They are two of the finest fighters of their generation and Saturday brings another clash between Manny Pacquaio and Juan Manuel Marquez. The Mexican has always kept it close but can only point to one draw from three fights, and Alex Steedman doesn't see that record improving when they meet again...
"There is no doubt that Pacquiao is the puncher in the fight and though the pair have shared 36 rounds together, Marquez has been down four times and troubled often."
Boxing has always fostered rivalry that places one fighter in historical context almost side-by-side with another. With Ali comes Joe Frazier, with Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler. So it is that Manny Pacquiao will always be associated with Juan Manuel Marquez but this weekend these men have the chance to force time to tell the tale they'd like told.
It is no exaggeration to say that losing to Leonard shaped the life of Marvin Hagler for a decade or so afterwards. You could argue it still does, certainly it is a fight still debated by boxing fans today. Hagler left the sport immediately following that controversial points defeat and smoldered for some time thereafter. His stance has softened a little but not much. Losing is hard enough, losing to a bitter rival worse and suffering the imposition of history perhaps unbearable. How many times has Hagler gone to sleep thinking "what if?"
Twenty-five years on, replace Hagler with Juan Manuel Marquez and you have perspective on what this fight means now and forevermore. Marquez can, with some justification, feel aggrieved that he has somehow come away from three fights with Pacquiao clutching just a lone draw. That was earned hard in a spectacular first fight between the pair when they were featherweights in 2004. The Mexican was floored three times in the first round but staged a miraculous comeback to control the fight from half way. It was close and drawn though Marquez considered the 'moral' winner given his start.
Four years later at Super-featherweight, Pacquiao carried the greater threat and landed the harder punches but couldn't dominate Marquez and squeaked a narrow win. I backed Marquez at [3.5] and felt short-changed though couldn't deny it was close. And then they danced again last November, this time a stone heavier at an agreed catch-weight of 144lbs and perhaps the strongest case yet that Marquez wasn't getting a fair shake as he dropped a close decision. No "what ifs" for the Mexican just a simple "why?"
So here we go again. Is there any reason to feel the pattern or order of things can be altered or affected in any significant way? I don't think Marquez will do much differently though it could be his desire is greater than before. He desperately wants to win and, in a sense, victory here would be considered decisive despite the overall score between the pair. Is it possible Pacquiao has peaked beyond his whirlwind best? Could the perceived judging 'previous' count against Pacquiao in favour of Marquez? Or is it likely that we know this deal and we are set for another close and difficult-to-score encounter?
All of the above is possible though if talk is anything to go by, Pac Man intends keeping matters firmly in his own mighty hands. The Philippino has spoken about his need of a performance, his desire for a knockout - an eventuality that can be backed at [3.8]. There is no doubt that Pacquiao is the puncher in the fight and though the pair have shared 36 rounds together, Marquez has been down four times and troubled often.
Marquez hasn't been finished off in those battles because he is an excellent fighter and a brilliant technician, not through Pacquiao lacking in application or desire. Should it be any different just because Pacquiao says he'll go looking for the knockout? I don't think so though you could argue the reverse; that Pacquiao might make mistakes which Marquez can punish into points.
It is true to report that Pacquiao has been forced the distance in each of his last five fights and the swashbuckling finishes against Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto seem more than three years ago. It's also fair to say that Joshua Clottey shut up shop, Anotonio Margarito should've been saved by the referee, Shane Mosley simply wanted to survive like Clottey (which Pacquiao allowed) and Timothy Bradley is a horribly awkward opponent to dispatch. Through all of those fights there were periods when the old, energetic, high-octane Pac Man was in evidence. I've always felt that version of Pacquiao stops Marquez despite what people say about their stylistic match-up. I'm less certain how much of that fighter still ticks inside Pacquiao.
This is a fight where every eventuality is indeed a possibility though Marquez winning by stoppage would be least likely among them. What we do know is that Pacquiao punches harder, has an energetic style which tends to catch the eye and he smiles a lot. He's also motivated to perform. There has never been much between Pacquiao and Marquez inside the ring as two of the finest fighters of their generation. History may relate that Pacquiao was just a little bit better though Marquez will be giving his all this weekend in defiance of us all.
2pts Back Pacquiao to win by Dec/TD @ [2.2]