Sometimes being the rational sort of guy I am -- toot, toot -- takes a toll. I wind up arguing with myself about different ways to view something. This is in part because I don't believe such message board nonsense as "Manny Pacquiao is afraid of Juan Manuel Marquez" or other things of that nature. Frankly, it's too dumb to be true. Pacquiao is not afraid of Marquez. Marquez is not afraid of Pacquiao. For 24 rounds, they were essentially equals to the point of there being no way to definitively state that either man won either fight, and in a judged sport, every now and again you get fights are so close that that happens. Of course that doesn't stop the loonies from declaring someone was "robbed," as if there was definitely no way to see a fight other than the way they saw it. "He DEFINITELY won 114-113!" That's what I scored Marquez-Pacquiao II -- for Marquez. I don't feel he was robbed. It was an exceptionally close fight and I find it more rewarding to focus on the fact that we got a great fight.
And not only a great fight, but a great fight that should have led to a trilogy. It hasn't. It might still. And there might not be much to look forward to.
The biggest reason there hasn't been a third fight is that since their second fight in March 2008, they have taken drastically different career paths.
In his next bout three months after Marquez, Pacquiao moved up to 135 pounds to fight David Diaz for a paper title at lightweight. This was the plan going into the Marquez fight. Everyone knew that if Pacquiao won, he would be fighting Diaz. That's why they had Diaz on that pay-per-view against Ramon Montano, a non-contender best known for being a sparring partner. It was a non-title fight. Diaz scraped out a 10-round win, keeping his June date secure with Pacquiao.
Pacquiao eked past Marquez and took off 100 miles per hour down the weight class highway. He obliterated Diaz. Marquez then moved up to 135 himself to chase a third fight with Manny, and he did it the hard way. He took on legitimate lightweight champion Joel Casamayor in September, and gave Casamayor the first stoppage loss of his accomplished career in a good fight.
Both of those fights, by the way, were small pay-per-views. HBO distributed, but did not produce, as Top Rank handled Diaz-Pacquiao and Golden Boy did Casamayor-Marquez. While their rematch set a still-standing record for fighters of that size (130 lbs.) or lower on pay-per-view with around 400,000 buys, they didn't follow that up with big-time "event" fights.
That changed in December 2008, when Pacquiao fought Oscar de la Hoya at the welterweight limit. Pacquiao retired Oscar and became a superstar. Two months later, Marquez topped Juan Diaz in the 2009 Fight of the Year on HBO, but already the focus was on Pacquiao's next fight, a May showdown with junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, which ended in two rounds. Hatton-Pacquiao sold well, and with his second straight shockingly easy win over a bigger man, he had captivated the interest of the boxing world.
And this is really where it starts getting massively different. Knowing that he had to do something special to hunt down Pacquiao, perhaps, Marquez took a bold risk in fighting a returning Floyd Mayweather Jr., originally scheduled for July 2009 and moving to September when tickets were too easy to get and buzz was too hard to capture. Once they did get it on, Pacquiao was slated to face welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto in November.
Mayweather embarrassed Marquez in a farce of a fight. Marquez, fighting for the first time over lightweight, looked old and fat, the latter simply a result of the fact that he cannot carry that weight well. His body is not built for it. Two months later, Pacquiao diced up Cotto and stopped him in the late rounds.
Since then, Marquez has rematched Juan Diaz in a fight that frankly had lost all luster given that Diaz had lost his last fight to Paul Malignaggi, and last night he beat the rugged Michael Katsidis, both at 135 pounds. Pacquiao dominated Joshua Clottey at 147 in March, and a couple of weeks ago fought Antonio Margarito at 150 pounds, busting up the bigger man and breaking his face on the way to a decision victory.
Right now, Marquez and Pacquiao are simply at far different levels of the sport. Not because Marquez isn't still a top-line fighter. He is. But because Pacquiao has blossomed into an enormous global superstar. Marquez is "just" the lightweight champion and the top Mexican fighter in a time when, frankly, there aren't many legitimate stars from Mexico.
The Case for the Third Fight
There are a few reasons to make the fight:
- It won't be a huge-selling PPV, but find me a Pacquiao opponent who IS going to sell huge on pay-per-view at this point and isn't named Floyd Mayweather. In other words, "Who else?"
