Ali-Frazier. The Rumble in the Jungle. Tyson-Holyfield. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Duran. Gatti vs. Ward.
Those are among the most notable rivalries in boxing's illustrious history. Of course, the true heyday of boxing came in the 70s, when Muhammad Ali was the athlete of the decade and uttered one of the most famous sports quotes of all time, "I Am the Greatest."
Most likely, no one would go so far as to say that Pacquiao vs. Marquez is at the same level. At least not yet.
But even casual boxing fans—novices such as myself—would admit that the matchups between the two have been thrilling and provided us at least some semblance of remembrance back to the days of those historical meetings.
Think of it this way: When have two boxers met face to face three times and had each bout go all 12 rounds? When have two boxers met three times and had each match produce controversial wins? When have two boxers met three times and at the end of the three fights, no one really could determine who was actually the best boxer?
Some of the rivalries mentioned above may be able to meet those stipulations. But those all took place in the golden age of boxing, well before MMA and WWF (or whatever it's called) had any prominence on the national stage.
In a world where fighting is readily available, yet so highly sought-after and such an expensive ticket (whether in the venue or at home), no rivalry has come anywhere close to providing the excitement, controversy and discussion that Pacquiao-Marquez has brought in the past eight years. The two have fought to a draw and had two controversial Pacquiao victories.
Individually, the two probably don't match up with other historical boxers. Pacquiao has the more successful career record, yet he has three losses to his credit with two no-decisions. Marquez has lost six times, though two are against his rival.
But when the two have met to challenge one another, there is little doubt that brilliance has ensued. A seven-point difference is all that has separated the two in the three previous bouts.
That's like having your favorite football team go to the Super Bowl three years in a row and the difference between them winning and losing each time was one point.
This is Brady-Manning, LeBron-Kobe, Coach K-Roy Williams.
Truthfully, no words, sentences, paragraphs or articles can capture and tell the whole story of this great rivalry.
Our best bet is to concede that, in an era when athletes and coaches rarely stay in one place for the entirety of their career, this rivalry renews some of our desire for continuity. It is "Ole Faithful" when we know not even how to categorize such a thing in sport.
It is because few contests and matchups can guarantee living up to the billing and hype the way this matchup can. It has done so three times in a row.
There is no good reason to assume that it will not do so again.
Sure, the fighters are making too much money. Sure, this event is more staged than it is authentic. And yes, the rage and angst of the respective fighters toward one another feels a little bit more contrived than it is natural.
Those would all be fair assessments. And there is little one could argue to dispel such notions.
But the point of sport at the end of the day is to entertain. It does that, guaranteed.
We just came out of college football's rivalry weekend. We expect rivalry games to produce more excitement than any other contests, perhaps short of playoff and championship contests. Yet only one or two of the major national contests ended with much controversy. Many were anticlimactic.
No Pacquiao-Marquez bout to date has left us feeling slighted or scratching our heads, wondering why it didn't live up to the billing. Rare in sport today is the contest that fully satisfies the viewer.
Never mind boxing. This rivalry is unchallenged in boxing circles. This rivalry might be the best in all of sport currently.