Manny Pacquiao may own the rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez in terms of ultimate results, but the fourth showdown between these two prolific fighters promises to be just as entertaining as the three previous entries.
Pac-Man is 2-0-1 against Dinamita, but every fight has been a source of polarizing debate. Marquez had some particularly strong words recently in a personal blog, in which he reflected on the last fight, which he felt he should have won (h/t Crave Online):
I felt I won nine of the 12 rounds and easily won the fight. He never came close to hurting me and once again my boxing skills were too much for him. But once again the three judges took away my victory. And there is nothing I can do about them.
It seems that Manny has only one opponent every time we fight -- me -- while I have four – Manny and the three judges.
The first time the two fought, it ended in a draw, although Marquez was thought to have won that one as well. Pacquiao subsequently notched split-decision and majority-decision victories.
None of these fights have come without enduring some serious punishment for the man many consider the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Marquez has taken Pacquiao the distance in every single bout and is capable of dominant stretches if his opponent is off his game even slightly.
After losing his last fight in one of the most controversial decisions in recent boxing memory to Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao is eager to get back into the ring and prove he is not on the decline, while Marquez is attempting to add a massive feather to his cap in what is already likely a Hall of Fame resume.
Not only is this fight vital for both men who will be squaring off in the ring, but as HBO Sports explains, both trainers' legacies are at stake as well:
Now that weigh-ins have taken place, here are the keys for each fighter to emerge victorious in this pay-per-view matchup in Las Vegas that is certainly worth the purchase.
Get Off to a Fast Start
The aggressive, attacking style has been mostly successful for Pac-Man, and he shouldn't drastically change his game plan to the point where he's out of his comfort zone.
He can land devastating combinations and should come out as the aggressor and try to take advantage of the fact that Marquez is 39 years old. The fact that Pacquiao is six years his opponent's junior definitely isn't hurting his cause to retain his undefeated record in this rivalry.
Setting the tone early will be vital to how the fight plays out.
Utilize Speed and Power Superiority
Not necessarily known for his jab, Pacquiao is renowned for his devastating cross punches with both hands. The unconventional southpaw stance he has normally gives opponents issues in this sense, but Marquez is used to that by now.
That will make Pac-Man's speed all the more important. He has more explosiveness and therefore more potential to put Marquez on the deck. Knocking him down early would change the complexion of the entire fight, as Marquez will likely try to hang around and really make a push in the latter part of the bout.
Lately, Pacquiao has had a tendency to let his guard down as fights go on. He is already not the greatest defender, and Pac-Man absolutely can't afford to wear down.
A wise strategy would be to open with a flurry and then back off in the middle of fight, methodically plodding along and taking smart shots instead of utilizing his typical cavalier style until he flames out.
However, trainer Freddy Roach seems keen on going for the KO early on (h/t East Side Boxing):
The thing is, Marquéz fought the fight at a slow pace the last time. We plan to fight the fight at a much faster pace this time, like we did in the first fight in the early rounds—that’s where we had the most success. Going by all the tapes we have watched, we do our best when we are more aggressive.
It may be true that Pac-Man does his best when he's most aggressive, but that strategy could easily backfire thanks to the counter-punching prowess of Marquez.
Speaking of that particular skill, it will be the No. 1 key for Marquez to pull off the slight upset in this bout.
Marquez has an uncanny ability to strike when opponents least expect it, and the veteran will definitely have opportunities to catch Pac-Man off guard.
Legendary trainer Ignacio Beristain likely doesn't need to emphasize this tactical facet of the fight, as he can simply see the success Marquez has had in the previous showdowns with his unique countering ability.
But nevertheless, it will be absolutely crucial that Marquez connects on his counters to slow down the devilishly fast Pacquiao.
Since Pac-Man has had aforementioned issues with stamina lately, it will be important for Marquez to continue his trend of hanging tough and forcing the fight to go the full 12 rounds at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Marquez likely won't be able to put Pacquiao on the canvas, so he must be patient as usual and continue absorbing the hits that will inevitably come from Pac-Man's devastating fists.
Considering how bitter Marquez feels about the last fight, it is important that he doesn't get too hasty and try to prove himself too early on for the judges. Without his WBC junior-welterweight title belt at stake, Marquez shouldn't feel any pressure to force the issue, since Pacquiao has far more to lose in this fight in terms of his legacy.
Brains over Brawn
It's a classic adage, but it holds plenty of water for Dinamita here. Marquez is obviously older than his counterpart and definitely not as quick. That said, his superior experience and ability to work the ring are elite among contemporary fighters, and he must maneuver with caution, as he has in the past.
Having been knocked down three times by Pacquiao in their previous fights, Marquez has always found ways to pop back up and kick himself into an extra gear.
While it would obviously be ideal to avoid a fall in this fourth bout, Marquez has proven time and time again that he can get up and defiantly perform at a world-class level in front of judges he thinks are biased.
As long as Marquez manages that chip on his shoulder carefully, he has a great chance to notch his first win over his more-decorated rival.