Cue up your favorite boxing training montage from the movies, mix up a raw egg and kale smoothie and tape up your hands—we're about to explore how Manny Pacquiao has recovered from his shocking defeat to Timothy Bradley and has prepared for his fourth bout against Juan Manuel Marquez.
This article will be the eye of the tiger and the thrill of the fight, folks. It is a contender.
From a re-emphasis on one of his defining traits as a fighter to a few shifts in style, Pac-Man knows he can't afford to drop a second fight in a row. Floyd Mayweather is watching, after all.
Let's get it on!
Aggression, Aggression, Aggression!
Early in November, Pacquiao told Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times, "Aggressiveness is the most important thing for this fight." As Pugmire noted, that was evident in his training:
Pacquiao is banking on a style of nonstop action against his 39-year-old rival. Pacquiao assaulted a heavy bag with a flurry of punches for a long period and cracked, "Muy rapido."
"In and out, in and out, side by side," Pacquiao said. "Speed, hip movement. We have a Plan A and Plan B. The plans are to pressure and counter him. Move my head. A lot of work."
This is a two-tiered adjustment: On one had, Pac-Man wants to take the fight to the counter-punching Marquez, leaving nothing to chance. On the other, he wants to prove he hasn't lost a step after less-than-convincing performances in recent bouts.
Expect Pac-Man to bring the heat in this fight.
Some have speculated Pacquiao's singing career and political aspirations, among other pursuits, have somewhat diminished his focus on boxing. Others have claimed his reformed, religious lifestyle has stolen the edge he possessed when he was a gambling, womanizing fighter.
Pacquiao has to prove that neither holds true. He has to prove that his primary focus right now is in the ring. There's nothing out there that can suggest he's actually doing that—only he knows, and only his performance in the ring will prove it.
But given all the talk surrounding Pacquiao's regression or lack of a killer edge, I'm anticipating the sharpest Pac-Man we've seen in years.
Change Up the Style
If there is one thing we know about this fight, it's that these fighters know one another's style in and out. Pac-Man admitted when recounted their last fight how surprised he was by Marquez's obvious preparation (via ESPN):
We also underestimated him.
He was in great condition, as usual, but he also looked stronger. Maybe cutting urine out of his diet agreed with him? But he didn't hurt me.
What really surprised me was, he seemed to anticipate every move I made in the first rounds of the fight. It was frustrating because he was dictating the pace and style in many of those early rounds.
Don't expect Pac-Man to underestimate him again, or assume his tried-and-true angles of attack and strategy will work. Pacquiao knows he needs to be more aggressive, yes, but he'll also come into this fight with a new plan of attack.
Pac-Man may be an experienced and wily fighter, but he knows he needs to approach this fight with a renewed energy, focus and game plan.
Anything less, and he'll only repeat the mistakes made in the controversial Timothy Bradley decision. Marquez isn't going to go down without putting up one hell of a fight.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets exist in a perpetual state of training montage.