Nacho Beristain went into the Hall of Fame this year, but Saturday may have been his finest hour. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Eddie Gonzalez breaks down the winners and losers of the Pacquiao vs Marquez fight, and not everyone was directly involved.
As with every big fight weekend, the results and talk from the weekend have reverberated throughout the entire sports world. Regardless of the result, the weekend usually changes the landscape and gets the talk started for the next big event. Here are my personal winners and losers from the weekend.
Juan Manuel Marquez: In the eyes of many, Marquez became the greatest Mexican fighter of his era this weekend, and he is easily the biggest winner coming out of Saturday. You get the feeling if he would have gotten the victory, it would have been met with less outrage than Pacquiao winning, despite the fact it was a close fight. Juan came out looking every bit the phenom that Manny went in appearing, and essentially gave the boxing world the blueprint for beating the unbeatable. He asserted his place amongst the pound for pound kings and also bolstered his already Hall of Fame-level resume. The only thing that could have made the weekend bigger for him is if he had actually won. Where JMM goes from here is anybody's guess. He seemed genuinely uninterested in a fourth fight against Pacquiao (money could change that) and it's hard to blame him. In his eyes he has beaten Manny three times (twice in my opinion) and never been rewarded for it by the judges. People are suggesting a 140-pound fight against Erik Morales, and that would interest people, but a retirement wouldn't surprise me.
Nacho Beristain: He tactically beat Freddie Roach in the fight. While some will question him telling Marquez that he had the fight in the bag, there is no denying the game plan he readied for the enigma that is/was Manny Pacquiao. Also, even after the advice, though Marquez did take the foot off the gas a little bit, it wasn't like Manny went out guns blazing either. It could be a result of both taking that approach that the fight ended in the manner that it did, not just Nacho's advice. Either way, Nacho came out of the weekend looking better than everybody but JMM for the great job he did in camp.
Floyd Mayweather Jr: The biggest winner of those not in attendance this weekend has to be Lil Floyd. By doing nothing, he watched his biggest challenger look mortal, and beatable, and now has all the reason in the world to tote his superiority. He becomes the #1 pound for pound fighter (and welterweight) in the world from his couch. Floyd could also be seen as a loser from this weekend because he may lose out on a record payday, but his point in many ways is already proven. Floyd made the statement that he is the best counter puncher ever, and while that is a lofty title, there is no denying that he is at least one of the very best. It's hard not to see a fresher (in ring) Floyd and his style not being the favorite against Manny now.
Marquez beat Manny with movement, great timing and accurate counter punching, three things Mayweather has mastered. And now with news that the Pacquiao camp (see: Bob Arum) will not be pursuing the May 5th fight with Mayweather, he also gets the added bonus of being able to tell the world (justifiably so) that they are ducking him. While many will say this leaves Floyd with little to no options for May 5th, I think it opens the door for some very intriguing fights. A win against Sergio Martinez would be just as big a legacy-defining as a win against Pacquiao would be, and that fight is there for the taking. The other intriguing options are at 154 as well, as Mayweather could opt to take a huge fight with Canelo Alverez. At welterweight the options are slim. He could face Andre Berto, or if Amir Khan wants to jump on that sword that could be an option. An unlikely scenario is the winner of Cotto vs Margarito, but count me in the camp that says there is no way Mayweather gets to cash out against any Top Rank fighters. While Mayweather may not get to see the $50 million payday against Manny that he wants, he still will collect his standard $30 million against somebody on May 5th.
UFC: If you we're like me, you passed on watching the first hour of the PPV you paid $65 for to watch the UFC on Fox event. It played out a lot like I expected it to, an hour-long UFC commercial with a fight in the middle. But critical acclaim (or lack thereof) isn't why this was a winner. The event drew 5.7 million viewers, peaking at 8.8 million, making it easily the most watched UFC event ever. Even thought the fight only lasted a little more than a minute, this is a rousing success and it got more eyes than ever on their sport. I'm not one to lump the two sports together, nor do I think one's success is the other's demise, but this is relevant to boxing. It means there is a market on network TV for combat sports.
Boxing: Despite the disputed decision, boxing was at the forefront of the sports world for a week or so and its two biggest stars got plenty of camera time. And then, boxing delivered. Pacquiao vs Marquez was a very good card, despite the turd in the punch bowl known as Bradley vs Casamayor. Alvarado vs Prescott was excellent and Pacquiao vs Marquez was 12 great rounds of tactical action. There still is nothing in sports like a big fight, and this weekend was just another example of that. The tense air in the arena that you can just sense from your couch between exchanges, the moment right before the opening bell rings, holding your breath during exchanges wondering if the fight will end instantly -- man, do I love boxing. There are a plethora of "Boxing is Dying!" paragraphs written this week in Pacquiao articles, but all ratings and viewers numbers suggest otherwise, and its something that I would assume that the diehard boxing fans don't entertain. Many writers are also lumping MMA and boxing together lazily and I just don't agree. The mainstream sports media seems to think boxing is to the UFC as the AFL was to the NFL. I see the boxing/MMA relationship as more similar to football and rugby. Sure, the ball looks the same, and there are elements of each sport that are similar, but ultimately they are two very different sports. All in all it was a great weekend for combat sports, as boxing and MMA most likely saw their biggest audiences of the year.
