I know it is an irony, but the best boxing bout almost always has a no clear winner. And if there’s one, count on it: it’s the fans.
The third installment of Pacquiao vs Marquez, saw the evolution of two great fighters: Marquez bulking up, courtesy of Memo Heredia, his PED-renowned conditioning consultant; and Pacquiao, showcasing his boxing skills, the Manila ice right hook and greatly improved defense. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s world class coach, who by the way was mentored by Eddie Futch (Smokin’ Joe Fraser’s coach, RIP 2011) wanted an exclamation mark on the trilogy. He loved Marquez’s body contour and surmised that him bulking up means he trading with Pacquiao punch-for-punch at the centre of the ring. However, it turned out that Marquez’s strategy is all the same, and for good reason: to counter-punch Pacquiao.
The hulking Marquez did not want to mix it up, but to pick a spot where he could counter Pacquiao. He did counter Pacquiao well. He landed the cleaner shots for the audience to appreciate while Pacquiao was workmanlike in his attack: short right hooks, left straight, even a left uppercut. Pacquiao has landed an average of 14 punches per round, including the power punch; Marquez landed 11. The difference of 3 was what the judges saw, including Pacquiao’s aggression and willingness to mix it up. Bear in mind too that Pacquiao does not throw “pillow punches”, but punches that intend to discombobulate the opponent.
It is clear that the Pacman did not dominate Marquez, but he did enough to win the fight. The judge who saw it 115-113, meaning 7 rounds to Pacquiao and 5 rounds to Marquez, saw the fight objectively. The other judge who had it at 116-112 (8 rounds to Pacquiao and 4 to Marquez) was a credible result too, considering the hairline tactical battle that ensued in the first 4 rounds before both fighter stepped it up and decided to throw haymakers and excite the fans in the process. The remaining judge, who had it at 114-114, to me is a ‘fence-sitter’. He could not make up his mind but if he did, he loved both fighters too much to disappoint them. It would be interesting to know how he spread the scores on his sheet, making sure that everyone will be satisfied with his ‘non-decision’.
For Marquez to walk away and not gave an interview in the ring was un-sportsmanlike. For fans to sympathize to Marquez, booed and pelted Pacquiao lustily on his way out was understandable. The ‘herding’ process had been instigated by Marquez by walking away from what he considered another ‘robbery’. And now he is contemplating retirement? If on his mind he thought he had beaten Pacquiao 3 times now, why walk away from the sport? It is not just throwing away what he stood for, but conceding by action that, indeed, Pacquiao is the better man on and off the ring.
True, it was not a decisive win for Pacquiao. There were no knockdowns and Marquez did stand his ground and fought the best boxer in his era. But the man who stood on the ring after 12 hard-fought rounds, was the gentleman Emmanuel D. Pacquiao. He is not just a Philippine congressman, not just the face of boxing nor the pound-for-pound great, but the person who embodied resiliency in the face of controversy, amidst doubts of his accomplishments.
There is no other man in the boxing planet right now more popular than the Pacman. The fans will talk about his trilogy with Marquez and argue with hairsplitting analysis even after both fighters walk away from the game of sweet science.
It’s good for boxing.