One of the worst kept secrets in boxing is the fact that Top Rank was already in negotiations with Juan Manuel Marquez to fight Manny Pacquiao even before the Pacman climbed into the ring with Sugar Shane Mosley. That's how confident Team Pacquiao was going into last night's fight. They obviously knew what they were doing since Mosley seemed to have no chance in the fight at any point.
So what about the Marquez fight? Here's seven things that we can expect from that bout.
Let's face it. These recent battles between Manny and what was once known as the pride of the Welterweight division has really shown not only how great Manny is, it has also shown how great the three Hall of Famers that Manny faced in the lower divisions were in their prime. Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Marquez were some of the best fighters of all time at Featherweight and Super Featherweight. All of them stood in against Manny's powerful shots unlike Miguel Cotto in the final rounds of his fight with Manny, and Mosley and Josh Clottey. I don't expect anything less from Marquez in the next fight.
The lethal combination of speed and power the Pacman brings to the table is what makes him so different from other fighters. You can see it in the way he knocks people down early. You can see it in the way they tuck and run immediately after it happens. In both bouts between JMM and Manny, Manny floored Marquez early. Three times in the first fight. But unlike so other fighters who basically pack it in immediately after Manny puts them on the canvas, Marquez starts timing Manny's shots so he can effectively counter-punch and he starts fighting back. That's why he always gives Manny so much trouble.
Unlike most of Pacquaio's recent fights, he will be the bigger man in the ring when he fights JMM. The question is how much bigger. I'm hoping they make this fight at 140 because Marquez is a natural featherweight who has been effective at Lightweight. At the 140 pound limit this could be a terrific fight and Manny can easily cut weight to get down to 140. If they fight at Welter Manny won't have to cut weight and Marquez will be forced to put on weight like he did against Mayweather. He's just not a good fighter at the higher weight for a number of reasons. It makes his movement slower and it was obvious against Money that he was a blown up Lightweight not a Welter.
Manny Pacquiao is a superstar but he doesn't live in a bubble. He knows he didn't fare well in the second half of his first fight with Marquez. He also knows some people thought he lost the second as well. And there is something else he knows that many fight fans don't know. Manny knows how close he was to losing when the blood was running into his eye in the middle rounds of his second bout with JMM and he couldn't see out of one eye. That's when he was letting Marquez hit him and later told his trainer Freddie Roach that since he couldn't see he was going to find out if Marquez could take him out. The eye cleared up and Manny came storming back but he was prepared to lose at that point. That's the last time Manny was even in trouble in a fight and don't think he's forgotten.
That's why Manny will be motivated in this one. He knows what happened in that second fight. he knows how close it was.
Marquez is one of the all time great fighters but Manny has been his kryptonite. Sure he's had other losses. But he knows he got jobbed in Indonesia against Chris John and that he never had a chance against the much bigger Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in a bout that was more of a glorified exhibition that a real fight. But against Manny he was so close to victory he could taste it. Take away the three knockdowns in the first bout and he wins going away. And the second fight was so close that it could have gone either way even though he got knocked down once again.
The reason it bugs Marquez so much is he knows what a great fighter Manny truly is and that had he won those two fights he might be in Manny's place instead of the other way around. For a proud man like JMM that is huge. And it is why you know he will give it his all in this third bout.
The biggest drawback in this fight is going to be JMM's age. He's definitely an older fighter now. Michael Katsidis is not a great fighter and he gave Marquez some unexpected problems in their recent bout. Still Marquez knocked him out in the ninth round so he ain't that old. But if the bout takes place in November as planned JMM will be 38 years old and we're talking 38 in boxer's years. Marquez has had 58 bouts according to the record and possibly more fights that weren't recorded in his early years as a fighter in Mexico. He's not a young fighter.
It may be hard for Marquez fans to believe but Manny Pacquiao is a much better fighter than he was three years ago when he last fought Marquez. He used to have to cut weight to get down to the Super Featherweight limit and now he doesn't. He still has the incredible hand speed and his power is even better. And he is a much better defensive fighter.
If Manny Pacquiao agrees to fight Juan Manuel Marquez at the 140 pound limit we'll have an entertaining fight. Marquez is not afraid of Pacquiao. He won't refuse to fight like Clottey and Mosley, and he's much more skilled than Ricky Hatton or Margarito. That said, he doesn't have much of a chance to win either. Manny will the bigger man this time and Freddie Roach has had a new game plan for Marquez for at least two years now. He probably knew this day would arrive at some point.
On the other hand, Marquez has nothing to lose and he will give it his all. That might be enough for boxing fans who are pretty fed up watching people refuse to fight Pacquiao because they're too scared they'll end up being taken out on a stretcher.