Eight years, three fights, 36 rounds and a ton of controversy have led Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez to this moment, on Saturday night in Las Vegas. One of the great rivalries in boxing history has to end, one way or another, this time.
With so much at stake for both Pacquiao and Marquez, this will be the first fight in the epic rivalry that doesn't go to the judges. No, this one will end when one man is unable to get up.
The knockout is the most exciting moment in all of sports, because you rarely see it coming. A fighter can circle his opponent for six rounds, not doing much damage at all, plotting his strategy, then in the blink of an eye, it is all over.
Pacquiao and Marquez 4 is the biggest boxing event of the year. The slow build for the fight has only made the moment those two step in the ring one more time absolutely painful to wait for. All of it is one huge adrenaline rush for the fighters, analysts and fans.
A knockout is not something that Pacquiao uses to win fights anymore. Pacquiao hasn't scored a knockout in a fight since Miguel Cotto in 2009. He has dominated plenty of fights over the last three years, but hasn't been able to "finish" an opponent.
Marquez is still quite adept at finishing an opponent. He had two straight in victories over Michael Katsidis and Likar Ramos before the third fight with Pacquiao. His power is not great, but he is so effective at counter-punching that it allows his strength to play up.
Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach have said that this is the last time Pacquiao will lock horns with Marquez in the ring. As such, Pacquiao wants to provide a definitive ending, even though he already holds a 2-0-1 advantage.
"The fourth fight could be the same as the last three, but Manny's hungrier now," Roach said. "I don't think Márquez has seen the best Manny yet."
That line about Pacquiao being hungrier now is troublesome, as it implies that he was just coasting by in his previous fights until the judges turned on him against Timothy Bradley.
In the same report, Marquez provided some insight into his thinking and game plan heading into the fight.
Everybody knows what happened the last few fights. I want to be more aggressive this time, but with intelligence, because Manny is a very dangerous fighter.
Every great story needs a definitive ending. Pacquiao and Marquez have been doing the same song and dance around each other for eight years. You want to determine who the better man is? Prove it.
Pacquiao and Marquez know that they need this fight to cement their legacy in boxing. What better way to do it than by a knockout. This fight can only have one ending. Another decision won't suffice for either man.