Tetralogies are rare in boxing.
The very notion of two boxers fighting each other four times is somewhat antiquated and harks back to an era where prizefighters were more active and champions were undisputed.
Generally, trilogies suffice when trying to determine who holds the ultimate edge between two evenly matched combatants.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales, Tony Zale vs. Rocky Graziano and Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward are just a handful of boxing’s genuinely epic three-fight rivalries.
But boxing fans demand variety.
It is rare enough that a fight warrants a rematch and the boxing public will only accept and embrace a rubber match if the circumstances are special; action, competitiveness, compelling storylines and high stakes are all essential elements.
Tetralogies combine all of these necessary ingredients and heighten them. A four-fight series implies a rare level of excellence and can thus only be positive for the sport.
In a recent article on RingTV.com, Lee Groves ranks the 10 greatest tetralogies in boxing.
As one might expect, a sampling of the fighters involved is impressive: Gene Fullmer vs. Sugar Ray Robinson, Stanley Ketchel vs. Billy Papke, Sandy Saddler vs. Willie Pep, Beau Jack vs. Bob Montgomery and Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez are in Groves’ top-five.
The introduction to Groves’ slideshow aptly and concisely outlines why Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez’s rivalry is deserving of a fourth fight:
Although the 'Pac Man' holds a 2-0-1 lead in the history books, a compelling argument can be made that Marquez deserved to win at least one fight—if not more. Marquez's strong belief that he won all three combined with the firestorm over last November's majority decision for Pacquiao made fight four possible—and most likely profitable. The closeness of their rivalry is best illustrated by the following statistic: When one adds up the nine scorecards submitted during the series, Pacquiao holds an airtight 1,024-1,017 edge—a difference of just 0.34 percent.
CompuBox numbers also suggest how even and competitive Pacquiao and Marquez’s first three fights were.
A statistical breakdown of Pacquiao-Marquez I and II demonstrates that little separated the two fighters from a numbers standpoint (per BoxingScene.com). In their first fight, Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO) out-landed Pacquiao 158 to 148 in total punches and 122 to 100 in power shots. While Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO) out-threw Marquez 639 to 547 in total, Marquez landed at a more accurate clip (29% to 23%).
This trend of Marquez’s precise, more economic approach versus Pacquiao’s relentless flurries continued in the rematch.
In their second encounter, Marquez again out-landed Pacquiao in total punches (172 to 157) and in power shots (130 to 114). Further tightening matters is the fact that out of their first 24 contested rounds, Marquez landed more total punches in 12 stanzas, while Pacquiao held the edge in nine frames (with three even).
In total, Marquez holds a 330 to 305 edge in total connects and a 252 to 214 advantage in power punches over the first two fights.
But statistics are somewhat limited.
Obviously, CompuBox numbers cannot account for the four total knockdowns Pacquiao scored during his first two fights against Marquez (three in the first bout, one in the second).
Pacquiao-Marquez III figured to provide some clarity and a definitive end to the rivalry. However, while statistical trends shifted slightly (per BoxingScene.com), the decision was close and controversial. In the rubber match, Pacquiao out-landed Marquez 176 to 138 in total punches and 117 to 100 in power shots.
Still, Marquez appeared to land the more eye-catching, precise shots. He repeatedly connected with right hand counters, even if Pacquiao was more active and threw flashier combinations.
After three fights, Pacquiao holds a narrow 481 to 468 edge in total connects, while Marquez has a slim 352 to 331 advantage in power punches.
But Pacquiao-Marquez is worthy of joining the pantheon of great tetralogies because the competitiveness of the rivalry is ultimately unquantifiable. Pacquiao-Marquez is about knockdowns, rallies, late surges and fierce exchanges. It’s about marveling at the skill and courage of two fighters who were made for each other.
Is Pacquiao-Marquez worthy of a tetralogy?
It’s easy to say that Marquez would have won his third fight against Pacquiao had he sustained a higher punch output, but consider Round 7, for instance.
Pacquiao out-threw and out-landed Marquez 57 to 31 and 21 to 12, respectively. Still, Marquez won Round 7 on all three scorecards (per FightNews.com). There is no set blueprint for how either man can win a clear decision.
Fans and pundits would unanimously embrace Pacquiao-Marquez IV if, oddly enough, it wasn’t for Floyd Mayweather.
The hypothetical Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is an albatross perpetually dangling from boxing’s neck.
It is natural and understandable to want to see two of the greatest fighters of their generation settle the debate of who is better inside the ring. But devaluing Pacquiao-Marquez IV because of Mayweather and Pacquiao’s refusal to fight each other is bad for the sport.
Mayweather-Pacquiao would produce a spectacular promotion and be the most lucrative fight in boxing history, but that is all it guarantees.
With Pacquiao-Marquez IV only days away, it is time to focus on their in-ring greatness. After all, nothing is better for boxing than bitter rivalries and truly memorable fights.
Pacquiao and Marquez have consistently produced action, breathtaking displays of skill and disproportionate acts of courage. The boxing community should fully embrace the magnitude of this rare and wonderful tetralogy.