It wasn’t supposed to happen like it did. November 12th was supposed to close the book, once and for all, on the Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez trilogy while opening the door to a lucrative megafight with Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao just had some unfinished business leftover that he needed to dispose of. The proverbial weed in his lawn, if you will. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach predicted a knockout, as did most of the world. But some fighters are just made for each other. Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez are this era’s Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton.
Notice, I didn’t say Ali-Frazier. The Ali-Frazier trilogy had all the sheen of a megafight. The fanfare, the hype, the back story, the styles and the personalities made that fight larger than life. That trilogy will go down in history thanks to the “Thrilla in Manila” capping off a brutal war between two legendary warriors. Ali-Norton was of a different ilk.
What Ali-Norton brought to the table had nothing to do with the “Fight of the Century,” Norton was a 29-1 fighter that most assumed Ali would walk through when they first met. In their first meeting, Norton broke Ali’s jaw and won a split decision in a grueling back and forth war. The next two fights were both won by Ali, but just barely. They were just as brutal and closely contested with the results still being debated to this day. But the Ali-Norton trilogy doesn’t live in infamy like Ali-Frazier. It was all about what happened inside of that ring and only inside of the ring. Nothing more, nothing less.
Pacquiao-Marquez was all about what took place in the ring and the third installment was no different. All of the weight, power, speed and Mayweather talk flew right out the window moments after the opening bell. With a surprisingly huge pro-Marquez base chanting his name, the three-division world champion picked up right where he left off nearly four years ago. A brilliant strategy of baiting, counterpunching and leading with a hook to the body kept the Pac Man off balance all night long. There would be no dominant performance from Pacquiao on this night. Every Pacquiao advance was turned back by a well placed counter. On several occasions the Filipino looked lost, as if he had just moved back into his parents’ home and had to play by their rules all over again. The darting in and out of the pocket with power punches recklessly would not fly on this night. Pacquiao faced stiff opposition from the brilliant Mexican fighter and had to dig deep into his own soul in order to win. In the end, Pacquiao once again squeaked by Marquez with scores of 114-114, 116-112 and 115-113 and let out a sigh rather than celebrate when the scores were read. Meanwhile, many boxing fans across the globe thought Marquez did enough to earn the victory. A highly controversial decision left more questions than it did answers.
While Pacquiao won roughly 64 of 67 rounds against other opposition, in 36 rounds against Marquez he’s lucky to have won half of those rounds. The thoughts of putting together a fight with Mayweather next May have evaporated for the time being considering, this business is far from finished. It’s the most unsatisfying 2-0-1 record you’ll ever see.
“This is a fight that I kind of don’t want to do again but I think we have to,” Freddie Roach said after the fight. “He’s given us problems three times and I do believe he deserve a rematch before we face Mayweather.” As of Monday evening, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has stated that they are pursuing a fourth fight with Marquez that could take place in May – which ironically is the same month that Floyd Mayweather set aside for the showdown boxing fans have been waiting for. This means the blockbuster showdown that we’ve been waiting for may just have to wait a little bit longer. But can you really legitimize a fight with the defensive minded Mayweather in lieu of what happened on Saturday night? Knowing that Mayweather easily dispatched of Marquez, how can you be comfortable with your chances against an undefeated champion who may be twice as sharp as the man you just struggled to beat?
The Mayweather fight may seem like a tantalizing entree, but sometimes you have to finish your appetizer before getting to the main course.