- There is unfinished business. In a plain, black-and-white, "these guys had two great fights and should have a third" sense, there is unfinished business. If you put no more thought into it than that, then there is unfinished business.
- Who else? (This one's so important it should be stated twice.)
Frankly if the choice comes down to Shane Mosley or Juan Manuel Marquez as Pacquiao's next opponent, give me Marquez. Either fight will see Pacquiao and Top Rank criticized for fighting an old (Mosley is 39, Marquez is 37) fighter whose last major fight was a one-sided embarrassment against Mayweather. That's just a fact of life that will have to be lived with if he fights either of them. Mosley is a legitimate welterweight, which is the advantage there. But Marquez's two fights in 2010 weren't clear examples of a shot fighter, either. He took it to Diaz and Katsidis, while Mosley was shut down by Mayweather and looked awful against Sergio Mora.
At that point, the personal rivalry between Marquez and Pacquiao becomes a deciding factor, I think. Both fights would probably sell around 800-900K on pay-per-view. Mosley, for all the flak he gets for not being a big draw, is probably the second-biggest American name in the sport today, and Marquez is as much a star as Margarito, and probably has more universal acceptance with the key demographic he boasts, the Mexican audience. Margarito did about 1.15 million against Pacquiao on pay-per-view, which was a terrific number, but I get the gut feeling that a lot of that was bad guy image stuff, and that also because Pacquiao DID just beat such a bigger man, a lot of people would have trouble seeing Marquez, a guy who pushes himself as a lightweight, as any sort of threat.
But it would do good business. There is history there. Marquez will talk this thing up something fierce, too. He doesn't have any handwrap controversies or license revocations to help sell his image, but Marquez legitimately feels he's better than Pacquiao, and he does a good job of conveying that. It's a subtle thing, but having a guy who makes you believe that he believes he really can and will win -- and that he's already done it twice -- can be important.
The Case Against the Third Fight
It's now a mismatch and the timing is all wrong. Yes, yes, yes, Marquez fans -- we know he's not washed up. That's not the argument. The argument is that he's 37 years old, has transformed over his career and now gets hit a lot, and that Marquez is not a welterweight. It's almost as if everyone forgot how depressing it was to watch Marquez get toyed with by Floyd Mayweather Jr. when he tried to fight over 135 pounds once in his career.
It's a fact: Manny Pacquiao can carry the weight and fight well. Over 135 pounds, Pacquiao has destroyed Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Juan Manuel Marquez cannot. Over 135 pounds, he was a glorified exhibition opponent for Mayweather. Mayweather's better than all those guys Pacquiao beat, and I don't dispute that. But Marquez wasn't even sort of competitive. I don't know that he really won a single minute of that fight.
This isn't a big knock on Marquez. It's just a reality. He's 37 years old and he isn't a world-class fighter over 135 pounds. There is no way in hell that Manny Pacquiao will fight him at 135, or at 140, or at 142, or 144. They will make it 147. Why? Because Pacquiao can weigh in around 144, as he likes to do, and Marquez will be fat and slow again as soon as he gets above 140, and if you make the limit 147, Marquez might try to pack on all the way to 147, where I suspect he'll look awful. Whether they should fight Marquez at 140 or even 135 is not the question; it's whether or not they will, and they won't.
I Guess in the End...
Would I pay to see it? Yes. Would you? If you're reading this site, you'd probably at least consider it. Do I think it's competitive at 147 pounds? No.
But there just might not be anything any better. Asking Pacquiao to fight Sergio Martinez -- which I'd love to see, I admit -- is insane. Mayweather is not an option. That fight's not happening. Mosley would get overwhelmed, much as I like him. Berto still seems like a longshot.
This might be the only fight that can get Golden Boy and Top Rank to work together, and you know why? They're both out of legitimate options for either man, and are in the perfect position. Top Rank would be sure that Pacquiao would win. Golden Boy, not to sound harsh, knows that Marquez's future is very limited at this stage of his career, and essentially sacrificing him to a huge superstar fighter is maybe the best option for everyone's bank accounts. Marquez won't see it that way, but the businessmen will.
So fire it up, I suppose. If it has to be, it has to be, and I've certainly seen worse rematches than this one would be. At least I'd know going in that some of my pay-per-view money is going to two all-time greats who have earned their way in boxing. As sure as I am about the outcome, the men involved have earned the chance to prove me or anyone else right or wrong in the ring.