I thought Manny Pacquiao was going to crush Juan Manuel Marquez in the third edition of one of boxing’s best modern rivalries. I expected a repeat of the first round of their 2004 encounter, with Marquez getting caught clean and knocked down multiple times, only this time he wouldn't get up.
I was dead wrong. Marquez stood in there and more than held his own. He was the better man for a significant stretch of the fight, roughly described as "the middle rounds". But I'm not sure he definitively won seven rounds and if that's not the case, the final verdict cannot be described as a robbery.
I watched the fight twice. The first go-round, live on pay-per-view, I was shocked at how good Marquez looked. I also knew there were a lot of close rounds and assumed Pacquiao, the "money" guy, was likely to get the benefit of the doubt from the judges.
I never thought Marquez had banked enough rounds that it would be an outrageous travesty if he didn't get the decision. Likewise, I couldn’t have cried foul if Marquez was given the decision, despite being one of the suckers who actually laid 8-1 odds on Pacquiao, figuring a dominant beatdown was inevitable.
Massive sigh of relief on that one. Thanks, Glen Trowbridge. In reality, this was an even-money fight. Nothing inside the ring proved that either man should have been any kind of significant favorite.
On the re-watch, I actually scored the fight, not an easy task because there were several absurdly narrow rounds. If you gave Pacquiao the benefit of every close round, you would arrive at a tally of 116-112 for Pacquiao, giving Marquez Round 2, 5, 7 and 8.
If you gave Marquez the edge in the tight frames, you might have it 116-112 in his favor, scoring Pacquiao on Round 1, 6, 9 and 12. I took a bit of a cop-out and scored a 10-10 round in the third to end with Pacquiao winning 115-114. That's 6-5-1 in rounds for Pacquiao. I came to that conclusion giving Pacquiao all of the last four rounds.
Most observers scored the 11th for Marquez. If I had done so, he would've won by a point. The 10th was another tough round to score where I leaned to Pacquiao. It’s a subjective mess with dozens of potential scores within the realm of reason.
Did Pacquiao get the benefit of the doubt because of his status? Probably. Does that really shock anyone? This is boxing. If Marquez had a potential blockbuster with Mayweather ahead and the fight played out exactly the same way, would he have gotten the nod? What do you think?
None of that means that Pacquiao did or didn't win the fight. The truth of the matter is, as impenetrable as it may be, this was a ridiculously close fight without a clear and compelling winner. If people thought Marquez deserved it, I wouldn't think it was crazy.
Pacquiao was no less deserving. He had effective moments where he tagged Marquez with quick combos and deftly maneuvered out of harm's way. He closed a lot of rounds strong, with quick, showy "punches in bunches" that judges love.
Pacquiao has been unfairly maligned a bit. His performance wasn't awful. It simply wasn't mind-blowing like so many of his previous ones. Well, the guy he was in against is one of the best fighters in the world and he fought like it on Saturday night.
Give Marquez some credit. Manny doesn't have to be washed up to have difficulty against one of the all-time greats from south of the border. But in the reactionary boxing world, there's an obsession with predicting the deterioration of fighters based on single performances.
No, Manny Pacquiao didn't look like the unstoppable beast that destroyed Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. But Juan Manuel Marquez sure as hell didn't look like Ricky Hatton out there either.
-If Pacquiao proceeds with a fourth fight against Marquez, and the situation is fuzzy at this point, Floyd Mayweather has four other semi-credible opponents: Sergio Martinez, Saul Alvarez, Amir Khan and the winner of a rumored Jan. 28th rematch between Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. In order, I prefer Martinez, Martinez, Martinez and Martinez.
-Mike Alvarado received a major gut-check in the form of a resurgent Breidis Prescott, who honestly looked as good as he ever has in the early rounds of that fight. Alvarado showed tremendous "insert your own noble boxing cliche here" in a great comeback to stop Prescott in the 10th round. Best fight on the Pacquiao card goes to this one. And I still can't think of referee Jay Nady without picturing Zab Judah's glove on his throat.
-Timothy Bradley made his long-awaited....okay, that's not true. I like Bradley, despite being irked by his walking away from the Khan fight that would've happened over the summer. But this thing against Joel Cassamayor was a sorry spectacle that made the January stinker against Devon Alexander look like Hagler-Hearns. The Cassamayor-Alexander-Luis Abregu trinity in a two-year stretch has somehow kept Bradley in the pound-for-pound rankings and positioned him as a viable Pacquiao opponent down the road. I vociferously disagree with each of those propositions.
-Oscar De La Hoya has another "scandal." I might be confused here, is De La Hoya anything other than a former boxer turned boxing promoter? Oh, he's a U.S. Senator? Presidential candidate? No, none of those? So who gives a crap what he does in his personal life? For all we know, Lou DiBella gets his kicks feeding parakeets to stray cats. Oscar's a kinky dude, yes we get it. So is Marv Albert, who may be one of the more beloved figure in sports. So I hope that Oscar can settle his lawsuit with the two fetching lasses with which he may have indulged in a hedonistic party of Ancient Greek proportions. And I hope we can all go about minding our own business.