What a long drawn out process that turned out to be. First, Manny Pacquiao was scheduled to return in November, then it was December. Speculation was rampant that he would face Timothy Bradley in a rematch, then it was Miguel Cotto and finally Juan Manuel Marquez.
Pacquiao (54-4-2 38 KO), has been out of the ring since dropping a highly controversial decision to Tim Bradley in June. With plans for a super-fight with pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. on hold until next year, the Filipino sensation was left with few options for his return and each one had problems.
Miguel Cotto, Bradley and Marquez were all mentioned as possible opponents, with Pacquiao apparently preferring Cotto. The two men met in a memorable bout in 2009, where Pacquiao dominated the second half of the fight en route to a 12th round stoppage victory.
But Cotto, who lost a spirited decision to Floyd Mayweather in May, instead elected to try and recapture a piece of the junior middleweight title against Austin Trout in December at Madison Square Garden.
That left only two viable options—Bradley and Marquez.
While many fans will be deeply dissatisfied by a fourth fight between Pacquiao and Marquez, the reasons for choosing this over Bradley are simple.
Boxing has had many good moments since June, Danny Garcia shocking Amir Khan and Andre Ward's dominance of Chad Dawson among them, but there is still a cloud hanging over the sport.
People cannot underestimate the depth of the wound inflicted on boxing fans on June 9th of this year. Nearly a million people shelled out hard earned cash to watch the fight and when the verdict was announced they had a right to feel jobbed.
The decision was condemned by virtually everyone in the boxing media and even the mainstream sports media took notice and was likewise harsh in its treatment of the decision and the sport in general.
Many people rightfully pointed out that boxing, which has seen its popularity diminish with the advent of UFC and many internal scandals, had perhaps helped throw dirt on its own grave.
While there are some who feel that a rematch was the right thing to do, to settle the score and make right a wrong, there are legitimate concerns about the public's desire for such a fight.
To most observers it's a closed case. Pacquiao, regardless of what the scorecards read, won the fight clearly and has nothing further to prove against Bradley.
This ties into another concern that Team Pacquiao likely had about a rematch with Bradley. The public market wasn't very strong for their first encounter. Final numbers put PPV buys at less than one million, the first time a Manny Pacquiao fight failed to breach that number since he fought Joshua Clottey in 2010.
Now controversy sells, especially in boxing. But this wasn't that type of controversy. This was near the point of scandalous. And with already weak PPV appeal, it makes sense that Pacquiao and his money team wanted no part of this fight.
That brings us to Marquez. We've seen this show three times already. Manny Pacquiao has a draw and has twice defeated Juan Manuel Marquez. All of these decisions remain hotly contested to this day. You will be able to easily find people who feel that either man deserved to win or lose all three fights.
This is the type of controversy that sells. It sells the sport and perhaps more importantly, it sells pay per views. The third installment of the Pacquiao-Marquez story, which took place last November, generated nearly 1.5 million PPV buys. Far more than the fight with Bradley.
There is a definite, and real, score to settle here. Unlike with Bradley the controversy is legitimate. And unlike Bradley, a clear win over Marquez is something that would enhance Pacquiao's standing in the sport.
In other words, it just makes dollars and cents. And it makes boxing sense. Nobody wants to pay to see Pacquiao defeat Bradley for a second time (in most people's eyes). People will pay to see him fight Marquez, and a win would be much more meaningful.
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