Juan Manuel Marquez isn't backing down at all: He's coming to knock out Manny Pacquiao on December 8, when they meet for the fourth time in Las Vegas.
Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO) has asked for neutral, non-Nevada judges - one Mexican, one Filipino, one "other" - but it's highly unlikely he'll get that request granted. Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO) hasn't really said much about the fight so far, and has more recently been in the headlines for the settling of his defamation lawsuit against the Mayweathers.
With the judges a major concern for Marquez, he says he's confident he can give the classic series of fights a perfect ending - for his side, anyway:
"I can do it, and close the series of fights with Pacquiao with a perfect finale....a series that is already a classic in boxing. ... In my career, five times I got up from the canvas to show that I am the best. I'll look for the knockout with experience and intelligence. I think we know each other so well that both of us are going to want to do different things."
Freddie Roach has said that he's throwing out the old game plan and going with something new for Pacquiao, even though he believes his old plan would work. Pacquiao, he says, just doesn't execute it against Marquez, for whatever reason.
A knockout, of course, is going to be extremely hard to achieve on the night. They've fought each other for 36 rounds and nobody has been knocked out yet, and both have been hurt in each fight. I do think Marquez might be right about his last point - this could be a totally different fight than any of the other three. Their fights have each exhibited the strengths of the fighters at those times in their careers, as well as the weaknesses.
In 2004, you had Pacquiao's thunderous left hand power and blazing speed overwhelming Marquez early, but the Mexican rallied to exploit his vast technical advantages and own much of the final 11 rounds.
In 2008, I think they had their best, most mutually explosive fight. Marquez and Pacquiao were both at the top of their games, and so wonderfully matched. Marquez's counter-punching was effective, as was Pacquiao's aggression, which had greatly improved and added a playable right hand in the four years since they'd met the first time.
Last year, I think we saw an aging Marquez, still great, and an aging Pacquiao, still great, put on a more tactical battle. Both are smart fighters now, but I don't think it's an insult to say Marquez is still the brains of the matchup, and that should have won him the fight, in my opinion and that of many others. But Manny still had the power, and still had an advantage in workrate.
What will they come up with this year? Where are they at? I'd love to say I don't care about this fight, but I really do. Their matchup is fascinating to me, the closest rivals I've had the pleasure of seeing in my lifetime. There is barely anything separating them, other than style and approach, and each time they've meshed well. If they both throw curveballs this time, who knows what will happen? Marquez and Pacquiao flipping the script in notable ways, in how they combat one another, could make it so that they might as well have never fought before.
But of course, they'll still be themselves. And I get the feeling they can look into the other man's eyes and drag out a war. It's now or never for Marquez, after all.