Only a few men have ever been in the ring with both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Oscar De La Hoya had a tight loss to Mayweather in 2007, and was dismantled and retired by Pacquiao in 2008. Mayweather flustered and knocked out Ricky Hatton in 2007, and was bombed out in two rounds by Pacquiao, who retired the "Hitman" as well, in 2009. And Shane Mosley went through 24 largely listless rounds against the two men, scoring one shock right hand in 2010 that staggered Mayweather before Floyd took over and dominated, and this year Sugar Shane disappointed everyone with a miserable non-performance against Pacquiao.
Then there's Juan Manuel Marquez, who lost badly to Mayweather in 2009, but has pushed Manny Pacquiao to the limit three times in 2004, 2008 and 2011.
Of all of them, Oscar had the most success against Mayweather. But the success that Marquez has had against Pacquiao, including last night's controversial majority decision loss in a stunning display of boxing IQ and general ring brilliance, is on another level. Styles make fights, and Marquez has Pacquiao's number more than anyone ever has.
When asked about a potential Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight, Marquez predicted after last night's fight that Floyd would be too difficult for the Filipino. From RingTV.com:
"I think that commercially speaking, that would be a huge fight. It would be a really big fight. But I think that if they fought, boxing is about styles, and I think that the style of Floyd Mayweather would get very complicated for Manny Pacquiao."
Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KO) truly neutralizes so much of what has made Manny Pacquiao a phenom and dominant in-ring performer. He is the kryptonite to Pacquiao's Superman, a hero who has trounced the likes of De La Hoya, Hatton, Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Marco Antonio Barrera, Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales and Joshua Clottey, among others. Pacquiao has been so electric, and so dominant, that it was a system shock to see Marquez going step-for-step with Manny, even though he'd done it twice before.
After last night, the general feeling seems to be that Mayweather is re-established as the top man in the game today. But once again, when it comes to that fight, I'd keep in mind that oft-repeated (including right now), timeless boxing wisdom: Styles make fights, and it's not always about who's better overall. Floyd Mayweather is great, but he's not Juan Manuel Marquez. The differences could be a big factor -- whether that's a good thing for Manny Pacquiao is another story, but one I don't see as an open-and-shut case even after Marquez made Manny look beatable with boxing 24 hours ago.