Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez should put on another action-packed bout Dec. 8.
While critics of boxing may point to the lack of attractive high-profile matchups as the reason that Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez are meeting for the fourth time, there is no argument that these two fighters have put on three stellar performances.
This is an exciting matchup between two talented, aggressive and willful fighters.
The fourth meeting at MGM Grand in Las Vegas Dec. 8 seems to be quite predictable. The first three fights have all been close decisions, so why shouldn't the fourth fight follow the same pattern?
Pacquiao has a 2-0-1 record in those first three fights, but since they were close decision he may be concerned that officials may psychologically favor Marquez in this matchup.
Pacquiao may try to change his strategy so he can have a more decisive edge at the conclusion of this fight.
Ideally, both fighters would like to stop their opponent. However, we see another 12-round decision in this fight.
Pacquiao wants to come out with a fast start because that has been the strategy he has tried to employ in the three earlier bouts.
It is also when he has been most successful.
Pacquiao will come out firing his jab and he will catch Marquez with a couple of hard shots. Marquez is uncharacteristically cautious in this round because he wants to avoid Pacquiao's power shots.
Pacquiao lands with his jab, controls the round and wins it, but he is frustrated because he has not been able to unleash his dangerous straight left.
Before the start of the round, Marquez is visibly agitated with his corner. It's not in his nature to stay away and try to avoid action and he did not like that approach.
However, trainer Nacho Beristain urges Marquez to stay with that strategy in Round 2.
Pacquiao is moving well at the start of the round and he continues to get his jab in and dictate the pace of the fight. He senses that Marquez is getting edgy, but he also notices that he is not left with many openings to get his straight left in.
Pacquiao soon finds that opening, but Marquez is still far enough away that he can avoid the full brunt of the blow. Toward the end of the round, Marquez gets in a few combinations, but not enough to take the round away from Pacquiao.
Marquez is no longer going to take it slow. He is going to try to take the fight to Pacquiao, but that is always a dangerous proposition because of Pacquiao's quick hands and ability to launch his quick-strike attack.
However, Marquez is able to duck several of Pacquiao's punches and launch several of his own shots. Marquez connects with a solid left to Pacquiao's upper body and then follows it with a straight right to the side of his nose.
Pacquiao feels the shot, gets out of the way and comes back to work with his own right jab. He lands a couple of hard punches on Marquez's cheek.
As the round comes to an end, both fighters show some swelling in the cheek area.
Round is even
Freddie Roach is exhorting Pacquiao to pick up the pace. He senses an opportunity to get to Marquez in this round.
In previous fights, Marquez has started to assert himself in the middle rounds, but by starting slowly he has not gotten himself into the fight yet.
After getting off to a good start in the previous round, Marquez did not have an answer when Pacquiao started to rally.
Pacquiao stuns Marquez with a right-left-right combination at the start of the round that has Marquez on his heels.
Pacquiao looks for another opening, shoots in a hard jab and follows with a hook that catches Marquez flush. Marquez goes down and is up by the count of six.
Marquez holds his own the rest of the round and while he went down, he does not look hurt.
After knocking Marquez down in Round 4, Roach believes his fighter has a chance to hurt Marquez further in the fifth round. He is urging Pacquiao to throw body shots to slow down Marquez before going for the head.
While Marquez does not look hurt in his corner, he doesn't appear to have hit his high gear yet.
At the start of the round, Marquez comes out with an aggressive stance and looks like he want to load up with a power shot, but Pacquiao is landing his stinging jab.
Pacquiao follows his corner's instructions and goes to the body. He unloads three or four body shots following a crisp jab and he takes control of the round once again.
In the final 30 seconds, Pacquiao lands a 1-2 combination, but the punches seem to wake up Marquez. He gets an angry look in his face and crashes a hard right on Pacquiao's chin as the round ends.
As the round begins, there is swelling and red marks on Marquez's forehead. These are largely from Pacquiao's effective jab.
But there is now life in Marquez's eyes and there is more determination that he has shown at any point in the fight. Still, Pacquiao is quicker off the mark and lands two hard jabs to start the round.
Marquez is undeterred and barreling forward. He unleashes a hard left-right combination, circles to his left and follows up with another combination.
Pacquiao moves well, but he absorbs more punishment and he may be hurt.
