By Matthew Hurley: Well, there’s nothing quite like a bit of controversy to get boxing fans all in a lather. The rubber match between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, two fighters so evenly matched we all should have known going in that it would be another hotly contested bout, once again fought on nearly even terms and left their respective admirers in defensive mode.
I had the fight at a dead heat going into the eleventh round, but it was Marquez’s to take. Once again he was able to keep Pacquiao off balance and out of rhythm. And yet Pacquiao was busier, always coming forward and pressing the action. There was no reason for either corner to be comfortable going into those last two rounds.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach was nervous and pressing his fighter to step it up from the sixth round on. In the other corner, after about the eighth stanza, Marquez’s trainer Nacho Beristain seemed to think his fighter was way ahead and he told him as much. There was a strange sense of calm and, perhaps, a touch of arrogance in camp Marquez.
Big mistake. What was Beristain thinking? A cardinal rule for a trainer in an ongoing bout is to never let your charge become complacent because anything can happen in boxing – inside the ropes and outside.
After two hotly contested bouts in which Marquez didn’t get the decision, (and he, his trainer and his fans thought he had won both), how on earth could Nacho induce a sense of comfort in his fighter? Marquez needed those last two rounds to seal the deal. Instead, he slowed up, seemingly admiring his work over the previous ten rounds, and let Pacquiao steal them with his aggression.
I gave both rounds, still close, to Pacquiao.
My final scorecard was 115-113 for Manny. But a vote for Marquez by the same score or a draw verdict will get no argument here. It was a close fight.
What does bother me is all the nonsensical shout outs that this was a robbery. How is a closely contested fight, with several razor thin rounds that could have been scored either way a robbery? Apparently, every boxing match must have a decisive conclusion or we will always be left with controversy… and, in my opinion, that’s just bullshit.
Yes, there have been terrible decisions in boxing but this one was not one of them. It could have gone either way.
Marquez was a huge underdog going into fight three. 9 to 1 in some betting parlors, and he performed way above expectations. In cases like that things tend to slant in the underdog’s favor. Witness the recent fight between Erik Morales and Marcos Maidana. Everyone, and those who don’t admit to it now are lying, thought Morales was going to get beaten to a pulp. Actually he did, but he rallied, kept fighting back in that wonderful spirit he’s always had and kept the fight exciting and relatively close. You couldn’t help but root for him as the rounds went on and the swelling over his eye began looking like a purple ripe plumb. The fight was close but Maidana got the decision he deserved. And yet people booed a terrific fight because of the verdict, much as they did when Pacquiao was announced the winner this past Saturday night.
The performance of Marquez wasn’t that much different from the one Morales put forth, although he was more successful. He used both technique and guile, and balls the size of cantaloupes, to engage and befuddle Pacquiao. He did the same thing in the first two fights. His counter punching skills offset Pacquiao’s power and aggression until Manny periodically broke through and knocked him back on his heels. Marquez has a style and a fearless temperament that will always bewilder Manny.
Why was Pacquaio moving to his left for the majority of the fight into Marquez’s right hand? Even Freddie Roach had no explanation afterwards other than Marquez just has that certain style, that certain something that Manny, and he, couldn’t seem to solve.
But before the Marquez brigade continues their chants of “robbery” it should be noted that Pacquiao is the toughest fighter Marquez has ever faced. He just keeps coming, startling the Mexican warrior with quick left hands and all out aggression. Every time Marquez took a breather, Pacquiao took the round. That’s why these two were made for each other and why fans of both will defend each to the extreme. And there is something both admirable and annoying about those fan bases. It’s great that they love their fighter to such a degree, but the blinders are always on.
Looking back, perhaps all three bouts should have been declared draws. They were all so close. That should be good for boxing, not bad as some have maintained. We got three terrific nights of boxing at the highest professional level out of these two guys. We should be celebrating.
Still, in the end, it does seem a shame that Marquez didn’t get at least one win where Pacquiao now, at least officially (whatever that’s worth), has two. He’s such a great fighter and he took another great fighter, his fiercest rival in a brilliant career, to hell and back. They are now and will forever be linked.
It will be interesting to see when the two finally call it a day. It will probably be in close concert. How fitting if it would be if they were both inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame the same year because that hyphen between their names belongs there.
Perhaps in time both will come to the same conclusion and friendship that rivals like Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard have come to appreciate after years removed from the ring - that being, a realization that there really was nothing separating their respective talents. One was more popular worldwide, the other more fiercely revered amongst diehard fans. But in the end, they simply brought out the best in each other. And for that, if for nothing else, no one should complain.
November 16, 2011