That's because win, lose or draw against Marquez, Pacquiao's choice to have this fourth fight will forever be seen as a cop-out by the public.
That's obviously not to say this will be a bad fight or that Marquez is an unworthy opponent. The first three fights have shown that Marquez is a warrior, a man who can take Pacquiao's best punch and continually battle back with a barrage of his own.
It's even arguable that the last installment should have gone Marquez's way. It doesn't matter. Public perception is everything and the average fan has met this fight with a collective shrug—and with good reason.
Even though there has been a trilogy of epic fights, there is absolutely no external intrigue about this "rivalry." There are no heated barbs being lobbed back and forth among the camps, nor have the fighters themselves done a good job of selling the bout.
Here is a quote from Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, that essentially explains the lack of casual fan intrigue (via ESPN's Dan Rafael):
They're both gentlemen. They have no dislike for each other, but they're not friendly, either. There's just no emotion. They're not bad with each other, but they're not overly friendly. They'll say hi to each other and that's about it.
Quick question: If the fighters have "no emotion," how is the casual fan expected to feel anything but apathy toward this fight?
Essentially, that puts Pacquiao in the ultimate zero-sum game.
What exactly would a dominant win prove? That Pacquiao is a better fighter than a 39-year-old whose last notable win came against Juan Diaz over two years ago?
Most pundits already think that's the case. Pacquiao is an overwhelming favorite at -280 odds (per Bovada), though that has been bet down after opening at -330. And with two wins already over Marquez, even Pacquiao's first knockout victory in five fights would be met with a collective "been there, done that" attitude.
However, a loss or draw could be catastrophic to the Pacquiao brand. It would be his second straight disappointing outcome, following his controversial loss against Timothy Bradley back in June.
A bad outcome would also bring forth a never-ending line of questioning about Pacquiao's out-of-ring commitments. It's all well and good to be a born-again congressman when you're the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but it won't fly with the boxing world if he's less than brilliant.
Remember, Pacquiao isn't just any fighter. He's one of the few "people's champions" left in boxing. No matter the fight, his name value alone brings box-office gold. That may no longer be the case if Pacquiao fails to live up to his top-flight billing on Saturday.
With a Floyd Mayweather fight ostensibly somewhere in the offing, any non-win result would siphon even more excitement out of a fight many fans have given up on.
That's what Saturday boils down to for Pacquiao's public perception. He wins and everyone quickly moves on with their lives. He loses and his career is suddenly very much in question.
Either way, it's considered a cop-out fight that should have never taken place. It may not be fair, but it's the unfortunate truth for Pacquiao.