Juan Manuel Marquez gave Manny Pacquiao all he could handle for a third time. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Three fights. Three incredibly close fights. Three tactical battles.
And Manny Pacquiao is 2-0-1 now. But Juan Manuel Marquez has his argument in every single fight.
Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO) won on majority decision scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 114-114, but Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KO) was right there for 12 rounds, counter-punching Pacquiao effectively and scoring repeatedly. Bad Left Hook scored it 115-113 for Marquez. The fight was very, very close, and one thing keeps sticking in my mind.
Marquez, who left the ring and didn't speak with HBO's Max Kellerman after the fight, was told by trainer Nacho Beristain before the 12th round that he was ahead. In turn, Marquez fought tentatively in the final round. So did Pacquiao, who once again met all he could handle and then some from the Mexican star.
Those who ordered got more than they bargained for tonight. Even those who gave Marquez a greater chance than the majority did felt that he would lose, it seemed -- but it was arguable at best, and the Las Vegas crowd, at least the Marquez supporters, felt that Juan Manuel won. Perhaps, for the third time.
Pacquiao said, "It's clear I won the fight," interviewed by Kellerman. "We have to accept that my opponent is not easy," he continued.
Indeed he isn't. After these 12 rounds, Kellerman asked Manny Pacquiao if he would fight Marquez for a fourth time. "Anytime," he responded.
And after this one, at this weight, I think that if a Mayweather fight can't happen ("Let's get it on," Manny said over boos, "on May 5"), Marquez is the ideal next opponent.
The arguments are still there. Juan Manuel Marquez, at 38 and fighting "heavy," gave Manny Pacquiao the best fight he's had since their second fight in 2008.