Sometimes, you get two guys who were just made to fight each other. Every time they meet, something amazing happens.
In mixed martial arts (MMA), we’ve got Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard, Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher and Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva, among others. In boxing, we’ve got Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, Israel Vázquez vs. Rafael Márquez and Arturo Gatti vs. Mickey Ward.
And, of course, Manny Pacquiao (Ring Magazine number one pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet) and Juan Manuel Márquez (Ring Magazine number five pound-for-pound best fighter ).
In preparation for the pair’s scrap this Saturday (Nov. 12, 2011) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, which will serve as the third in a trilogy that has Pacquiao up 1-0-1, MMAMania is breaking down their first two battles.
Join me after the jump as we recap Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez 1 from 2004 in "Sin City:"
May 8, 2004. A mildly-mustachioed, 25-year-old Pinoy wrecking ball named Manny Pacquiao, fresh off a knockout of legendary Mexican warrior Marco Antonio Barrera, is making his third trip to the featherweight division. He has defended his super bantamweight titles eight times and, after taking home The Ring featherweight title at the expense of Barrera, is looking to expand his trophy case by adding the WBA and IBF featherweight titles.
Rather reluctant to part with them is 30-year-old Juan Manuel Márquez. Aside from a highly-controversial split-decision loss in 1999 and a disqualification in his debut, he is unbeaten in more than 40 fights. Of his last 11 opponents, 10 have been stopped before the final bell, the sole survivor losing a technical decision.
Considering that Pacquiao has stopped 12 of his last 13, all but two inside six rounds, that this fight will be absolutely crazy is pretty much a given.
A beaming Pacquiao makes his way to the ring to Queen’s classic "We are the Champions," but as soon as he is within the ropes, his grin evaporates. Márquez’s entrance, greeted with a cavalcade of "boos," is much more sedate, but his face is no less intense.
The bell rings and we’re off.
Both fighters exchange jabs early, but Márquez is landing the better shots. Digging lefts to the ribs and solid right straights are scoring for the Mexican champ. Pacquiao is loading up his left, showcasing considerable upper-body movement but still getting rebuffed every time he tries to close the distance.
Then it happens.
Everyone throws their power hand differently. Some people wing it, some people fling it, and Manny Pacquiao hurls it. A bazooka left straight slams into Márquez halfway through the round, sending him skidding across the ring on his rear. He takes the eight-count, but doesn’t appear badly hurt; his legs are steady and at no point does his back touch the mat. Pacquiao smells blood, though, and begins firing off nasty combos capped off with the left straight. Fifteen seconds later, and Márquez is down again off a brutal left straight.
This one sends him to his back, but he rocks back to his feet, face blank. Again, he takes the eight-count and again, he shows no signs of being perturbed by the enormous power of his foe.
Unfortunately for him, his day just continues getting worse. Whether he is still dazed or just overwhelmed by the young Filipino’s speed, he has no answers for the vicious tempo of Pacquiao’s assault, and gets clocked a third time backing into the ropes. Though he catches himself inches off the ground with the ropes, this proves a mistake, as Manny smacks him with a left and makes him crumple.
Márquez’s poker face remains intact as he forces himself to his feet, sufficiently sturdy that referee Joe Cortez lets him continue. Running out of time in the first, Pacquiao blitzes him yet again, buckling "Dinamita" with another nasty left. The veteran somehow manages to fight off Pacquiao, getting decent success with counters and surviving to the bell.
Three minutes in and four rounds in the hole. This has not been one of the Mexican champion’s better days.
Nose busted, Márquez steps into the center of the ring to try to stop the surging Filipino firebrand. While his feet are back under him, he simply can’t stop Pacquiao’s offense. Counters slam home, but they don’t stymie Pacquiao. More jabs and left straights crash home, Pacquiao outlanding Márquez two to one. Heading back to their corners at the end of the round, Pacquiao’s excitement is obvious -- effectively five rounds ahead, he’s on his way to yet another title.
As the third round begins, however, a fact heretofore hidden suddenly makes itself apparent: He may not lead with his face and he may not move forward relentlessly, but Juan Manuel Márquez is a Mexican fighter to the core. The veteran begins timing his foe’s heavy lunges, digging hard to the body and face. The murderous left straight is not finding a home, and Márquez begins the grueling climb back into the fight by taking the third round.
