Manny Pacquiao will fight familiar foe Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time in December. It may be a non-title welterweight bout, but Pac-Man's most recent controversial loss raises the stakes significantly nonetheless.
Two of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters—including arguably the best in Pacquiao—have provided high-quality, 12-round thrillers, with the Congressman netting the 2-0-1 advantage.
The WBO welterweight title should still be Pacquiao's, if not for a ridiculous split decision loss to Timothy Bradley back in June. A committee of five WBO judges reviewed the fight after the fact, unanimously scoring it in favor of Pacquiao. Unfortunately, the result can't be changed.
Many want to see the highly anticipated showdown with Floyd Mayweather, but that has not materialized itself yet. Until then, this pending fight with Marquez is all the fans can look forward to, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
All three previous fights have come down to the wire and gone the full 12 rounds. The uncanny ability Marquez has to bounce back from a flurry of Pacquiao punches is essentially unmatched, and the stamina both fighters have to produce high-quality boxing for a full-length fight is staggering.
In an interview with Bob Velin of the USA TODAY, Pacquiao certainly didn't sound like he was treating this as a non-title fight. He has used the loss to Bradley as motivation to push himself to what he hopes are greater heights—against Marquez and beyond:
I want to erase the last fight and any doubts...I will focus this time. I have to study and train using new techniques and strategy, and apply techniques never used in my previous fights. I will fight and train like the old Manny, the 25-year-old Manny.
It's hard to believe that Pacquiao wasn't focused in his last outing, since he put forth what should have been a winning effort. But that loss seems to have served as a wake-up call for him, pushing him to increase his already vast arsenal and KO Marquez for the first time.
This new, even more aggressive strategy from Pac-Man will be interesting to watch against an opponent he has traditionally used the entire fight to beat. At the same time, experimenting with new strategy against an opponent he likely knows better than anyone will likely allow Pacquiao the creative latitude to do so.
If Pacquiao were to lose in this one, it wouldn't devastate his legacy—Marquez has competed very evenly in every prior bout—but implementing new techniques and concepts may serve Pacquiao well in a potential future fight with Mayweather.
The familiarity factor will make this fight spectacular as usual. The ratings are sure to be through the roof to see how Pacquiao responds coming off of his loss to Bradley. But that's not the point. This fight is about pride, passion and mutual respect between Pacquiao and Marquez.
The fourth edition of this matchup should be another one for the ages, even absent a welterweight title on the line.