Manny Pacquiao is a significant favorite to win his bout versus Juan Manuel Marquez this Saturday, but as people who have followed the two fighters' history know, a Pacquiao win is anything but certain.
I want to state that yes, I am highly favoring Pacquiao to win too, but I think Marquez has a fighting chance at it, and Pacquiao in his last fight wasn't absolutely stellar.
With that said, it's useful for fans to consider what would happen if Marquez were to pull off an upset on Saturday. Here are my thoughts on what could happen.
Unquestionably, the credibility of a Pacquiao-Mayweather would fall if Pacquiao were to bring a major unresolved career blemish into the fight.
Part of what made Ali-Frazier I so significant was that both fighters were undefeated champions with a claim to the title. Though Pacquiao has lost three times, he is undefeated in six years, with the only close decisions during that span coming against Marquez.
If Marquez wins, then Pacquiao's other two fights against him are tarnished as well, and given Mayweather's dominant 12-round decision victory over Marquez in 2009, some might be inclined to discount Pacquiao in their fight.
Sometimes boxing is a strange sport. In any other competitive sport, the best teams are guaranteed to face each other if they keep winning. Even UFC has this, since Dana White is the sole promoter for all of its fighters.
However, in boxing, with different promoters and no dominant, mandatory, central organization, sometimes the best thing for a top-notch fighter is to show vulnerability. A loss can go a long way toward making a fighter look beatable, and sometimes it can be all that is required to get a nervous opponent to step into the ring.
Pacquiao losing to Marquez, after seeing Mayweather dominate Juan Manuel Marquez, might be enough to push a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight over the tipping point. Although it may also mean that Floyd Mayweather comes in with more ridiculous cash demands. We shall see.
If nothing else, we know Floyd Mayweather loves finding a way to justify a fight with anyone other than Pacquiao.
Pacquiao losing would mean that Sergio Martinez might have a claim to being the best fighter in the world not named Mayweather, and Martinez—who said he's willing to come down to an almost-unbelievable 152 pounds to make a fight with one of boxing's two big names—may finally get his shot at a big-money fight.
Martinez—who is 36 and normally fights at 160 pounds and walks around at a higher weight than that—would be at a serious disadvantage versus a 152-pound Mayweather. This could be a good option for Mayweather if he again chooses not to fight Pacquiao, and I think Martinez deserves a big-money fight more than anyone else in boxing right now.
It wouldn't be a bad thing for the sport.
People have gotten very comfortable with their knee-jerk answer to "Who's better—Pacquiao or Mayweather?" lately, and an earth-shattering victory like this would shake things up a lot.
The Pacquiao partisans—of whom there are many—would have to reassess their beliefs, and it would open up a lot of new debates.
It would also provide the sport with at least one more heavily-marketable star in Juan Manuel Marquez, and it would give Sergio Martinez a credibility boost too.
Normally, the third fight between fighters is the series-concluding rubber match. One fighter wins two of three, and we move on. That's what happened with Ali-Frazier and Duran-Leonard.
However, this one is different. Currently, Pacquiao has a win, and the two fighters have drawn. A Marquez win would even the series, and open up the chance for a fourth fight.
If Marquez wins on Saturday, and given the quality of the competitors' first two fights, I don't think there would be a boxing fan on earth that wouldn't want to see Pacquiao-Marquez IV.
I'm a huge fan of Julio Cesar Chavez. He had grit, determination, power and the ability to make any fight interesting. There is so much tremendous drama surrounding his career that it's hard not to consider him the greatest Mexican fighter ever. After all, a 90-fight unbeaten streak must stand for something.
However, a win over Pacquiao could help Marquez stake a claim to that title. No matter what you say about Meldrick Taylor, he never held the kind of clout that Pacquiao does in the sport, and the highly controversial draw Chavez had with Pernell Whitaker means less than a draw and a victory over Pacquiao would for Marquez.
It's almost blasphemous to mention someone other than Chavez as the greatest Mexican warrior, but even Chavez himself would admit that a Marquez win over Pacquiao rivals anything he accomplished in his legendary career.
If Pacquiao loses to Marquez, it's evident that Floyd Mayweather would become the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, but who would be next?
Would it be Sergio Martinez, who is currently ranked No. 3, and would be the natural choice to inherit the spot if Pacquiao drops out of the top two?
Would it be Marquez, who just dethroned the champ?
Would it be Pacquiao—as one loss to another top-5 fighter doesn't eliminate him from contention, especially if it's a controversial one?
I'd look forward to this debate.
While I can't say a Pound-for-Pound No. 5 beating No. 1 would rival Clay versus Liston or Douglas over Tyson, it would be the type of earth-shattering upset that hasn't been seen in boxing since the early 1990s.
Though the betting odds are closer, the public consensus among casual fans seems to be that Pacquiao is a guaranteed favorite to win this fight. A win for Marquez would shatter Pac Man's aura of invincibility.
In hindsight, having never seen a Clay-Liston, Douglas-Tyson, Leonard-Hagler or Spinks-Holmes, many fight fans from the younger generation could be telling their kids and grandkids about the time Marquez upset Pacquiao.
An unpopular note, to say the least, but certainly a significant one: if Marquez beats Pacquiao, it could give many fighters a good reason to retire.
For Marquez: There's no better way for a 38-year-old fighter to retire than on top of the world, and Marquez is smart enough that he may decide this is a perfect time to call it quits. Then again, the list of fighters who retired at the right time is far shorter than the ones who held on too long.
For Pacquiao: If he sees a Mayweather bout as an impossibility now that he is not the undisputed king of the sport, then there isn't all that much left for him to do other than retire and go back to serving his countrymen as a political leader. It's hard to imagine him not taking a Marquez rematch, though, if the option is available.
For Mayweather: The guy loves announcing his retirements, and since he's so concerned about keeping that "0" in the loss total, this would be a perfect chance for him to exit. He could say that he destroyed the guy who beat Pacquiao, and so Pacquiao wasn't a legacy-defining guy for him to fight anymore. We might not believe it, but that's never stopped Mayweather from saying far worse things in the past.
How many more debates would open up? How many more great fights would we get to watch?
Part of what made the 80s such an interesting time for boxing was the degree of impressive talent and competition in the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions. Duran beat Leonard, Leonard beat Duran, Hearns beat Duran, Leonard beat Hearns and Hagler beat everyone except Leonard. That's the kind of great set of rivalries that defines a golden era in the sport.
The same thing with the 60s and 70s in the heavyweight division. Liston destroyed Patterson, Ali destroyed Liston, Frazier (R.I.P. Champ) beat Ali, Ali beat Frazier, Foreman beat Frazier, Ali beat Foreman and then Holmes beat Ali.
A win for Marquez would be good for boxing, and we'd see an odd array of excellent thirty-somethings around the welterweight division, that could yield some excellent fights if Mayweather is willing to step into the fray.