MANILA, DECEMBER 9, 2012 (PHILSTAR)  For the fourth time, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez face off for pride more than anything else. There really aren’t any other challenges out there for either, and Marquez, at 39, may already be in a lower league than Pacquiao.

So this has to happen now. Despite the media’s initial claim that the fight isn’t interesting, the unanswered questions beg for resolution, and that ultimate rating may surprise us all.

Ignoring the contrived WBO “Fighter of the Decade” belt put up for the fight (as if they needed one), this will be a critical fight for both boxers. Marquez has alluded to Pacquiao’s being a godlike figure and the unifier of the sport. Marquez’s place in boxing’s history is still up in the air, more so now that Morales and Barrera have retired and can’t add to their remarkable careers.

This will be a career-defining fight for Marquez, to swing all the questions of the previous fights the other way. He has claimed that referees have done their part to “help” Pacquiao out to preserve the sport. Let’s face it, people aren’t even talking about the Pacquiao loss to Timothy Bradley. Marquez wants to topple the god of his sport, and he knows he can do it.

Kenny Bayless was last seen in the ring with Pacquiao in the Shane Mosley embarrassment. Bayless also worked the tough Miguel Cotto bout and the abbreviated Ricky Hatton match-up. He will have a tendency to just let the fighters fight, so if Pacquiao gets an advantage, with his quickness Marquez could be in serious trouble before Bayless can step in.

Before the Timothy Bradley debacle, Pacquiao had last lost in the first fight against Erik Morales in March of 2005, a string of 15 straight victories. Since then, he has gradually evolved, and taken down the biggest names in the sport, including Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, David Diaz and Oscar dela Hoya. Marquez, for his part, has been devastating, perhaps even more so.

After losing to the Pacman in 2008, Marquez followed the Filipino champion in the higher weight classes. His first foray into the lightweight class saw him carve up the feared Cuban champion Joel Casamayor. Dinamita turned Casamayor’s face into butcher shop leftovers in the 11th-round TKO. Juanma also toppled Juan Diaz twice and stopped a hard-charging but declining Michael Katsidis.

The only blemish outside of Pacquiao is the shortchanging he got at the hands of Floyd Mayweather. Pretty Boy Floyd chose to pay the $300,000 fine per pound for being two pounds overweight. It looked like a total mismatch because they didn’t look like they were from the same weight division.

What is a cause of concern is that reports from inside Pacquiao’s camp allege that he has not really done anything different from the last Marquez fight. Observers are even saying Pacquiao may not have slowed down, but that his newfound spirituality has caused him to question the brutality of his craft. Against his foremost nemesis, Pacquiao will need every edge he can get, including his previous savageness.

His speed may not be enough this time.Sportshub ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Marquez, for his part, has done everything new, including exhausting plyometric training under Memo Heredia, a buddy of Pacquiao trainer Alex Ariza. When Pacquiao moved up beyond lightweight, his opponents questioned his bulk, implying steroid use, a gimmick Mayweather has used to duck the Filipino.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as Freddie Roach has said similar things about Marquez. Heredia was mentioned in the BALCO scandal, so the implication that he does not train athletes with purely natural substances still hangs in the air.

What will the fight look like? Unlike in 2011, Pacquiao will start fast and strong, in an attempt to rattle Marquez and maybe sneak away with a knockout. Marquez will take some punishment early because of his newfound weight. In their second fight, it was Pacquiao who needed a couple of rounds to get used to his increased weight. This will be critical for Pacquiao. If he gets a knockdown early, it may give him the early advantage he needs.

But Marquez has been able to survive Pacquiao’s best before. The lone knockdown in their second bout was more because he caught Dinamita off-balance than hurting him. Marquez has been sturdy, and has the ability to counterpunch against the Filipino. What could be the determining factor is that, even though Pacquiao is doing him a favor by giving him this chance and a big payday, Marquez’s overriding determination to beat Pacquiao is fueled by his belief that he is the superior boxer. He is not far from being wrong, if you look at all their past scorecards.

It’s hard for me to see Pacquiao knocking out Marquez, for many reasons. He hasn’t done it in the past, Marquez is bigger, and Pacquiao has not been impressive in his last two fights. If Pacman really hasn’t done anything new in training, he will be in trouble, probably midway through the fight. A loss by Pacquiao will not be as devastating as one to Marquez, which will not shut him up, but turn away anyone who still wanted to believe in him. In this writer’s humble opinion, the fight will go the distance. If Pacquiao doesn’t get an early advantage, Marquez may finally get his small piece of redemption.


