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Pacquiao vs Marquez III: A Second Look at Saturday's Fight

Was Manny Pacquiao truly lucky to escape the MGM Grand with his belt last night? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Was Manny Pacquiao truly lucky to escape the MGM Grand with his belt last night? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

I almost never go back this quickly and watch and re-score a fight, but this time I have a sincere urge to do it. Scores have been here and there, but mostly within the same realm. I've seen Marquez winning 116-112 or 115-113, some draw (114-114) scores, and Pacquiao by the 115-113 or 116-112 margins.

To be honest, and this is no bias whatsoever, the majority of people seem to believe Juan Manuel Marquez deserved the win last night. I scored it 115-113 for Marquez live, but with a fight like this, doing our round-by-round coverage is admittedly not the greatest way to score a fight. Lots of typing, and frankly, people around me reacting to the fight and yakkin' away.

So I wanted to go back to last night and score it again. This is a fight that deserves a second look. So let's do it.


Note: This is not detailed round-by-round. I'm scoring it again, but the last thing I want to do is sit here typing the action a second time.

Round 1

A side note to start: Those who feel the HBO commentary was wildly Pacquiao-biased, there's some fuel here. Before the bell sounds, Joltin' Jim Lampley says, "Round one begins with Pacquiao all the way out to the center of the ring before the bell even sounded!" In reality, what we have is Lampley praising Pacquiao...before the fight has even started.

40 seconds into the round, with no notable action whatsoever, Emanuel Steward says, "Manny's fighting very, very intelligent. Notice he's keeping his balance, doing a lot of feinting before he punches, so he doesn't get counter-punched so easily. He looks very, very strong. Seems to be just a little bit faster with his coordination and his movement at this stage, even though no one has landed a punch, he seems to be better balanced."

Again, nothing had happened here. Pacquiao had thrown a few jabs, feinted. It's not that Steward's analysis doesn't have some weight, it's that he's saying "at this stage" when there's really not a stage to be at yet.

When Marquez rips Pacquiao to the body, Manny clearly responds emotionally with his body language. Steward, however, reiterates: Manny looks very, very good. He continues to harp on how much faster Pacquiao is. It's a close round. I scored it 10-9 Pacquiao last night, and I stay the same here. JMM landed really good body shots, but Pacquiao did take this round, in my view, because of his forward motion. It was -- which is not the case much in this fight, in my opinion -- a difference maker here.

Round 2

Steward still with the speed, balance, the strength. Lampley goes on about Pacquiao's improved right hand. It's so hard to ignore: Their narrative is very biased to start this fight. It really is. That's not just sour grapes noise from those who felt Marquez won and feel cheated.

Marquez's body shots are the real deal here, and he's shooting some nice uppercuts in. Manny is, I guess, the aggressor, but not notably more aggressive than Marquez, and Marquez is making him miss. "Pacquiao, blindingly fast on his feet," says Lampley. Steward heaps more praise on Pacquiao's rhythm. All of these things are true about Manny Pacquiao. He is a great fighter. But these things are not describing this fight. Marquez 10-9, a round I erroneously scored for Pacquiao last night.

In the corner, Manny Pacquiao doesn't seem quite so comfortable as usual. He knew already he was in a real fight.

Round 3

Steward begrudgingly admits Marquez is "doing well," but makes sure to point out he's "still having problems" with Pacquiao's speed. Kellerman jumps in to say that Pacquiao has muted his own offense. It remains about Manny.

Pacquiao lands a good right hook at the end of the round, and Marquez gets a right hand in to answer. This was Marquez's round, 10-9. The arguments that Pacquiao is so much more aggressive just aren't holding water so far. He is not much more aggressive than Marquez, and he looks almost mentally absent at moments.

Round 4

Harold Lederman: "I'm starting to wonder whether that Juan Manuel Marquez style impresses judges enough to win a fight. He backs up, he does nothing flashy. You know what he does is very unusual. Judges like myself tend to go for the effective aggressor. I gave (Manny) rounds one and three because of the fact that he's the effective aggressor, and he looks better doing it."

Steward: "Marquez just looks so much slower. ... This is maybe the fastest that I've saw Pacquiao, myself."

Pacquiao having a better fourth round, but Marquez is still with him. Heads clash for the first time. Not the last. Good straight left from Manny, then a hook to body from JMM, and another. Another left from Marquez, and he's using his feet very nicely at times. To be clear: Manny Pacquiao is not bad in this fight. Marquez ends the round nicely and shakes Pacquiao with a right hand counter just before the bell. Nicked to Pacquiao, even after four.

Round 5

Picking up where the last round left off, Pacquiao looks just damn confused dealing with Marquez, who may be going backwards but has plenty of aggression. Landing clean shots and having a great round. HUGE right from Marquez knocks Pacquiao back, and Joltin' Jim is right that it's the best punch of the fight. Manny wants to come back, but he gets ripped with another shot to the head. Marquez slips away from him. Totally dominant round for Marquez. Tore into Manny. It's probably the best round Marquez had in the three fights combined. 3-2 for Marquez

Round 6

I feel like Pacquiao's training may have let him down to a pretty big degree. He's having serious mental lapses in this fight. Mentally, Marquez is dominating Manny Pacquiao, but Manny is coming on physically in this round and willing himself into this thing after a really bad fifth. 4-2 for Marquez, though, as he lands the better shots and Manny is just having a hard time building any sustained momentum whatsoever.

