According to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, Manny Pacquiao is heading toward a fourth showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez, as opposed to opting for an immediate rematch against Timothy Bradley.
There had been speculation that the fight would take place in Marquez’s hometown of Mexico City, but Top Rank CEO Bob Arum confirmed that the December 8th bout will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Of course, Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO) was one of three candidates proposed for Pacquiao’s return—Bradley (29-0, 12 KO) and Miguel Cotto (37-3, 30 KO) being the other two—and his selection will likely fuel debate.
The debate over selecting Marquez as an opponent is simply due to the fact that any move Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO)—or Floyd Mayweather, for that matter—makes is subject to intense scrutiny. Both Bradley and Marquez were compelling options because they both offer Pacquiao a measure of redemption, albeit for different reasons.
In his last fight, Pacquiao lost a highly controversial split decision to Bradley in a solid fight. Pacquiao, it seemed, clearly beat Bradley to the punch, even if he appeared to ease off the gas pedal during the championship rounds. Bradley, of course, broke one ankle and sprained the other during the fight, and his courage to fight through the pain was admirable, though certainly overshadowed by the dubious decision.
Nevertheless, the result stands as a split-decision win for Bradley, despite the bout being reviewed by five veteran judges commissioned by the WBO, all of whom agreed Pacquiao should have won by unanimous decision.
Still, a loss is a loss, and one can speculate as to whether Pacquiao should be more motivated to settle the score—this time by knockout. Is it possible that Pacquiao is afraid of a rematch against Bradley?
In a word: No. In deciding to fight Marquez, Pacquiao has selected both the more intelligent and nobler option.
Two fights ago, Pacquiao was arguable the beneficiary of dubious verdict when he was awarded a majority decision over Marquez at a catch-weight of 144 pounds. Pacquiao is 2-0-1 against Marquez, yet there are vocal factions who feel he could be 0-3. So, while a fourth fight against Marquez carries tremendous risk, it also shows that Pacquiao is determined to silence his critics and defeat Marquez convincingly.
Also, if thinking of the albatross that is the would-be fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO), soundly defeating Marquez does more to advance a potential Mayweather fight than settling the score with Bradley. In 2009, Mayweather dominated Marquez in a welterweight fight, and if Pacquiao could somehow manage to do something similar, it would fully re-establish his image as a fighter.
If Pacquiao has increasingly become the subject of gossip and his well-known distractions, a fourth fight against Marquez will more firmly redirect attention toward his boxing. When boxing is his focus, Pacquiao can be frighteningly dominant, and a stoppage or lopsided decision win over Marquez would further add to his legacy
Furthermore, a Marquez fight makes more financial sense than a rematch against Bradley. A fact Rafael alludes to in his piece:
Some involved wanted to make the Marquez fight because it is, by far, the bigger pay-per-view event based on previous buy rates. The third fight last year sold 1.3 million units, according to Arum, substantially more than the approximately 950,000 sold by the Pacquiao-Bradley fight.
Pacquiao and Marquez have thus far staged an incredible trilogy, and both men deserve a fourth encounter. While it will give both men massive paydays, Marquez will also be given the chance to definitively prove he can beat Pacquiao as the latter attempts to justify the 2-0-1 advantage he holds over his Mexican rival.
So don’t get any wild ideas that Pacquiao is ducking Bradley. A fourth fight with Marquez makes dollars and sense, even if it doesn’t address the major elephant that for all boxing fans is still, unfortunately, in the room.