By Matthew Hurley: When the announcement came that Manny Pacquiao will square off against Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth time there was certainly a sense of been there, done that. Despite the skill level, excitement and controversy the first three bouts provided you almost get the feeling that these two evenly matched fighters are tired of seeing the other in the opposite corner. But because of the rabid fan base both boxers enjoy and the money involved, December 8th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas will be deja vu all over again.
Fans of Marquez were probably laughing in their beer last June when Pacquiao lost by controversial decision to Timothy Bradley, ending a fifteen bout winning streak. Karma came back to bite the Pac Man if one believes, as a significant portion of boxing fans do, that Marquez should have been awarded the decision in at least two of their fights, if not all three. Losing to Bradley on points when it appeared he was way ahead also seemed to reinvigorate a disillusioned Marquez who hinted at retirement after dropping a close decision to Manny in their third go round.
“What do I have to do?” he lamented in his dressing room after the loss. His demeanor was one of a man weary of a sport that had yet again failed to reward him with the ultimate prize after he had given everything he had until there was nothing left.
Despite the close nature of the contest, Marquez truly believes he won going away and that Pacquiao has gotten the benefit of the doubt from the judges in every close round they’ve battled through. It’s a feeling that has grown like a persistent weed over thirty-six rounds of combat and fostered resentment toward his more famous foe. Whether he truly dislikes Pacquiao or just can’t abide his iconic status is unclear, but it has altered his mindset for their fourth fight.
“I have to knock him out to win,” the counter punching master now claims.
He understands that to leave his destiny in the hands of the judges yet again, in Las Vegas of all places, could lead to further heartache. Down by a draw and two losses in the series so far, another decision going the other way would define his career whether warranted or not. Those losses in the record book are a constant source of irritation and they have led him and his trainer Nacho Beristain to the decision that he must go for the knockout in order to erase the memory of those disappointments.
But if Marquez approaches fight four with that narrow-minded strategic plan he could play right into Pacquiao’s strengths and find himself hitting the canvas for a fifth time. For, at least in the knockdown category, Manny is way ahead.
For Pacquiao the disputed loss to Bradley hasn’t affected his lofty standing in the least. The vast majority of the press and fans were incredulous at the split decision that went against him but Manny’s shoulder shrug response to it all only enhanced his good guy image. He simply went back to the Philippines to resume his political career and plan ahead for his next fight.