By Christina Thomas
Everyone’s favorite Filipino champion slugger may be feeling the crushing expectations for his impending Dec. 8 bout with Marquez this Saturday. Three times has he danced with the Mexican star pugilist; yet only one of those did he win – by the reckoning of many boxing experts – convincingly.
Indeed; Pacquiao/Marquez III – regardless of the victory Pac-Man was able to land – more of an indication of his faltering invincibility and chinks in his lightning fast offense than anything else. The storyline out of his camp back then was his ailing calves; those monstrous muscles from which he derives his unique punching power. Although you won’t hear much from Manny himself about the state of his legs:
“How are my calves? Bigger!” says Pacquiao, laughing. “They feel fine.”
Nonetheless, they seem to have been an issue he’s had to deal with through his loss to the undefeated welterweight Timothy Bradley, and his eked-out decision win over Marquez. In fact, there were whispers that those steel muscles bothered Pac-Man as far back as his convincing victory over Shane Mosley. Unless he’s found a way to battle Nature’s hints that the solution to this physiological problem may lie deeper than simple massages, Pacquiao may be in trouble when facing an extremely motivated Juan Manuel Marquez this fourth and final time.
Although their rivalry is one born of great mutual respect, Marquez undoubtedly has the great pressure – a pressure to which he has given valiant answers in all three bouts to date with the Filipino politician – of silencing the so-called Mexicutioner. Pacquiao’s legend largely comes from his destruction of Marquez’s Hall of Fame forebears; both Morales and Barrera fell to that left-hand hammer. His other victims are a who’s-who of future HOFers – Cotto, Margarito, de la Hoya. The closeness of Pacquiao-Marquez III points to a virtual certainty: the judges will be skewed (whether unconsciously or consciously) to Marquez’s corner, meaning Pac-Man won’t be eking out any victories Saturday. It seems Pacquaio’s camp feels similarly, as head trainer Freddie Roach has been recorded expressing his belief that Pac-Man may need a knockout over Marquez t be awarded a victory.
Why something so certain as a knockout? The only other alternative would be a complete domination on the feet , leading to a unanimous decision victory; but few doubt that Pacquiao can suddenly choose their 4th meeting to outbox the formidable Marquez – who remains the better boxer, although Manny has closed the distance between them considerably over the last decade. Add to that the fact that if Manny, who was at the height of his knockout powers eight years ago, was unable to knock Marquez out then, it is doubtful he could muster up the energy from his ailing legs to floor the Mexican on Dec 8.
Roach, however, seems confident that their most recent boxing camp was one of the best they’ve had, and has claimed that ‘Marquez will have problems with this version of Manny’. Whether this is just the usual boxing braggadocio, or hints that we are in for a treat from our favorite Filipino boxer and admired Mexican boxer, we wait with bated breath for the bout that will determine the future for one fighter in particular.