Manny Pacquiao: Strange that the "winner" of the fight is its biggest loser, but Manny undeniably took his biggest beating in the ring since, well, since his last Marquez fight, and he took an even bigger beating from the media and boxing fans. Manny became mortal Saturday night, and the ensuing response left a bad taste in a lot of peoples' mouths. Word came out the next day that Team Pacquiao would not be pursuing a fight with Mayweather, which was perceived by many as a duck. People just expected MORE from Manny, I guess. I thought he acquitted himself well in the fight, but just was beaten by the better man. Manny leaving the post-fight presser after just two questions, and none about Marquez or Mayweather made matters worse.
The public and media's reverence of Manny is waning. This was one of the more scathing paragraphs I read about Manny all week, via Jay Caspian Kang for Grantland:
"But then I wondered if maybe I was just being un-brainwashed about Manny Pacquiao, who achieved his invincible status by fighting a broken Oscar De La Hoya, a pretender in Ricky Hatton, a possibly broken Miguel Cotto, a thoroughly uninterested Joshua Clottey, a possibly broken Antonio Margarito, and a shot-to-all-hell Shane Mosley. After Saturday night, the angle on Manny's past three years should shift a bit - is he the all-time great who moved up in weight or is he the smiling, marketable star of a desperate sport? Maybe he's both? I certainly couldn't tell - all I knew was that when HBO wasn't carrying the fight and when I wasn't hearing Manny Steward talk about all-time greats, Pac-Man didn't look the same."
Manny came out of this weekend much worse than he went in, and it will be interesting to see how he and his team respond. The early talk is they want Marquez in an immediate rematch, and while some do want to see that again, many are going to wonder aloud why he isn't agreeing to fight Mayweather, again.
Bob Arum: Bob would have been a loser even if Manny had decisively won the fight. He had a rough week leading up to the fight, putting his foot in his mouth over and over. What made matters worse was his reaction to the fight, immediately writing off a May fight with Mayweather. Bob has taken some hits on the internet and it seems like most are just plain tired of his act. Arum will continue to draw the ire of boxing fans until he shows that he legitimately wants to make Mayweather vs Pacquiao happen.
Freddie Roach: Freddie is another act that some boxing fans (definitely count me into this group) have grown tired of, and there have been signs of some sort of schism in the Pacquiao camp before Alex Ariza went all "They shoulda listened to me all along" this week. Fact is, whatever Roach's gameplan for Saturday was, it didn't work, and it was apparent early on that it wouldn't. He was never able to get Manny to make the proper adjustments. Also it seems as if the entire camp just assumed Manny would "Hatton" Marquez, and that in and of itself is a fatal flaw of the trainer. This is viewed by some as the third time that Nacho has out dueled him in the ring, and Roach came off as whiny and a sore loser after the fight. He also was part of the "We want another shot at Marquez" contingent that is causing fans to ask the same question: "If you think you won, why a rematch?" Also Freddie had a PR slip up with him telling a group of reporters that he thought Manny should have a tuneup fight next. Not exactly everything going to plan for Roach.
HBO: Watching the fight with unbiased ears, you couldn't help but notice the biased mouths of the HBO crew. I have grown accustomed to the fact that there are story lines that the announce team (and HBO as a whole) want to push. I have come to grips with the fact that sometimes during action Jim Lampley is just going to spend a minute giving us some backstory they want us to know, rather than, you know, calling the fight. Saturday was worse, though. Between Lederman's bogus scorecard and Lampley saying landed punches from Marquez were blocked, it seemed to me that they were very pro-Pacquiao. It wasn't until I read some stories later that I saw I wasn't the only one. Of course it was more beneficial for HBO that Manny win, but it doesn't have to sound like it the whole fight. A great performance was largely ignored by the HBO team in lieu of them exaggerating the minimal success Manny was having to further their pre-determined story lines. As a whole, I don't dislike the HBO team as much as others. I like Lampley's penchant to hammer home an excelent line in the midst of high drama, I think Manny Steward and Roy Jones offer great insight, I enjoy some of Max Kellerman's narratives (Larry Merchant is missing here for a reason). What I never enjoy from the HBO team is their need to spin their story lines during the fight, despite the action in the ring being different. HBO has a tendency to do this, but on Saturday they completely ignored the action in the ring to tell the "Invincible Manny Pacquiao" story. In doing so, they missed their opportunity to tell the incredible Juan Manuel Marquez story.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr UD Peter Manfredo Jr: I actually hope Manfredo wins. He isn't world class, but neither is JCC. Manfredo is tough, and Chavez doesn't hit very hard, and I actually think Manfredo could pull off an upset. But ultimately, Chavez's last fight taught me that unless he gets knocked out, the WBC isn't going to allow him to lose. The fight will probably be closer than the WBC wants it to be, but in the end Chavez will have his hand raised and big money opportunities will follow. I just hope its entertaining (I enjoyed Chavez's last fight) and causes Chavez to actually look like he is a deserving world champion.