Fight night is upon us: the fourth edition of the rivalry between boxing titans Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will take place Saturday evening at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
With the previous three entries in the saga all going 12 rounds and all that's at stake in this one, it is reasonable to believe that this fight will go the distance once again.
Both fighters will enter the ring with more aggressive mindsets. Marquez's trainer Ignacio Beristain has mentioned that he wants his man to go for the knockout. Pacquiao had this to say (h/t Dan Rafael of ESPN):
I am training with more aggression and more intensity in the ring and that is our focus right now. ... I always train hard, but this time is a little harder. ... We have been throwing more combinations, and changing our strategy—in movement.
Right now my mind is focused on being more aggressive for this fight. If there is a chance in the ring during the fight, why not make the fight easy and [knock him out] if I have the opportunity?
Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, claims that Pac-Man will win by knockout, since this is the last time around. That will be the end of it. He is convinced that the debate will be resoundingly resolved with Dinamita lying on the canvas.
The archrival boxers are clearly chomping at the bit to square off for what will likely be the final time.
Pacquiao wants to prove that his loss to Timothy Bradley isn't an indication that his career is on the decline, while Marquez desperately wants to prove to everyone that he should have a victory over the Congressman to his credit.
Who will win?
The perception is that Marquez has won at least one of the prior encounters, yet his record against Pacquiao indicates otherwise. A draw in the first fight was followed by two losses, with many onlookers arguing that Marquez deserved to have his hand raised as the winner at the end of those battles.
It makes sense that both would be more aggressive and go for the more decisive KO, but that should only heighten the competitiveness and push the fight to go all 12 rounds once again.
As far as legacies are concerned, no title belts are on the line, but plenty of pride is. A second consecutive loss and first to Marquez would draw criticism about Pacquiao's commitment to boxing. Another full-length Marquez loss will undoubtedly draw controversy, but he will still not have a win over Pac-Man. That would damage both his legacy and be a slight hit to that of his legendary trainer.
Whatever adjustments Marquez makes to his style to be more of an aggressor will have to be done wisely and in relative moderation. The 39-year-old's greatest asset against Pacquiao is his ability to counterpunch.
As thunderous and lethal as Pac-Man's combinations can be, he is susceptible to a lot of punishment, which is where Marquez has done serious damage in the previous three meetings.
The older fighter has to display the greater wisdom. As much as Marquez wants to definitively prove he is the superior boxer, that force can't consume him and cause him to be too bold.
It should be yet another epic slugfest on Saturday night. These two boxers are savvy veterans destined to duke it out for what will be 48 total rounds.
No matter the outcome in Vegas, we may never know who the better fighter is with all the outcomes being so difficult to call. That's what makes this one of the greatest boxing rivalries in recent memory.