All signs point to smashing knockout win
LAS VEGAS—With all the lessons he has learned in the art of fighting counterpunchers and all those days of training hard and studying his opponent’s films, Manny Pacquiao is ready to explode.
“I’m so excited already,” Pacquiao said. “Let’s get it on.”
And this three days before the fight.
With the promise of a vastly improved performance and a definitive end to one of the more compelling debates in boxing, the world’s acknowledged pound-for-pound king is going all out against Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the MGM Grand here.
“I believe I’m going to win the fight,” Pacquiao said during a final press conference Wednesday. “The question is, what do I need to do to prove that I really won.”
His last statement referred to Marquez’s repeated claim that he won their two previous bouts, which resulted in close decisions—a draw in the first and a narrow split decision in Pacquiao’s favor in the second.
And all signs point to one answer: A smashing knockout victory.
“There’s going to be a lot of fireworks on Saturday,” Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach promised. “We worked really hard with Manny for 10 weeks. We know our man is ready.”
Pacquiao calmed rabid expectations of a knockout, saying that while he had “trained hard for the fight” he was “not really” looking for a knockout.
“If the knockout comes, it will just be a bonus for all the hard work I put in training,” he said.
Different fighting style
What Pacquiao has promised is a different fighting style from the one he flaunted when he failed to finish off Marquez decisively in their first two encounters.
“The problem before was I never really studied his style as a counterpuncher,” he said. “For three years, I’ve been studying how to fight good counterpunchers.”
How much he’s learned will be put to a big test against an opponent who purposely bulked up for the bout.
It’s going to be a huge fight for both fighters. For Marquez, it could be his biggest.
At 38, the Mexican warrior is seeing his window of opportunity slowly shutting. He will earn his biggest paycheck, a guaranteed $5 million that will be fattened once the pay-per-view and gate shares pour in.
Pacquiao has had bigger fights. In 2008, he battered Oscar De La Hoya into retirement, using that bout as his ticket to big-time playdates, then kicked off a string of successful forays against bigger—and big-named—opponents.
Guaranteed $22M pay
The Filipino is expected to earn around $30 million for the fight—guaranteed purse, pay-per-view shares and his slice of the gate included. The $22 million reportedly guaranteed him for this fight is his biggest.
But the disrespect Marquez has shown by constantly telling everyone how he was robbed in their first two fights, the amount of money involved, or even putting his WBO welterweight belt on the line won’t be Pacquiao’s only motivations come fight night.
Life after boxing
A congressman representing Sarangani Province, Pacquiao feels that his shelf life as a boxer is fast approaching its expiry date.
“I’ve started to think about my future, about my life after boxing,” he said.
Pacquiao has huge political plans and even Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has said there will come a time when the Filipino will no longer be able to fit those plans around a boxing schedule.
And with negotiations to fight undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. repeatedly collapsing under the weight of the American’s demands, Pacquiao’s last big bout could be this third fight in a trilogy that is being lined up alongside boxing’s greatest rivalries.
Best in trilogy
Pacquiao says he is a better fighter now.
“I’ve developed my right hand,” he told reporters. “I’ve improved my power since the last fight.”
He also warned Marquez that, if he expected to meet the same opponent in the ring that he faced in their two previous fights, he would be in for a surprise.
Marquez is six years older but neither fighter thinks that has cost him any skill and might have made him a smarter, more dangerous fighter.
“I don’t believe age has anything to do with it,” Marquez said. “I think it’s going to be a great war between us. There are two warriors in the ring. One is pressing the other. Styles make fights.”
Marquez is confident his style will be the significant factor but Pacquiao believes his improved technique will decide the outcome.
“I think my style happens to be difficult,” Marquez said. “All boxers have a difficult opponent, and I guess my style is the most difficult for Pacquiao.”
He added: “The third fight will show who is the best.”
When they fight for the third time, weeks of inspired training and tough words might just produce the greatest bout in the trilogy.
“This will be the best of the three fights with the way these guys are getting ready,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “Manny has come a long way since those fights. Manny has fought some perfect fights … I don’t think this fight will go the distance.”
Erasing all doubts
Pacquiao, 53-3 with two drawn and 38 knockouts, will defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown against Marquez, 53-5 with one drawn and 39 knockouts.
Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round of their first fight in 2004 but Marquez rose and rallied to earn a draw.
In 2008, Pacquiao knocked Marquez to the canvas in the third round and took a 12-round split decision, each fighter ahead 115-112 in the eyes of one judge with the third scoring Pacquiao a 114-113 winner.
“This fight is really important to me,” Pacquiao said. “I have to end all the issues, all the doubts in people’s minds about me beating him.”
“I do not blame Marquez or his fans. Yes, the fights were close. This fight will not be close.”
More complete fighter
Ignacio Beristain, Marquez’s Hall of Fame trainer, sees major changes in both fighters since they last fought each other.
“Pacquiao has become a more technical fighter, better than he was, a more complete fighter,” Beristain said. “His punches are now technically better. He’s not as wild as he used to be. He has learned a lot of new techniques and he’s doing them better, especially the right hook.”
“Juan Manuel has matured as a fighter, gotten to a higher level. I think you will see a great fight. I think Juan Manuel will fight like he’s 24.”
Marquez acknowledged the improvements in Pacquiao’s technique but said he was unconcerned. “Obviously he’s changed over the years,” added the Mexican. “He uses his right hand more, he has a little more speed, but obviously I know all of that, so I’ve adjusted my work to that. My strategy is to nullify all of that.”
Perhaps the biggest factor in this weekend’s fight is size.
The first two bouts between the duo took place at featherweight and super-featherweight. Since their second encounter, however, Pacquiao has rampaged through the weight classes to become the first man to win world titles in eight weight divisions.
Marquez has hired a strength and conditioning coach to bulk up to the extra weight for this weekend’s showdown, a decision that has Roach licking his lips in anticipation.
“Let’s face it, when you put muscle on, you put muscle on for one reason, and that’s to exchange (punches). I like that,” Roach said. “If he (Marquez) wants to exchange with us, I think that’s great.” With reports from AFP and Reuters