Back to the corner thing: Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter, but not a clever fighter. He clearly has issues with guys who can use their feet and counter-punch. That's kind of a "duh" thing to say right now, I realize, but Pacquiao does not adjust well. It seems like he expected, no matter what he said before the fight, to steamroll Marquez. And that's natural, because he's trucked everyone else since the last time they fought in 2008. Whatever the game plan was, it needed a Plan B. Manny is stuck on the same approach the entire fight. He's not one-dimensional, but he's got largely one gear in this fight.

Round 7

Marquez lands a super right hand in the first minute and Manny just covers up. It's so rare to see him cover up in the middle of the ring anymore, but he's feeling those shots. It reminds me of when Mosley cracked Floyd, and we saw Floyd get his hands up in a high guard, which he almost never does. Manny having a horrible time finding his range in the fight. Marquez just thudding off of Manny's face with right hands. Marquez 10-9, 5-2.

At this point, he's clearly in control of this fight. And every time in the corner, Manny seems to know it.

Round 8

Lampley: "Marquez can't match Pacquiao for footwork and speed. He can match him in craft for sure."

Left uppercut and a right is such a nice combo from Marquez. Manny's footwork is getting better -- that's the one adjustment he did make. He's trying to use that to turn the tide. Marquez's right hand is still money, but Manny did nice stuff this round. Manny 10-9, Marquez 5-3.

Round 9

This is a pivotal round, and the first one all night where Manny, breathing hard, does look a little more confident going back to the corner, having landed a good left hand. What tips me to Marquez in this round is that Marquez makes Manny miss a lot, and comes back with a clean shot. The defense matters. 6-3 for Marquez.

Round 10

Lederman: "Defense! Marquez is swellin', Manny's not." Hm. Well.

I should add this: Overall, the commentary did get a little more even during the fight. Pacquiao takes this round, 6-4 (96-94) for Marquez. One thing that needs to be clear: Obviously, you can already guess that I'm still scoring this fight at the end for Juan Manuel Marquez, but Manny Pacquiao busted his ass trying to win this fight. He just had a lot of trouble once again with a fellow great fighter who has flat got his number.

Round 11

Pacquiao opening up -- Roach has started to make clear that Manny has to press to win this fight, and he's going for just that. Lampley hammers home that, according to the HBO translator, Beristain has told Marquez, "You're winning the fight," and Steward thinks that has influenced Marquez to start taking it a little too easy. This is a very good Manny round. Manny 10-9, 105-104 for Marquez.

Round 12

Good left in close from Manny. Marquez largely gets on his bike this round, but he also lands some good shots, and I think he takes the round with better punching. Pacquiao wasn't exactly a house afire in that round, either. Both closed the fight tentatively. I scored it this time for Marquez, 115-113, with a couple rounds different than last night on a closer inspection. But I still believe this was Marquez's fight, clean and fair.

Final Thoughts

The fight is, as Jim Lampley put it, open to interpretation. I feel comfortable saying two things from where I sit:

  1. Marquez deserved to win this fight. This was, in my opinion, the clearest of the three fights.
  2. It's not a true robbery. No matter how much we try to limit the term, it's thrown around willy nilly in basically any close fight. With this fight, it depends on what you prefer, because everyone has biases. Many judges -- maybe most -- favor the guy coming forward, which Manny did. Even though I think his aggression wasn't terribly effective a lot of the time, it was there for the majority of the fight. I happen to be someone who loves effective counter-punching and the ability of a fighter to use the aggression of other fighters against them. When it's done well, it's my favorite style to watch. It's a bias, even if I try not to be biased.

After the fight, when Pacquiao is announced as the winner, the hangers-on surrounding him cheer and cheer. They celebrate. They are thrilled that their hero/friend/benefactor/whatever has won once again.

But Pacquiao sighs, relieved that he's escaped. And he escaped this fight, make no mistake. When all was said and done, neither Manny nor Freddie Roach, the two guys in that corner who almost certainly know best, appeared convinced that they hadn't gotten a little lucky.

This is a great rivalry. It may not be the best trilogy of this new century, but it is the best rivalry when you take into account how big these fights have grown as the two men became bigger stars, particularly Pacquiao, and the fact that no matter what, underdog Juan Manuel Marquez just plain knows how to fight this man. I don't want the fact that I believe Marquez won this fight to cloud anything else: It was a very good fight, it was extremely tight in many rounds, and I don't feel like this was some huge disgrace or anything of the sort. It's controversial, it's going to be debated probably forever, and these are two great fighters who deserve all the praise in the world.

They stand shoulder-to-shoulder, flag-bearers for their generation of boxing.

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