Tonight, for the third time in seven and a half years, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will square up in the center of the ring in Las Vegas and hopefully, give us a fight to remember. In 2004, they were featherweights. In 2008, they were super featherweights. Now fighting at a catchweight just south of the welterweight limit, the questions are simple: Can Marquez, at 38, survive Pacquiao's power, which has put him on the canvas four times already? Has Pacquiao improved so much that his greatest rival is no longer able to go blow-for-blow with him as he has done for 24 rounds already? How much impact will the weight have on the two fighters and this fight?
After the jump, Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ, Andrew Fruman, Chris Celletti, Oli Goldstein, Kory Kitchen, Sean Mills, Matt Mosley, Dave Oakes and Waldo Rastel give their picks and breakdown of the fight.
Manny Pacquiao has shot up weight classes and continued to pummel people as he's done so. Juan Manuel Marquez went up to welterweight once before and was destroyed by a comparatively gargantuan Floyd Mayweather Jr. At a 144 pound catchweight, Pacquiao won't present as daunting a physical advantage as Mayweather did against Marquez (as in, Manny will actually make the contracted weight and will hover around there by fight time), but the higher in weight the limit is, the more it benefits Pacquiao. Because of this, I'm not sure the previous two wars between Pacquiao and Marquez mean much when handicapping this fight. Since beating Marquez by a split decision in their second fight in 2008, Pacquiao has decimated the likes of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, two men way bigger than Marquez, and two men who continued to come forward all night as we'd expect Marquez to. I can't imagine that when Pacquiao connects with Marquez, he won't seriously batter him. Marquez will keep coming and coming, and will do his damnedest to get a win. But I think Manny inflicts enough damage to force a mid-to-late round stoppage. Pacquiao TKO-9
This is a fight that has been criticized by many, if not by most, but I think there's still value here. If the fight is another good one, it seriously may be the best trilogy of the young century, and will join the likes of Vazquez vs Marquez, Barrera vs Morales, and Gatti vs Ward in that discussion. If the fight is a blowout, it tells us one or two things: Manny Pacquiao has gotten that good, and/or Juan Manuel Marquez just can't compete beyond the lightweight division.
Watching the first two fights this week psyched me out a little. I don't expect Marquez to avoid contact just to survive the way Shane Mosley and Marco Antonio Barrera have done in recent years against Manny, and he's not physically strong enough to endure punishment the way Antonio Margarito did, and doesn't have the brick wall defense of Joshua Clottey that lets him stand still for 12 boring rounds, either. One way or another, this fight will have two-way action. I'm betting it's largely dominated by Pacquiao, and the fight I most expect this to be reminiscent of is Pacquiao vs Cotto, where we saw Miguel Cotto come in with a good game plan and a lot of spirit, only to be broken down over the course of the fight. Pacquiao UD-12
The biggest factor in the fight is not size. It's age. Marquez is 38, and he's been starting to show a decline defensively over the last few years. He's clearly easier to hit these days, and his recuperative powers likely won't be where they were when the two fighters last did battle. One also has to wonder, despite the Mexican maestro's recent strong run, whether his ability to pull the trigger hasn't declined as well. Sure, he's looked sharp putting combinations together, but neither Juan Diaz nor Michael Katsidis were hard to find - while Pacquiao, darting in and out quickly, will present a more difficult target.
Despite those factors - this is still an interesting fight. We haven't seen Pacquiao in with a fighter that can really counter effectively and mess with his offensive rhythm. A few well placed return shots, as they did in the first two meetings, could go a long way towards dulling Pacquiao's attack - and if Marquez can slow things down just enough, maybe, despite the extra years, he can still make it close, or even pull off a shocker.
While people focus so heavily on the dramatic improvements in Pacquiao's boxing since his early days - and particularly his development of a right hand - I'm still of the belief that Marquez (or probably Mayweather) is the best fighter to neutralise Pacquiao's offensive force. Marquez won't be caught by Pacquiao's sweeping right hook anywhere near as much as his previous opponents. And Pacquiao throws that ineffective, flicky, range-finding jab out (generally used to set up the straight left), Marquez will constantly be looking to return with his own right hand - and with interest. It's something that he's done throughout their previous two fights to set Pacquiao off balance. This isn't to say Manny Pacquiao doesn't have an extraordinary range of punches that he can and will use on Juan Manuel Marquez - just that his right jab, probably the worst punch in his entire arsenal, is something that Marquez has targeted before and will target again. Marquez still possesses probably the best right hand in the game, and I believe he'll experience a lot of success again with that hand against Pacquaio.
