Marquez deserved better vs. Pacquiao

BY foxsports • November 13, 2011

The old adage says life’s not fair.

Nobody would have to convince Juan Manuel Marquez of its validity.

After taking Manny Pacquiao to his very limit in two agonizingly close fights in 2004 and 2008, Marquez had to watch as his former rival’s career reached new heights under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach in the ring and promoter Bob Arum outside it.

While Pacquiao became widely recognized as the pound-for-pound king after successful forays up in weight against aging superstars such as Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley, Marquez’s career stalled after he took the one gamble that Pacquiao has been unable to take.

It was Marquez who welcomed Floyd Mayweather back to boxing in 2009, and a lethal combination of a poorly planned weight gain by the lightweight champion, a heavy Mayweather’s blatant disregard for the agreed catchweight and Money’s irresistible boxing skills resulted in Mayweather easily outboxing Marquez for 12 rounds.

The result saw Marquez cast aside, no longer worthy of consideration for elite pound-for-pound status by most commentators. Solid victories over worthy lightweight challengers David Diaz and Michael Katsidis could not restore the luster to a reputation that had been tarnished by the ease at which he had succumbed to the sport’s errant genius.

It was no surprise that Marquez spent much time campaigning for another shot at pound-for-pound greatness, this time against his old nemesis Pacquiao. It was the fans’ choice for Pacquiao to fight last May, a preference vindicated when a shot Mosley produced a wretchedly negative performance in a dull fight.

Finally, fans were given the "thrillogy" fight they had wanted. It was not at the weight they wanted, with Marquez having to move up two weight classes to fight at a catchweight of 144 pounds. But the Mexican legend was confident that this welterweight match would have a happier ending for him than his first. And the omens were good with Marquez’s physique looking impressively like a fully fledged welterweight at the weigh-ins Friday and the similarly proportioned Pacquiao unable to repeat Mayweather’s trick of weighing in deliberately heavy.

And when the fight began Saturday night, Marquez was awesome.

As we noticed back in May, Mosley’s clumsy attempt to fight as a counterpuncher exposed serious flaws in Pacquiao’s game that Marquez would technically be well-placed to exploit. Having coped with the weight gain better than we expected, Marquez was able to clearly outbox the champion over the course of 12 rounds.

Although it was a close, competitive fight, it was the Mexican who was doing the little things that should have caught the judges’ eyes. He dictated the pace of the fight, keeping his distance well and only briefly being drawn into the frenetic brawls at which Pacquiao excels. His footwork was superb, as he would repeatedly land a punch and then immediately take a step back to avoid Pacquiao’s response. He would then be perfectly positioned for a counterpunch.

This was where Marquez was at his best, with his precision punching allowing him to land crisp, clean punches that more than once hurt Pacquiao. An increasingly bedraggled Pacquiao was reduced to headhunting as he tried to overcompensate by forcing the pace.

But just as against Mosley, Pacquiao lacked the patience and the composure to work his way inside by picking his punches. Instead his wild lunges and swings were exasperated signs of his ineffectiveness, not effective aggression. Pacquiao lashed out at being made to fight and lose Marquez’s fight.

On the British telecast of the fight, Pacquiao’s friend and training partner Amir Khan sorrowfully admitted that he had Marquez winning the fight while doing commentary from ringside. Roach clearly told Pacquiao that he was losing the fight in the corner. And when the final bell was rung, Pacquiao had the look of a beaten man.

And then the judges announced that the loser was in fact the victor. Whether it was because the judges were blinded by Pacquiao’s greater celebrity or were simply giving the fighter on the front foot the benefit of the doubt in close rounds, it was the wrong decision. Marquez knew it, Pacquiao knew it and the fans who booed the universally popular champion knew it.

And more than the result of a fight, they knew that boxing, like life, wasn’t fair.

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