Let me introduce myself. The name’s Josh and/or Brokaw. The game? Words, on a good day. We’ll not discuss the bad. My purpose in these pages is celebrating and promoting the Sweet Science; exhorting the beautiful, ignorant masses into a passing awareness of the sport that serves as metaphor for all others.
Like all promoters, I might fall into the trap of getting a bit too excited about my subject. If your municipality hasn’t already banned the deadly substance, keep your salt ready.
This coming weekend’s biggest and best fight boasts something most bouts cannot: One Manny Pacquiao, a guy you’ve probably heard about even if your news comes exclusively from ESPN and Time magazine, you poor, uncultured sap. Manny is mainstream enough that he participated in an advertising campaign that also featured a girl from that Glee show. He smiles big, he speaks adorable Tagalog-accented English, and he’s going to be the president of the Philippines someday. There are many people who believe this marketer’s dream will win on Saturday in impressive knockout fashion. The books right now have a wager of $100 on Manny returning $10 in profit. He’s favored.
Why watch? you say. It’ll be a stomping or a runaway.
A fair point. Most recent ‘megafights’ have fed Pacman or ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd Mayweather a name opponent who no one thought going in had any real shot at a win.
Yet in the underdog’s corner this Saturday there is a future Hall of Famer, who has in two previous fights drawn and lost a close split decision with the Philippine hero. If you haven’t seen Juan Manuel Marquez, at 38 he’s still arguably the second-best technical boxer in the world; he might not have the most pop, but he can counterpunch you to death. In recent years he’s come out of the shadows of countrymen Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera to become a quintessential Mexican action star in his own right, knocking out Juan Diaz, Joel Casamayor and Michael Katsidis…
Wait, what? you say. Wasn’t that one of the dudes Mayweather stonewalled a while back? And didn’t you feel dumb for inviting friends over to watch a Money May fight, because you should have known better than to count on him for action?
Well, yes, but Marquez was outreached and outweighed in that fight…
And isn’t Pacquiao-Mayweather supposed to be THE fight that we all want to see? Fight of the (Young) Century level? So isn’t Manny just going to run through this old guy?
Well, yes, Manny and Floyd going at it is the Ideal. But no, I don’t think those $10 to win $1 odds on Pacquiao are quite right.
This rivalry wouldn’t exist if Nevada ever used the old three knockdown rule; Marquez came back from getting flattened thrice in their first round of ring acquaintance to win the fight on a whole slew of observers’ cards. Listen to the intro talk from that 2004 fight, and you can hear storylines that’ll be coming at you on Saturday: Is Marquez too old? Too slow? Pacquiao too fast and strong?
The second fight was a similar story: Pacquiao scored one knockdown, and Marquez took more rounds. How many more, I don’t know. It’s a back-and-forth every time you watch it sort of fight.
The bloxosphere’s communal wisdom, like the books, has Pacquiao winning this fight, but no one’s sure how it’s going to happen. Some say in quick knockout fashion (like he did to Ricky Hatton), some say in the later rounds after beating Marquez down (see Miguel Cotto), some think he’ll take a tough decision, perhaps busting Marquez up in the process (reference the remnants of Antonio Margarito’s face). No one thinks the fight will be boring, like Manny’s outings against the Shell of Shane Mosley and honorary Ninja Turtle Josh Clottey. Like any honorable Mexican fighter, Marquez is coming to win or go home flat.
It is fair to say that Manny is bigger, quicker, better, and younger…
Those might not be the right words to spark your interest. Let’s break down those advantages, with a little in-my-head summary of the arguments for the inevitable Pacquiao victory, followed by my counterattack.
Manny has superior size: He has shown comfort fighting at welterweight (147 lbs.). Marquez, in his only foray into the class, looked crappy against Mayweather and hasn’t proved he can hang at the weight. He’s like, way stronger.
Yeah, But: Their weights at fight time in March 2008 were both about 145 lbs. Manny has gotten stronger, but Marquez has seen him at this weight before. More importantly, Mayweather outreached Marquez by five inches. Manny has him by an inch. I doubt this difference has changed in the last three and a half years.
Manny is too quick: Marquez is slowing down, and straight-ahead fighters like Diaz and Katsidis got to him in the past two years, whereas they wouldn’t have got close back in ’06 or ’07.
Yeah, But: Manny might be a tad slower too, these days. Furthermore, he was quicker in both of their previous fights, and it didn’t earn him decisive wins.
Manny is way better : He has improved tremendously since their last fight, becoming a two-handed fighter with real boxing skills.
Yeah, But: Manny’s definitely got more of a right now and throws in a shoulder roll here and there. How much improvement he’s made, though, is hard to tell. While Pacquiao’s skills certainly have had plenty to do with his wins, there’s an argument that since he last fought Marquez, he’s seen nothing but guys who were already well past their best days. His ring intelligence has increased, but it still pales in comparison to Juan Manuel’s.
Manny will win because: He’s younger.
Yeah, But: Sometimes fighters get old. Don’t blame me if it happens here. Could happen to Manny, too, but I doubt it. At the very least, that Marquez drinks his own piss in training has to come with some sort of record-setting placebo effect, even if the beverage doesn’t have an actual salutary effect.
What 2 Watch 4
Please note that I’m not begging you to buy this fight; it’s expensive, and the undercard isn’t nearly as good as next month’s Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch. Google is your friend if your Saturday night plans go awry; YouTube is helpful in the first 24 hours afterward. HBO will replay it a few times in the next week or two.
What I’m watching for in the early going is both fighters’ front hands. If Manny’s getting jabs through early, some combination of his improvement and Marquez’s slowing has happened, and it will be an easy night for the Filipino. Conversely, if Juan Manuel gets through his hook-uppercut hybrid left to the body early, he’s in it.
If Marquez gets through round 3 without his trunks touching canvas (and if he does go down, it will be on a short, sharp left while he’s throwing a too-wide right) and he’s not otherwise overwhelmed, it will be the Mexican’s fight to lose. The early knockdowns were the difference in the scoring outcome of the first two fights, and weathering the early storm got Marquez to middle rounds where he controlled the action and racked up points. If you can find a prop bet after 4 or so on the winner, even odds on Juan Manuel is plenty fair in my view.
Manny and Juan Manuel show their singing chops on Mexico’s Big Brother/American Idol mash-up La Academica. Someone with better Spanish skills can tell me what Marquez’s song is, but Pacquiao does “Imagine.”
The Week That Was
James Kirkland obliterated Alfredo Angulo in 6 last weekend, in a light middleweight fight that was a long time in coming. Kirkland, one of boxing’s hottest properties before going away on a firearm charge in Texas in September ’09, was knocked down by the heavy-handed Angulo in the first and looked finished after one. HBO has destroyed all extant online versions of the video, but when it comes up again you gotta see it. If Manny and Juan Manuel beat that fight for excitement on their huge stage, they put themselves in the all-time trilogies discussion.
Former Heavyweight Champion of the World and inspiration for the Rocky series Joe Frazier passed away Monday night at 67.
SBNation’s Bad Left Hook has about all the boxing coverage you need, and it is all over the Frazier tributes, interviews and fights. If you really want to despair over the current state of sports letters, though, put on your polyester and read Mark Kram’s 1975 Sports Illustrated story on Ali-Frazier III, the Thrilla (in Manila).
Till next week, keep your hands up.