by Kirk Jackson
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez square off in the ring Dec 8th for a fourth and perhaps final time. This is a historic rivalry, between two warriors from opposite ends of the planet, with both fighters representing some of the same things in the ring.
Passion, pride and the competitiveness that makes each fighter great in his own right.
This saga thus far spawned two classic fights, with all three of their clashes ending with some form of controversy.
The first fight back in 2004 was scored a draw, the rematch in 2007 was scored a split decision victory for Pacquiao and their third fight, in 2011, was scored a majority decision in favor of Pacquiao.
Some people think Marquez won all three fights, some believe Pacquiao won all three. Some have the series scored as it is recorded in the pages of boxing history, a draw, and two close victories for Pacquiao.
Both fighters are well decorated with titles and accomplishments across various weight classes.
Marquez, having captured eight world titles across four different weight classes and Pacquiao having amassed more than 10 world titles across eight different weight classes.
Although an argument can be made in regards to the validity of all of these titles, with the unique circumstances that surround each case, nonetheless, the feats by both fighters are impressive.
Pacquiao and Marquez come from a golden era of lower weight divisions, just under the lightweight division.
Spanning from the late 90s to the mid 00s, the era featured notable fighters such as the likes of Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Junior Jones, Prince Naseem Hamed, among many others.
Morales and Barrera fought their epic trilogy, then Pacquiao beat Barrera, Marquez fought Pacquiao to a draw, Morales beat Pacquiao, Pacquiao beat Morales and so on and so forth.
The Marquez/Pacquiao bouts in particular featured the classic clash of the explosive, stylish brawler (Pacquiao) vs. the classic boxer puncher/counter-puncher, who had a chip on his shoulder (Marquez), and this clash ultimately made great theater.
Pacquiao has a style that forces you to fight. It’s untamed aggression, either fight or surrender to a hailstorm of powerful punches.
Marquez is more of a strategist in the ring: capitalizing on the mistakes of his opponents, delivering accurate punches, seemingly making chess moves inside the ring.
Although Marquez is a great counter-puncher, he lacks the athleticism, slickness, elusiveness that a Floyd Mayweather or Pernell Whitaker has.
The clash of styles between Marquez and Pacquiao, combined with the lack of elusiveness from Marquez despite his great counter-punching ability, is what made the fights between Pacquiao and Marquez so compelling.
The exchanges between the two were exciting with back and forth action, not being able to anticipate what to expect next.
Since their first meeting back in 2004 up until their last meeting in 2011, the flow of the series gradually seems to have gone in the favor of Marquez.
The judges do not seem to agree, along with some members of the media and fans of course, as everyone has different means of scoring a fight.
Some score a fight based on which fighter landed the more telling punches, some score ring generalship, defense, punch output and some people see things others can not see.
Marquez went from getting knocked down three times in the first fight, to one knock down in the second fight and not being knocked down or even staggered in the third fight.
His boxing skills and counter-punching expertise are even more evident in recent rounds against Pacquiao, despite his advanced age.
Perhaps this has something to due with all of Pacquiao’s extra-curricular activities outside of boxing.
All of his endorsement deals, commercials, movies, television shows, serving as a congressman for the Philippines, maybe the motivation and
focus to be the best in the ring isn’t as strong as it was in years past.
And that’s understandable.
Or maybe Marquez just exposes Pacquiao’s weaknesses as a fighter. Marquez can counter-punch, he isn’t a stationary target, he moves around the ring, he uses his head, feet and upper body to evade punches, he can effectively jab and time Pacquiao coming in often catching his rival off balance.
There’s another guy out there that may be able to do the same.
Either way, there always seems to be some bit of controversy with each fight between these two warriors, along with a high level of excitement. That is what makes this rivalry intriguing.
Part 2: The [Drug] Test
This is another added chapter of drama that came into fruition during the third fight of this series.
There are currently accusations from people in Pacquiao’s camp about Marquez supposedly using performance enhancing drugs, which is ironic, considering the accusations hurled at Pacquiao in recent years .
Accusations from Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach and many within Pacquiao’s fan-base stem from the hiring of Angel Hernandez from the Marquez camp.
Hernandez, an exercise science program graduate of Texas A&M, and the current strength and conditioning coach for Marquez, has past affiliations to BALCO, and once supplied performance enhancement drugs to Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.
Marquez hired Hernandez to help prepare his body for his third fight with Pacquiao, as he was moving up to the welterweight division.
Marquez had a previous stint in that division against Floyd Mayweather back in 2009, but did not perform too well.
Whether it was the extra weight, his style of opponent, or a combination of both, Marquez did not want to make the same mistake again and wanted to better prepare himself for the extra weight gain.
“If Marquez’s body is natural, I will kiss his ass,” said Roach from an interview with USA Today. “Marquez has gotten bigger and gained weight. It throws up a red flag.”
Quite the interesting statement, considering the history of Roach and his fighters linked to steroids. It’s also intriguing considering Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza and the performance enhancing drugs allegations surrounding his history.
As reported in The Ring with Michael Rosenthal back in 2010, Roach was aware that a few of his fighters were using performance enhancing drugs.
“I won’t say I didn’t know,” said Roach in reference to his fighter James Toney. “I never asked him though, I never had a conversation.
“I could see his body had signs, his traps and stuff. He was either lifting a lot of weight or he was on something.”
Justin Fortune was another one of Roach’s fighters linked to steroids.
Marquez has been open about taking random drug tests, as long as Pacquiao does the same.
“You can say anything you want, but if you don’t have the proof, it means nothing,” Marquez said to Sports Illustrated earlier in the week.
“I told them (Pacquiao’s camp) I am willing to take any test they want. Let’s go together, we’ll do it together.”
If this was such a concern from the Pacquiao camp heading into this fourth fight, as it was in the third fight, why not make a stipulation to undergo random drug testing prior to the fight?
Submitting to random drug tests will alleviate some of the suspicion of steroid use from fans about both fighters.
Marquez has yet to fail a drug test, so why should he be under the suspicion of steroid use?
It’s the same argument made in Pacquiao’s favor when Floyd Mayweather wanted him to undergo random drug testing during their many negotiations for a fight between them.
Ahhh, the irony.
No matter how you slice it, every side, whether Marquez, Pacquiao or Mayweather, has valid arguments. And it has been proven that some athletes who take performance enhancing drugs can beat the test: does the name Shane Mosley ring a bell?
Bob Arum, the promoter of this fourth installment of Pacquiao-Marquez, said no one asked for additional testing.
“If the fighters had wanted testing, I would’ve given the issue to Nevada Boxing Commission,” said Arum to Boxingscene.com. “But nobody asked me.”
I guess the issue just slipped everybody’s minds.