I think Pacquiao can knock Marquez out; however, if it's going to happen, it's going to come early. After the first three rounds are up, this fight is anyone's. As it happens, I don't expect Pacquiao to look like the overwhelming typhoon in all his past fights since David Diaz - but I still see him pulling out a very tight decision, with a knockdown most likely being the difference once again. Pacquiao UD-12
I don't feel that this will be the blowout that some are predicting. I have always been a firm believer in 'styles make fights', and I think that will play a role here. Many have pointed to Mayweather's domination of Marquez at this weight as proof that Pacquiao will do the same, but Floyd's counterpunching, potshot style was all wrong for the Mexican champ. If you want to see Marquez at his best, watch him against aggressive fighters like Juan Diaz, Rocky Juarez, Michael Katsidis, and, yes, Pacquiao. However, with that said, I still feel that Pacquiao will defeat Marquez. The Filipino congressman is a better, more complete boxer than he was over three years ago, and as good as Marquez is, Pacquiao has already seen 24 rounds of the same man that he will see Saturday night. Marquez has never seen this Pacquiao. I like Pacquiao to win a fight that will have heavy tension interspersed with sudden patches of action. He won't knock out his key rival, but he will be able to claim clear victory. Pacquiao UD-12
We won't be watching this fight because it's a toss up. It's a matter of time to see a knockout. Sometime after Timothy Bradley wins an ugly fight, Manny Pacquiao will walk toward the ring. Maybe he will be singing, but he will definitely be smiling. Once the fight begins his opponent Juan Manuel Marquez will circle cautiously for two or three rounds. Pacquiao will return to his corner where his trainer Freddy Roach will tell him to breath for twenty seconds before reminding him, "He can't handle your speed son."
Sometime in the middle rounds Marquez will pop Pacquiao with a right hand dramatically moving his opponent's head backwards. And, in the 8th or 9th round, Pacquiao will knock Marquez down. Marquez will get up and fight back. Jim Lampley will claim that, "They are doing it again." Marquez will fall into the ropes and seconds later Pacquiao will throw a 13 punch combination. First eight then five punches unanswered. Tony Weeks who is leaning in to get a good view of Marquez's face will step between the men waving one arm in the air while cradling Marquez in the other. Pacquiao TKO-8
This will be a different fight from the first two. Pacquiao has evolved and become a better, more well-rounded fighter than he was. The move up in weight has been good for him and he seems to be hitting harder than ever, but Marquez is not suited at this higher weight and should not be fighting higher than lightweight, in my opinion. Add to that the fact that Marquez is now 38 years old, which is really nearing the end of the line for a lighter weight fighter, and that he has been in plenty of wars, and i think you get a competitive fight early on which turns one sided in Pacquiao's favour by round 4 or 5. Manny then starts to dominate and break down the tough warrior Marquez. Pacquiao TKO-10
I'm glad Pacquiao and Marquez are meeting again but it's two years too late for me. Whilst Marquez has been on a good run of form since his defeat to Floyd Mayweather, he looks to be a level below what he was the last time he met the Filipino superstar - he's a touch slower and easier to hit. Marquez will have sporadic successes early but I can see Pacquiao overpowering as the fight goes on, with his speed being the telling factor. Marquez has been a great boxer, and is still a good boxer, but I've got a feeling he may be in for a shellacking here. Pacquiao TKO-9
Manny Pacquiao has gotten faster, more powerful, and craftier since his last fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Arguably, JMM has just gotten older. Manny probably wins at almost any weight, but the 144 catchweight isn't doing JMM any favors. Expect JMM to get absolutely annihilated in the first round but his toughness and history with Pacquiao will allow this fight go on for a couple more rounds. Pacquiao TKO-4