Lee Payton looks at just how Juan Manuel Marquez was able to neutralize Manny Pacquiao's explosive offensive skills.
We've been told for more than 7 years that Manny Pacquiao has major trouble with the style of Juan Manuel Marquez, but has anyone explained why?
Emmanuel Steward was too busy trying to be exactly right about everything to offer anything useful when he called the fights. Amir Khan was much more valuable during the international feed for the most recent fight in the stunningly even trilogy.
We know the Pac-Man is all about fistic mayhem, and it's clear that he is forced to think things over when he's in there with one of the sharpet counter punchers of all time. The basics have been covered.
I'm going to try to explain some of the finer details that created 36 rounds of incredibly intense combat, with a focus on what Marquez has done to tame the "wildcat".
Much of Dinamita's greatness starts with his feet. In my book, he is the best "toe-to-toe" fighter of this era. Usually when you heard that term, it's in reference to a slugger, or someone without a lot of craft in the ring. With Marquez, we're talking about classic stand-your-ground boxing. You'll notice that he is able to stay defensively responsible without excessive use of his legs. There's no dancing in there. Every step to the side, and every slide of the lead foot coming forward is small and efficient, specifically designed to keep the opponent off balance while staying in position to deliver offense.
It's obvious to everyone who is familiar with the two fighters that Pacquiao is not nearly as active against Marquez as he is against everyone else. One reason for this is the fact that JMM is always "on the mark", or in position to counter with something that stings. However, I believe the main reason has been inexplicably overlooked, even though it was on display for 36 minutes on Saturday night.
With their experience, Nacho Beristain and his fighter noticed that you can keep the Filipino's devastating left hand in its holster much of the time simply by stepping in the opposite direction. The old technician brilliantly maneuvered his back foot clockwise all night, which kept him out of position to taste Manny's best punch. By turning to his left steadily, he made Pacquiao adjust his own feet constantly in search of a better angle to land a bomb.
Using superior footwork he was able to take Manny's best punch away from him for much of the fight, and since he wasn't standing straight up, or still, there was no danger of being overwhelmed by a storm. In the corner, Team Pacquiao were telling their man to cut the ring off by moving to his own right, which would disrupt what Marquez was trying to do, but instead he fell into the trap by following the matador in a circle. He helped Marquez take his best weapon out of the picture, for the most part. Without a clear home for his best punch Pacquiao was brought down to an activity level that is easier to handle.
Trainer Nazim Richardson also noticed the weakness and his fighter, Shane Mosley, was able to keep things calm against Pacquiao just by moving in the same direction, but in a more negative manner. Turn left and he can't get off nearly as many punches as he can versus a still, square target.
Turning away from Manny's dominant hand is not only the key to avoiding it, but it can also open him up for quick counters and true straight right hands that land up the middle. One of the keys to being a complete fighter is standing on an angle that keeps the opponent from being able to land his best punch, while you are in position to get off first, or counter a mistake. That's the genius in what Marquez does.
Seeing the Mexican Maestro handle the typhoon is nothing unusual by now, but in the past Pacquiao was able to even things up with shocking speed and concussive force. This time though, Marquez didn't get sucked into a machismo contest, and the result was his best defensive performance...maybe ever. He turned Pacquiao completely around simply by getting low and changing the angle of his back foot more than 90 degrees, sometimes getting an "Olé!" from the Mexican portion of the crowd. Marquez proved he could stay off the canvas against Pacquiao this time, but unfortunately he was not rewarded for his discipline.
Manny Pacquiao has definitely improved in many areas from the first time they fought. He has better balance, he hits harder with the right and you can't expect to win by forcing him backward like the old days. That said, his right hand was a non-factor again and no matter how you slice it, he must land big left hands to have a chance of making a significant impact on a fighter as tough and classy as Juan Manuel. He was never allowed to be in position to land that "A" punch, so he had to create it himself with his fast feet. Shooting in (to close the distance quickly) with straight left is his oldest trick in the book, and one that the young version could perform at a crazy pace for 12 rounds.
So in a sense, Marquez successfully turned him back into the fiery one-handed gunslinger, but this was a 32 year old welterweight version who doesn't carry as many bullets as he used to into a showdown. I'm not saying he's falling apart physically, or anything like that. He looked strong and fast to me without an ounce of fat on him, but it's completely natural for a fighter to slow down over time. To his credit he added other skills so that he wouldn't be so predictable, but his bread and butter is still that one familiar move and he doesn't seem to have the same amount of wind-ups in him these days.
All credit to Marquez for hanging with the genetic freak at 38 years old with good old fashioned boxing know-how. No matter who you think had the upper hand in the trilogy, I think it's clear that Juan Manuel Marquez is the more intelligent, technically proficient fighter, and I don't see that changing any time soon. He had Pacquiao on a leash last Saturday night.
I'm sure the auto-defense in response to this piece will be "Pac is 2-0-1 against JMM!!" and that's fine. Even if you think Pacquiao won all 3 (I have it 1-0-2 JMM), there wasn't one clear victory for him, and that's the point. Marquez has been tactically superior during the majority of the time they've spent lumping each other up and that's why many people think he got the better of things, myself included.