Jones, Hopkins, Sakio Bika, Mikkel Kessler and Jeff Lacy.
There is an impressive resume from every fighter especially looking at the list of names on each resume. But looking at the list of names and accomplishments on the resume and making the decision of who the better fighter is not the most accurate way of determining who the best is.
Analyzing the condition of each opponent at the time of when they faced them and the circumstances behind each fight is also important.
The knock on Calzaghe is Jones was past his prime, the win over Hopkins is controversial, and aside from Kessler, Calzaghe didn’t face the best opposition out there. Glen Johnson or maybe even fighting a younger Jones or Hopkins would have helped his case.
What hurt Hopkins are his defeats, although anyone could argue he won or at least earned a draw in those bouts. Also being regarded by many as a safety first or boring fighter hurts Hopkins, although I appreciate his skill level and style. Boxing is called the sweet science for a reason.
This leaves Marquez, Pacquiao and Mayweather.
What hurts Mayweather is his inactivity in the decade, some members of the media and fans think he ducked certain fighters and some question the legitimacy of his first victory over Castillo. You can easily make a case that any fighter in the entire history of boxing has ducked other fighters.
Pacquiao certainly did not go out of his way to fight guys like Joan Guzman, Juan Diaz, Humberto Soto, Zahir Raheem, Nate Campbell, etc.
Some say “Sugar” Ray Robinson didn’t go out of his way to fight Charley Burley. It’s just the business of boxing, you can’t fight everybody.
Regardless of whether his first fight against Castillo was controversial, Mayweather adapted immediately in the rematch and coasted to a decision.
By comparison with Pacquiao and his rematches with Marquez over the years, Pacquiao never adapted to Marquez, being unable to configure Marquez’s counter- punching style.
Pacquiao clearly lost to Morales in their first encounter, arguably lost to Marquez in their two encounters during the decade and his biggest wins come with an asterisk.
The fight for Cotto’s WBO welterweight title was at catch-weight and the “Dream Match” against De La Hoya was also at a catch-weight. In his big wins against Hatton and De La Hoya, Mayweather beat better versions of each fighter years prior to Pacquiao facing them.
And Mayweather actually went up to De La Hoya’s weight class (154) to face him, no catch-weight. He even dominated Pacquiao’s nemesis Marquez, coming off an 18 month layoff.
Marquez clearly was not accustomed to the welterweight division and that may have played a reason to Mayweather’s dominance over him.
Marquez has controversial losses against Chris John and Pacquiao, but certainly left no doubt in the decision in his fourth fight with Pacquiao scoring the 6th round knock-out.
So with his list of accomplishments, having the distinction of facing the two fighters looked as the two major faces of boxing in the decade, (Mayweather) and (Pacquiao), and having knocked out Pacquiao for the WBO (Champion of the Decade) title, is it fair to say Juan Manuel Marquez is the champion of the decade?