The enormous momentum Pacquiao generated through his round one beating begins to evaporate. Márquez no longer fears his punches and the Mexican great’s timing, honed by years of dominance at 125 pounds, is proving more dominant than Pacquiao’s blistering speed.
The fourth round, one that sees the countering prowess of Márquez keep Manny tentative, also goes to the former, but it’s in the fifth that he truly puts the disastrous opening of the bout behind him. Just after the halfway point of the round, Márquez lunges forward and pops Manny with a left, forcing him to cover up. As he disengages and Pacquiao straightens up, "Dinamita" rams a right hand down his throat. Pacquiao wobbles, but withstands the follow-up flurry, raising his hands in defiance of his foe’s power.
The younger fighter, hanging back with a look of concern on his face, gets tagged over and over until the end of the round. The numbers are telling: Despite Pacquiao throwing 77 punches in the first round, Márquez has actually landed more power punches.
That’s three in the books for Márquez. That hellacious first round seems in the distant past, the only remaining traces of it are the pink stains speckling the Mexican’s white shorts. Pacquiao seems afraid to engage the counter specialist, and a little more than a minute into the sixth, pays for his inaction dearly.
A flicking jab to the body draws Pacquiao’s attention away from his face just long enough for Márquez to rock his world with an overhand right. The lights go out for just a second; Pacquiao’s head rolls disturbingly as he staggers back into the ropes, the Mexican veteran battering away.
Pacquiao tries to fire back, but gets tagged by a hard right uppercut. The Filipino prodigy gets his wits about him once more, but there is no showboating this time. He is backing straight up as Márquez pushes forward, occasionally sending out a jab but unable to reignite the fire he lit with his three knockdowns. Márquez lands hard uppercuts as Pacquiao moves forward, ripping to the body at every opportunity. By the time the two return to their stools, the grinning Manny Pacquiao who stepped into the ring is a distant memory, his wife Jinkee looking like she’s about to be violently ill.
The gap is down to one point. One more good round from "Dinamita" will, against all odds, put them back on even footing.
But Pacquiao did not become a multi-division champion by being the sort of man who wilts when things aren’t going his way. As the seventh progresses, his high-frequency head movement begins again, as does his forward march. While Márquez lands several vicious body shots, the monster left straight of Pacquiao is making itself known once again. The Filipino banger hasn’t retaken control of the fight, but Márquez’s snowballing dominance is vaporized by the former’s newfound aggression.
The majority of the eighth is more clearly Pacquiao’s. His lunges are corralled, forcing Márquez to scramble to re-establish his counter game. With 30 seconds left, however, an off-balance Pacquiao’s gloves nearly scrape the mat as he stumbles into the ropes. Márquez, however, is unable to capitalize, and Pacquiao raises his hands once again to signal his resilience.
The timing game begins favoring Pacquiao, as his foe seems unable to replicate the countering success he enjoyed early on. He is still landing good punches, but he can no longer force Manny back, and the Filipino phenom is bending out of the way of his counters. The punch count is practically even, but Pacquiao’s aggression is winning him the fight, a trend that continues in a high-octane tenth round.
In the eleventh, though, Márquez once more begins to assert himself, jacking Pacquiao’s jaw with a hard right in the early going. Pacquiao’s murderous left sizzles constantly by his head, but he’s having little success with it, while Márquez finally manages to get his counter game going again. The round is clearly in the Mexican’s favor, but it may not be enough.
Inexplicably, Juan’s trainer, Ignacio Berinstain, tells his charge that he has the fight in the bag, despite Harold Lederman and the other analysts being fairly unanimous in their assertion of Pacquiao’s lead. Freddie Roach, as usual, tells Pacquiao to knock him out.
Despite the different snippets of advice, both fighters go hard in the final round, swinging with everything they’ve got and putting a dramatic cap on a fantastic fight. The crowd erupts and both fighters raise their hands in victory.
Their jubilation ends as the scorecards are read. 115-110 Pacquiao, 115-110 Márquez, and 113-113 for a split draw.
Interestingly, it later comes to light that the latter judge inadvertently scored the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao instead of the proper 10-6, meaning that had he avoided that mental lapse, Pacquiao would have taken home a split decision.
In any case, despite the unsatisfactory resolution, the rematch does not materialize for another four years. Pacquiao establishes himself at super featherweight, defeating the likes of Érik Morales and Joge Solís. Márquez soon joins him in his new weight class, taking the WBC title from Marco Antonio Barrera.
Join us later this evening for a look at their second, even closer fight.