Pacquiao shakes off whatever pain he felt in the sixth round and is moving sharply and aggressively at the start of the seventh round. Marquez remains emboldened and believes he is about to turn the fight sharply in his favor.
Still, Pacquiao is the greater ring general and his jab is doing most of the dictating. He is landing his jab solidly to the face and chest. Marquez is now bleeding from the nose, and one hard jab is followed up by a straight left to the chest that seems to slow Marquez's charge.
That's only momentary. Marquez comes straight at his man. He lands a couple of 1-2 combinations and the crowd roars its approval. Then Marquez wings his best punch of the fight, an overhand right that catches Pacquiao squarely.
Pacquiao remains on his feet, but he is feeling pain as the round comes to an end.
Pacquiao may have been in some discomfort after Marquez's hard overhand right in Round 7, but he shakes it off and is listening carefully to Roach between rounds.
Roach is urging him to go back to his strength, which is moving crisply and firing his jab. Pacquiao seems to understand, and his movement seems faster and more decisive than it had been in the last two rounds.
He is also landing his jab and following up with his straight left. Marquez is in some difficulty, eats some more leather and throws two straight hard rights.
Those power punches slow Pacquiao down and then both fighters slow down a bit the rest of the round.
Round is even
Marquez comes out aggressively at the start of the ninth round, perhaps harder than he has at the start of any round in this fight.
He is trying to unleash his powerful left hook, but Pacquiao's defensive skills are helping him deflect those blows, which are not landing cleanly.
Marquez is scoring with his straight right and he suddenly winds up with another left hook that catches Pacquiao on the hip. It is not a low blow, but it is close.
Pacquiao knows that he can defend himself from that shot. He steps inside and delivers three or four hard combinations, and Marquez is now on the defensive. In the final seconds of the round, Pacquiao is hurting his man.
While Marquez is still in this fight, it's clear he is trailing and his corner knows it.
Beristain urges Marquez to start throwing more combinations and more power shots. Marquez lets his trainer's advice go in one ear and out the other. He knows he is in another war with Pacquiao and that strategy is not going to turn this fight around.
Marquez knows he has to deliver some power shots of his own and keep the pressure on Pacquiao.
Pacquiao lands two or three jabs, but he does not follow up with his straight right. Marquez lands a quick left, a straight right and a left hook that catches Pacquiao flush, and Manny lands on the seat of his trunks.
He does not look to be hurt or in bad shape, and Pacquiao is able to fend off Marquez the rest of the round with his quick hands and footwork.
Marquez senses an opportunity and comes out hard at the start of the 11th round. Pacquiao also realizes that there could be a change in the overall momentum of the fight and he comes out aggressively as well.
As the two men get to the center of the ring, both bring their heads in and there is a collision. Pacquiao emerges with a cut on his forehead and he is bleeding from the head butt.
The action is labeled accidental and the fight continues.
Pacquiao, showing his professionalism, does not let the streaming blood bother him. He is going to work with his jab and he is landing it hard on Marquez's jaw. Suddenly, Pacquiao lets loose with a powerful straight left and it lands right on Marquez's nose, and Marquez is bleeding from that punch. As Marquez is momentarily stunned, Pacquiao puts him down with a hard right hook.
Marquez is up at the count of seven and hangs on in the final seconds.
While there is concern about the cut on Pacquiao's forehead from the head butt, there is even more concern in the Marquez corner.
Marquez had momentum from his strong showing in the 10th round, but Pacquiao came back in the 11th and sapped Marquez's strength.
Now Marquez needs a miracle to win the fight by a knockout and he doesn't seem to have the strength.
The cut seems to have steeled Pacquiao and he comes out aggressively. He lands his jab and dictates the pace of the round. Marquez wants to load up with a big shot, but he is not quick enough to deliver it at this point.
Pacquiao dominates the first two minutes and then he gets too aggressive. He allows Marquez to drive a straight right to his jaw and he goes backward. While he is stunned, Pacquiao is still in control and he finishes the fight by landing three straight 1-2 combinations.
While the first three fights were close, this one is a clear decision for Pacquiao. Marquez got into the fight late and he could not sustain momentum.
On the other hand, Pacquiao responded well whenever Marquez was able to rally.
The clinching moment may have been the accidental head butt in the 11th. It focused Pacquiao and he dominated the fight after absorbing that cut.
Pacquiao wins seven rounds to three, with two even.
Pacquiao improves his record against Marquez to 3-0-1.