The English legal principle of stare decisis prescribes that when a preceding court makes a decision in a case all courts of equal status must follow that previous decision if the case before them is similar to the earlier case.
It is known as binding precedent. At its essence is the crucial legal tenet of previous experience.
Like the legal system, people are inherently creatures of habit. Just as previous experiences tend to govern our moves going forward, in law if one case has decided a point of law then it is logical that solution will be followed in the future.
On Saturday, the protagonists will be familiar, the script almost identical, the stage repeated.
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will share the squared-circle in Las Vegas in an attempt to dissuade those persuaded by previous events. In doing so both will attempt to overturn the established precedent that their previous two battles were indicative of two equally matched prizefighters.
Manny Pacquiao owns the only definitive result, in their second fight, and even that is clarified by the split-decision manner in which it was accomplished.
Statistics offer impartial, irreducible credence by which to illustrate that, Marquez in their previous two encounters was, in the very least, Pacquiao’s equal.
Over the course of the two fights, compubox stats show, Marquez landed more total punches (13.8-12.7 per round) and more power shots (10.5-8.9 per round) plus he was markedly more accurate overall than Pacquiao (31% to 24% punches thrown that landed). To level the playing field, Pacquiao maintained a much higher work-rate (53-44 punches thrown per round) and both achieved similar success in power punching accuracy (40-39%).
When examining official scorecards, Marquez again holds a slim advantage. Judges awarded Marquez 14 of the 24 rounds*. Pacquiao, of course, possesses an equaliser in the form of his four knockdowns.
Both fights also followed similar patterns with Pacquiao winning three of the first four rounds in either fight but failing to win ten of the remaining sixteen rounds.
As staggering as that sounds, logic would dictate that Marquez’s style would achieve increased success the longer fights went. Marquez was, in 2004 and in 2008, the more technically refined boxer. His greatest attributes resided—and still reside—in his timing, his ability to counter-punch and his understanding of distance.
The more time he spent in the ring with Pacquiao, the more predictable he became and the more accustomed Marquez became with his offensive patterns and how to exploit them.
Returning to the legal analogy, in law binding precedent will only prevail if the previous cases are sufficiently similar to illustrate the same principle. In assessing whether the material facts are similar a lawyer will search for and study the ratio decidendi (reason for deciding).
The ingredients in the first two fights that delivered such intriguing and even bouts are no longer prevalent.
Marquez’s success—certainly in the first fight—can be attributed to Pacquiao’s predictable, reckless and crude offensive patterns. Pac-man was enthralled with the left cross, even his jab became redundant, a mere foil for his sole artillery. Often, he would leap across the ring sporting only a one-two as a threat. As beautiful a punch as his left cross was, once Marquez had learned the angle and the pattern preceding it, again and again he would lean to his left and throw a counter right hand.
Apples first generation products are always immature pieces of hardware but by the time they reach the third or fourth generation, years of consumer feedback and research enables the manufacturing of a supreme product. Pacquiao circa 2004 was a prototype, a first generation model with kinks, today he stands before us a much more refined version of that original fighting machine.
It sounds odd to brand such an offensively gifted fighter as Pacquiao as being—dare I say it?—one-dimensional, but it also is testament to his evolution through experience and the cultured guidance of his ring general, Freddie Roach.
In 2004, Pacquiao was a budding musician who played one note exquisitely. Now he’s a celebrated artist whose burgeoning repertoire contains appreciation for the nuances of song making—If only he was so mellifluous when it came to his actual harmonizing. Alas Manny is tone-deaf in that department.
His development of a right hook that punished Hatton in the first round, dislodged Cotto and staggered Margarito is the icing on the cake. His movement is now more fluid and purposeful and his offensive bursts more cerebral.
Astoundingly, Pacquiao has averaged 79 punches per round, since his last fight with Marquez. His accuracy is seven percent better (34% to 27%) the Marquez fights. He is also proving more elusive only being hit with 24% of his opponents’ punches.
The circumstances are also altered. At this stage of his career, having accomplished almost everything he could have hoped, attempts to motivate can end in futility. Yet his symbiotic pugilistic relationship with Marquez, unlike Ali and Frazier, possesses no superior figure.
When confronted with Marquez’s assertions of superiority in their two previous fights, Pacquiao stays true to his anodyne responses. Like the whistler strolling through the graveyard, all find his insouciance unconvincing. We are assured by others, privately and publicly, he has taken Marquez's grandstanding personally.
When you add the fact he has dropped only 4 rounds of his last 63 against and never been knocked down against much bigger, faster and stronger opponents than Marquez, it all adds up to a different fighter from that which went night and day with "Dinamita" in 2004 and 2008.
Evolution necessitates amelioration. Legislation and case law that set precedent decades ago may lack relevance in a modern society.
The Pacquiao that Marquez so gallantly matched has been replaced by a more refined and destructive model. The 2004 and 2008 versions may have been Manny Pacquiao in name, but they are crude impostors when compared to the one that will stand opposite Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night.
* A winning round is categorised as one where a majority of the three judges concurred in their scoring.