Losing a tactical battle, winning the war
The first picture shown of a beefier Juan Manuel Marquez did not project shining knife-life sharpness.
There was not a hint of the swift, untouchable mountain deer.
The Mexican boxing great appeared more like cattle headed for the meat market.
The eyes were lightless.
His shapeless body flat as a sack.
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Whether lead men in Team Pacquiao, namely Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza, noticed this dumb deterioration could not be determined.
The trainer and conditioning coach were, however, singularly convinced why Marquez had decided to bulk up in a rush.
El Dinamita was raring to fight and make war!
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Marquez, as a consequence, was bestowed a few odd tags.
The most apt was The Bulk or Poorman’s Lou Ferigno.
Anyway, that dull picture was displayed for the boxing world to see more than a couple of weeks before Marquez met Manny Pacquiao in the third bout of their arch-rivalry.
For the record, the result of that bout—Marquez outclassing Pacquiao in a tactical battle but losing by majority decision in the scores of the judges—has divided prizefight aficionados.
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Insisting he clearly won, Pacquiao honestly chided several countrymen who had sided with Marquez and checked if their hearts now also beat for Mexico.
Anyway, whether or not Roach made a slip or committed an oversight should not be worth the bother this late.
But yesterday, Ariza made a clean breast of it in a talk with Joseph Herron of Fight Saga:
Ariza confirmed they had overlooked the fact that Marquez could indeed return to fighting form—to stand sturdy as a tree, withstand Pacquiao’s whirlwind onslaught while hitting back—after a two-week trim-down regimen.
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Said Ariza: “People expected more from Manny. That’s why some got upset. As a team, it’s hard to celebrate when the whole stadium was booing you. But a win is a win. Did we win the way we wanted? No. We all wanted a knockout but we won and that’s what counted… A fight is not always going to go the way you planned it, but that’s part of the sport.”
Was he happy enough?
“I am not happy the fight turned out the way it turned because of the style that Marquez fought. Manny tried and he fought hard for 12 rounds. We didn’t expect to see a Marquez who was backing up all night. I expected Marquez to fight and make war. No one thought he was going to be tactical. I thought he was going to do what he said he was going to do and not take the last two rounds off.”
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Gary Poole, author of the celebrated “Pacman: Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao,” did not have to openly contest that claim that “Marquez was backing up all night.”
Poole, immediately after the bout, instead asked Roach why Pacquiao didn’t go to the body?
“That was the plan but Manny did not follow it,” Roach answered. “Manny hit him with good shots, but nothing great.”
Saying they needed to learn to deal better with “this counterpuncher,” Roach maintained “it was a win but a close win.”
Concluded Poole: “Pacquiao’s severely dented air of invincibility should at least give Floyd Mayweather Jr. less reason to fear… His eyes heavily bandaged with up to 23 stitches, Pacquiao answered only two questions (in the postfight presscon) before leaving quickly.”
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(GREAT PINOY: This column comes a day late of schedule after your reporter here missed his morning flight, following a misconnection from Palembang, Indonesia, to Singapore. Sincerest gratitude to Jan Stephen Capiral, Filipino executive at the Changi Airport transit area. He made sweep moves, without being asked, that restored my route home on Wednesday. All he asked was: Are you Filipino?)