Manny Pacquiao may be the greatest fighter in the world today, but that's a distinction that doesn't come without some trials and tribulations.
One of the things that is most engaging about the Marquez fight is the fact that Pacquiao has struggled against La Dinamita in the past, and it might seem like Marquez has finally learned enough about Pacquiao to push him past the tipping point.
But, were those Pacquiao's toughest bouts? He has, after all, lost three times, and none of those came against Marquez.
A look at the toughest battles of Pacquiao's illustrious career.
No known video exists of this fight—just the third professional fight for a then unknown Manny Pacquiao—but, it was his first notable step up in class.
He had dispatched his first two opponents—combined record 3-5—with relative ease, before stepping into the ring with 4-0 Rocky Palma in May 1995. Pacquiao was unable to record a knockout during this fight, so he boxed his way to a six-round unanimous decision.
Palma would go on to win his next three fights, and he finished his career with an 18-7 record.
Marco Antonio Barrera—the Babyfaced Assassin—is a future Hall of Famer and the kind of gifted technical boxer that normally cause problems for Pacquiao.
While Pacquiao won easily on the judges' scorecards—carrying eight of 11 rounds before the fight was stopped via TKO—it was not an easy bout.
This fight was also significant because, with this fight, Pacquiao embarked on earning his reputation as the Mexican Killer.
He would face Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales in his next three fights, helping launch Pacquiao into prominence.
After losing his first fight to Erik Morales, Pacquiao had a rematch 10 months later to help even the score.
Though he would win by 10th round TKO when referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight, this was not a blowout. Pacquiao was leading by two rounds on two judges' scorecards, and one round on the other one, when the fight was stopped.
This fight was an all-out war and went a long way toward building Pacquiao's reputation as one of the pound-for-pound elite fighters in the world.
In his 32nd pro fight, a 29-2 Pacquiao took on undefeated Nedal Hussein, who carried a 19-0 record into the fight. Pacquiao won via 10th round TKO victory, but not before being knocked down in the fourth round of this bout.
At the time of the stoppage, all of the judges agreed that Pacquiao had earned 87 points (out of a possible 90), but scores for his opponent varied considerably. Judges gave his opponent 80, 83, and 85 points on their scorecards—representing a differing consensus on how the fight was going.
This was Pacquiao's third defense of his WBC international super bantamweight title. Three fights later, he would win the true world super bantamweight championship by beating Lehlohonolo Ledwaba.
In his first defense after winning the IBF super bantamweight title from Ledwaba, Pacquiao had one of the roughest bouts of his career, although not for the right reasons.
The decision was a technical draw after the referee stopped the fight in the sixth round due to a bad cut caused by an accidental headbutt in round 2—and worsened by another headbutt in round 6.
At the time of the stoppage, the judges had scored the bout 58-54 for Pacquiao, 56-56 and 57-55 for Sanchez.
However, that split decision wasn't all that made this fight tough. Sanchez was also penalized twice for low blows during the six rounds of this fight.
In his 12th career fight, Pacquiao finally tasted defeat against his countryman Rustico Torrecampo. This is notable for being Pacquiao's first loss—a third round KO—but the reason why highlights Pacquiao's difficulty in this fight.
The fight was fought with a catchweight of 111 pounds. Pacquiao came in 112 pounds, and had to wear heavier gloves to make up for the difference. No one knows the exact weight of the gloves he had to wear, but considering that normal professional boxing gloves weigh between 8 and 12 ounces, any additional weight on a fighter's fists is guaranteed to be exhausting.
Six months after beating Barrera, Pacquiao took on another dreaded Mexican in Juan Manuel Marquez in an all-time classic fight.
An argument could be made that this fight belongs further up the list—it was, after all, a hard-fought draw. However, Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round (a 10-6 round), and spent much of the fight knowing he had a comfortable cushion.
The fact that Marquez managed to come back and make the fight a technical decision draw is a testament to his greatness, but it's also the result of an unusual judging decision. Judge Burt Clements ruled the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao instead of 10-6, and had the fight even at 113-113. Had he scored the round differently, Pacquiao would have been a split decision winner.
In just his second defense of his WBC Flyweight title, Pacquiao suffered the only career loss that can't be at least partially blamed on the gloves.
Pacquiao trailed the entire fight, and was behind 20-18 on all judges' scorecards, before being stopped via third-round TKO.
Much like the first fight, the judges' opinions were mixed on the rematch with Marquez. Judges Tom Miller (114-113) and Duane Ford (115-112) had it narrowly for Pacquiao, while Jerry Roth had Marquez winning 115-112.
The result, a split-decision win for Pacquiao, wasn't unjust or unwarranted, but it did help stoke the controversy about whether Pacquiao ever truly beat Marquez. If you ignore the knockdowns in their first fight, Marquez had won more rounds than Pacquiao—a score Pacquiao hopes to settle this Saturday.
Pacquiao can't be blamed for this performance, though. It followed a brutal series of consecutive fights—Erik Morales, Oscar Larios, Morales again, Jorge Solis, Barrera and then finally the rematch with Marquez—all in a 26-month span between 2006 and mid-2008.
This highly competitive stretch was a huge reason why Pac-Man got paired in a superfight with Oscar De La Hoya later that year.
The sole blemish on Pacquiao's recent record in high-profile fights, his fight with Erik Morales was an absolute war, and this is proven by the judges' scorecards. All three experienced judges—Paul Smith, Dave Moretti and Chuck Giampa—had the bout 115-113 for Morales.
Pacquiao has cited two reasons for the loss. One was a blood test near the fight, that he says drained him during his training. The other reason was that the contract stipulated that he wear "winning" gloves, which are designed for more defensive boxers or those with hand problems, rather than the more puncher-friendly Reyes gloves.
Pacquiao stated that he didn't fully understand the contract, and believes his two subsequent wins against Morales—while wearing the Reyes gloves—prove his point.
Whatever the reason, this was an all-out war, and a career-defining fight for both fighters. I also believe it was Pacquiao's most difficult bout yet in his career.