Juan Manuel Marquez would not appear to have a problem when it comes to avoiding a knockout when he takes on Manny Pacquiao for a fourth time Dec. 8 in Las Vegas.
The first three bouts all went the distance. Pacquiao is 2-0-1 in those fights, and all of them have been action-packed and quite close.
But Marquez cannot just assume the fourth fight will be another close decision. He certainly has the skill level to take the fight the distance and he has proven to be anything but an easy opponent for Pacquiao.
However, he has gotten off to slow starts before and he has been in danger of not lasting the full 12 rounds.
In the first fight, Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the first round. That alone could result in a knockout in some bouts. Any referee would be hard-pressed to allow a fight to keep on going after a fighter gets hammered to the canvas three times in Round 1.
However, that's just what happened when referee Joe Cortez assessed Marquez. Despite hitting the deck three times, Cortez determined that Marquez had not suffered any serious damage that would weaken him for the fight and he allowed him to continue.
It turned out that Cortez made the correct decision. Marquez corrected his defensive flaws and held his own in the next few rounds before turning the fight around. He took it to Pacquiao the rest of the way and the fight went from a one-sided start for Pacquiao to a 12-round draw.
Marquez has to avoid getting into an early brawl with Pacquiao, because that's not advantageous for him. Pacquiao fights much more effectively when the match is fought at top speed, while Marquez is more effective when the bout is held at a more deliberate pace.
If Pacquiao comes out at top speed, Marquez could be in a vulnerable position. That is especially true in the early rounds.
Marquez is not foolish enough to warm up improperly, but he's just not as quick as Pacquiao in the early going.
Marquez must stay away from Pacquiao in the early moments and clinch if he has to in order to avoid taking the big punches that could send him to the deck once again.
If Marquez can keep the fight from turning into a brawl in the early rounds, he should survive without a problem.
However, if he comes out roaring with confidence in the early moments, he could find himself in a vulnerable position.
Marquez must not let his manhood dictate his early-round strategy or he could see this fight turn into an early knockout loss.