No matter how good you are, there’s always someone whose got your number.
For Manny Pacquiao -- universally regarded as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters alive -- that man is Mexican legend Juan Manuel Márquez. Despite being unable to score a concrete victory over the Filipino phenom, the narrow results of both of their classic bouts are hotly debated to this day, and no man has been able to frustrate and tag Pacquiao to such a degree in years.
Later tonight (Nov. 12, 2011) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, the familiar foes will look to settle their score once and for all, battling it out at a catchweight of 144 pounds for the WBO welterweight title.
Will the Mexican great finally taste validation, or will Pacquiao finally erase all doubts that he is the best fighter on the planet?
Let’s find out:
What has made Juan Manuel Márquez so successful in the past are two things: His impeccable timing and his willingness to plant his feet and counter Pacquiao during his murderous lunges. That’s not to say he’s executed this strategy perfectly, however. In fact, he’s gone to the canvas four times in his two wars with Pacquiao, each time more dramatically than the one before. Every time, though, he’s managed to get to his feet and take control of the fight in the middle rounds.
That trend ends Saturday.
I have all the respect in the world for Márquez. He embodies everything I admire about Mexican fighters, from his impeccable heart to his dangerous body work to his willingness to move up in weight. There are just too many factors working against him this Saturday for me to think he’ll survive Pacquiao a third time.
First, while Pacquiao has technically been inactive for two months longer than Márquez, Juan’s sole fight in the past 11 months was against sacrificial lamb Likar Ramos, who folded the second Márquez’s right touched his chin. For someone as reliant on proper timing as "Dinamita," this rust could be extremely detrimental to his chances of success, especially considering the dire consequences should he mistime one of his foe’s monster shots.
Second, this is only Márquez’s second real fight at this weight. And his first was a complete annihilation at the hands of Floyd Mayweather. Unlike Pacquiao, his performance seems to peak at 135. Pacquiao is much more comfortable at welterweight than Márquez, more used to fighting opponents of that size, which could play a huge factor.
Third, and most important, everything that gave Márquez problems in the past still exists. Pacquiao still has his speed, awkward offense and endless cardio. Only now he has even more power behind it and even more savvy with his right hand. In short, this is the best Manny Pacquiao we’ve ever seen, while I have reason to believe that the 38-year-old Márquez has deteriorated, if anything. He had trouble handling Pacquiao’s power and pressure 15 pounds and four years ago, and should he find himself in the same sort of trouble in the early rounds, he is much less likely to pull himself off the ground.
By no means am I saying that Márquez has no chance. Despite his advancing age, his skill is undeniable, and as a true Mexican fighter, he won’t stop until his body outright refuses to listen to him. But Pacquiao is simply too big, too strong, and too fast for "Dinamita." After three straight decision wins, it’s about time for another Pacquiao knockout. Look for Márquez to have some success early before succumbing to the absurd power of the Filipino dynamo, possibly hitting the canvas two or three times before referee Tony Weeks waves it off.
Prediction: Pacquiao via third round technical knockout
In the meantime, travel back in time and get a refresher on their first two close encounters in 2004 and 2008, respectively:
- Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez 1: Fabulous featherweight fight fiesta ends in a draw
- Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 2: 'Unfinished Business'
Of course, also feel free to share your thoughts and predictions for "Pacquiao vs. Marquez 3" in the comments section below. Who you got?