Manny Pacquiao was lucky to exit the ring with a “W” on Saturday night after going 12 tactical rounds with his archrival Juan Manuel Marquez, notching a majority decision by scores of 114-114, 115-113, and an absurd 116-112 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
There were no real winners, however, as Pacquiao did not look good, Marquez suffered another hard-luck setback, and the event itself was marred by the usual mewling media members who think that every fight is an excuse to cry “robbery,” “controversy,” and “This will affect My P-4-P rankings!”
Not only will a writer opine that this fight was a “robbery,” he will also insist on the objective reality of his statement. This is what paranoid schizophrenics do. To say that Pacquiao only won three rounds is as silly as saying Marquez only won four. Glen Trowbridge, who scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Pacquiao, is a fine candidate for an Abilify prescription or a slot on the masthead of some self-important website.
If Marquez won—and it looked like he did—then he won by the slimmest of margins. Ditto Pacquiao. But close fights are no longer allowed to be close these days because of the shrill, collective neurosis of the media. Some of these writers would have been treated for hysteria by Charcot 150 years ago. In addition, compiling polls that gather their opinions is like asking a haruspex for his two cents. After all, you would be polling fellows who thought Andre Berto clearly beat Victor Ortiz. And you would be polling arrogant cub reporters who thought that David Haye drew against Wladimir Klitschko.
As for the fight itself, Pacquiao was more aggressive, threw more punches, and landed more. But his blows were more of the cuffing, glancing variety, while Marquez was definitely landing the cleaner shots. Some of his pinpoint rights visibly jarred Pacquiao. Marquez looked much better at 142 pounds than he did against Floyd Mayweather, and his ring smarts were enough to counterbalance any potential disadvantage in size.
Indeed, a few simple moves were all Marquez needed to nullify Pacquiao. By consistently moving to the left, Marquez was able to neutralize Pacquiao’s southpaw money punch. Marquez, now 53-6-1, also slowed Pacquiao down with shoulder feints, keeping Pacquiao from rushing in with blazing combinations, and an early body attack. Finally, a decoy left uppercut straightened Pacquiao up for straight rights three or four times.
Pacquiao, who improves to 54-3-2, did not look impressive at all—even given the fact that he was facing a world-class fighter—and his recently-developed right hook was nowhere to be seen. Nor was his footwork—strangely lauded by the HBO crew—close to being orderly. Often Pacquiao, 143, would throw punches with his shoes in the air. When his momentum would leave him out of position in close, Marquez would take advantage with solid counters.
Without the razor-sharp combinations he usually throws like a Tommy gun spits out bullets, Pacquiao, gave Marquez the edge in tactics. It is a basic error to ignore what Welshman Tommy Farr succinctly spelled out many years ago: “If the other bloke wants to fight, make him box. If he wants to box, make him fight!” Letting a smart counterpuncher like Marquez set up is a big mistake, and Pacquiao paid for it in the middle rounds, absorbing some hard rights and uppercuts. Eventually, Pacquiao, General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines, seemed to realize he was going to have to try to grind out a victory and hope for the best.
Marquez, at 38 and after 60 fights, has been clearly beaten in the ring by only one man—Floyd Mayweather Jr. But it is also worth noting that this is the fourth “robbery” Marquez has complained about in his career. When you are a walking economic stimulus package like Pacquiao is (as Greg Bishop outlined recently in The New York Times), then it will take a lot more than 36 punches per round—heavyweight numbers—to win. Unfortunately, Marquez chose to remain in the same gear during the last two rounds of the fight, and he lost four of the six votes tallied for rounds 11 and 12. Given his history of close decision losses, it was up to Marquez, Mexico City, Mexico, to make sure to close the show. He did not, and it cost him dearly.
No doubt Top Rank would be interested in promoting a fourth match between Pacquiao, 32, and Marquez, since they can now add a manufactured “controversy” to the list of potential selling points. The question is whether Marquez, who proved once again what a remarkable prizefighter he is, would be interested in reprising his role as Tantalus one more time.