LAS VEGAS (AP) — The fact they’re much bigger than when they first met eight years ago is undeniable. Both Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have added bulk along with the pounds, and both have had to deal with those who suspect they didn’t do it naturally.

Along with the fighters, the purses and attention have grown as Pacquiao and Marquez meet Saturday night for the fourth — and presumably last — time in the rivalry that has served both fighters so well.

Marquez will try once again to do what he hasn’t been able to do in 36 evenly contested rounds against Pacquiao — get a decision from the ringside scorecards. At the age of 39, it’s a fight that may mean more to his legacy than his future career, which is why it’s a fight he seems almost desperate to win.

"All I ask is for the judges to be objective," Marquez said. "They need to really see what is happening in the ring instead of what they think might be happening in the ring."

At today’s official weigh-in ceremony at the MGM Grand here, Pacquiao tipped the scales at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. Marquez, for his part, checked in much lighter at 143 pounds.

Pacquiao is not as desperate, but he needs a win just as badly. He barely escaped with a majority decision over Marquez last November — a result that drew loud boos from the pro-Marquez crowd — and lost a widely panned decision to Timothy Bradley his last time out.Sportshub ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 A loss to Marquez would not only confirm the whispers that he is slipping after 17 years as a pro, but perhaps derail for good any talk of a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. that would be boxing’s richest ever.

"I have always been focused, but not like this fight," Pacquiao said. "There are no distractions in my mind. The family problems I had I don’t have this time."

Neither fighter holds a title as they meet in a welterweight fight that will make both even richer. Pacquiao is expected to make more than $20 million by the time the pay-per-view receipts are totaled, while promoter Bob Arum said Marquez could make as much as $6 million.

It’s a far cry from 2004, when Pacquiao and Marquez could barely fill half the arena, and the money they made would barely pay for one of their luxury cars today. The fight, though, was plenty intriguing, with Pacquiao coming off a win over Marco Antonio Barrera that announced his entry into boxing’s elite and Marquez having stopped his last 11 opponents.

It seemed a mismatch when Pacquiao knocked his fellow 125-pounder down three times in the first round and Marquez barely survived to hear the bell. But the Mexican champion began a comeback in round 3, dominating the late rounds on his way to a disputed draw that foreshadowed what was to come in the years ahead.

All three fights — Pacquiao won the last two — were so close they could have gone either way. And had they gone the other way, boxing history may have changed.

Pacquiao might not have gotten the fight with Oscar De La Hoya that catapulted him to stardom in 2008 just nine months after beating Marquez in a split decision in their second fight. Marquez, meanwhile, might have become more than just an opponent getting rich off the names of fighters who will be judged better than him.

"My career maybe changed, and everything would be different," Marquez said. "But I feel great what happened in the past with Manny."

A fourth fight between two world class fighters is almost unheard of in a day when top fighters rarely enter the ring more than twice a year. Almost as astonishing is that they were spread out over eight years and five weight classes, yet Saturday night’s fight will still be a pay-per-view event that will likely draw more than 1 million buys (HBO $59.95) across the country.

If the old rules of boxing applied, Pacquiao would be fighting a rematch with Bradley for the welterweight title he lost in June in what most watching thought was one of the worst decisions in recent years. But Bradley doesn’t sell pay-per-views and Marquez does, so he’s on the sidelines as Pacquiao and the Mexican opponent he knows so well battle for riches instead of a crown.

As is the norm in the sport, the fight needs some controversy to sell. This time it’s about Marquez bulking up in ways a 39-year-old normally can’t and the ties his strength coach has to steroid scandals of the past.

Angel Guillermo "Memo" Heredia provided track athletes like Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin with steroids and human growth hormone, only to escape prosecution in the BALCO case by agreeing to testify for the prosecution. He hotly denies using anything with Marquez, claiming his fighter has bulked up only because of an unorthodox strength and conditioning program he designed for him.

Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said Marquez didn’t look like a fighter who had naturally grown, prompting a threat of a lawsuit by Heredia and denials by Marquez himself.

"You can say anything you want but you have no proof," Marquez said. "Let’s go together and I’ll do any test you want."

Pacquiao, who himself was the target of suggestions by Mayweather’s camp that he used something to grow, said he wasn’t worried about it.

"Let’s give him credit for hard work," Pacquiao said. "It’s not about size, it’s about how you function in the ring. I’ve been fighting bigger guys all my life."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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