As the Dec. 8 showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez draws closer, the external intrigue is at an all-time high.
That's particularly true for bettors, who oftentimes wait until every modicum of information has been leaked out from both camps in the pre-fight phase.
For now, the folks at Bovada have Pacquiao as a massive favorite. His -300 betting line means you have to bet $300 just to win $100, a pretty hefty line—especially considering the competition level of the first three fights.
However, not all prognosticators think that should be the case. In an interesting column on the interconnection of in-ring greatness and out-of-ring debauchery, ESPN's Nigel Collins spoke to Ted Lerner, a writer who has known Pacquiao for his entire career.
In the interview, Lerner expressed massive doubts about Pacquiao's motivation coming into the fight:
I don't think the spark is there anymore. He's found religion, politics and business, and now has many other interests away from the ring. Clearly that special edge that made Manny a once-in-a-generation phenomenon has faded considerably and will continue to fade if he continues to fight.
With Pacquiao coming off a controversial loss to Timothy Bradley, quotes like this are understandable. The 33-year-old southpaw was not a fiery, dominating force against Bradley, and it wound up costing him in the late-round scorecards.
In the months since Pacquiao's loss to Bradley, people like Lerner and many others have echoed equally disconcerting sentiments.
With a match upcoming against Marquez, an extremely motivated fighter who knows Pacquiao's style better than anyone, many have wondered if whether the boxing public and oddsmakers are overrating the Pac-Man.
In fact, some are beginning to think that Pacquiao shouldn't really be the favorite.
Well, to put it bluntly, those people are dead-wrong.
Granted, the fights in the trilogy has been fantastic, nail-biting events that have gone down to the judges' scorecards. However, boxing fans think that Pacquiao is going to take Marquez out to the woodshed and eviscerate his counterpart.
What's more, there aren't any logical arguments for Marquez to be favored in a historical sense either. Pacquiao won the last two fights and would have won the first had it had not been for a judge's error in the first-round scorecard.
I'm unsure of what world we're living in when people want to favor a guy who should be 0-3 against his opponent, but it's certainly not a sane one.
That's all before getting to the fact that Pacquiao is the better pound-for-pound fighter at this point in his career. The Pac-Man is younger, quicker and has a much better recent resume than Dinamita.
Is it possible that Marquez winds up winning the fight? Absolutely. He's certainly no slouch in his own right and has been able to avoid Pacquiao's power shots with each fight in the series.
But to favor Marquez defies history and all logical sense. Pacquiao is the favorite, but whether he comes through with that moniker remains to be seen.