By Mike Sloan: In one of the tightest races in recent years, the winner of the Fight of the Year category was given the honors by the slimmest of margins: one vote. 2012 was flooded with plenty of terrific fights, but these past twelve months were anchored by two battles: the unbelievable war between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado and the dramatic, shocking mega fight between rivals Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. In the end, the emphatic fourth fight between the Mexican and Filipino came away with the honors of 2012’s Fight of the Year.
While many will likely argue that the torrid war waged between Alvarado and Rios was probably the better overall fight in terms of give-and-take action, Pacquiao-Marquez IV was the much bigger event and it far surpassed any and all of the typical pre-fight palaver that the media and promoters blather on and on about.
Both Marquez and Pacquiao predicted a knockout, as did Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum. Many within the boxing media also predicted a conclusive finish to a rivalry that has long been blanketed by controversy and debate. When the dust settled inside the MGM Grand on December 8, there finally was one man who stood head and shoulders above his nemesis and that was Marquez.
A few fistic experts predicted a stoppage win by the Mexican legend, but hardly anyone ever figured that the future Hall of Famer would have ended the battle the way it did, with Marquez walking across the ring, his right hand raised in victory while Pacquiao lay flat on his stomach with his arms folded underneath his motionless body. And then, when Marquez was hoisted onto his team’s shoulders and the capacity crowd still in a frenzy over what just occurred inside the ring, that “Pac Man” would still be out cold, his consciousness swiftly removed and catapulted somewhere into the stratosphere.
That Marquez finally iced the giant pink elephant in the room when he destroyed Pacquiao’s equilibrium with a single right hand isn’t the reason the battle won the year’s most coveted award. Pacquiao-Marquez IV was voted Fight of the Year because of many ancillary reasons that tied it all into one massive, wonderful event.
For starters, the two all-time greats had already waged three memorable battles and after 36 full rounds of intense, almost sheer savagery, there wasn’t a clear-cut winner. Marquez survived a three-knockdown first round in their initial encounter to out-box Pacquiao to a draw. They followed up that magnificent duel with another barbaric display that was won by the Filipino via split decision. And then last year, Pacquaio was again declared the victor by majority decision.
In all three encounters, Marquez felt he was robbed by the appointed judges. Many ringside observers felt that Marquez won anywhere from one to all three of the contests. Driven by an undying desire to prove that he’s the better man, Marquez vowed revenge on Pacquiao and promised to knock him out.
And boy, he did.
After a fast-paced opening round that saw neither man seize control of the bout, Pacquiao’s tricky offense and high punch volume seemed to perplex Marquez just a pinch in the second. However, the Mexican was undaunted and continued to counter the attacks and his right hand continuously just missed its target.
Marquez floored Pacquiao with a spectacular overhand right in the third round, a punch so vicious that it seemed as though Pacquiao, badly rocked and on his back, might not beat the count. As resilient and determined as ever, the Filipino congressman climbed back to his feet and survived the round on shaky legs.
Pacquiao cleared his head and eventually got himself back into the fight, so much so that he dropped Marquez in the fifth. Pacquiao continued the assault and was dominating his foe into the sixth, where Marquez was a bloody mess. His eyes were badly swollen and his face misshapen. Marquez was being taken to the cleaners and he was getting rocked repeatedly. With about 30 seconds remaining in the sixth, it seemed as though it was he, not Pacquiao, who was on the verge of figurative assassination.
Everything changed with two seconds left in the frame, though, and the axis of the boxing world was instantly knocked out of order.