The Last Detail: Can Juan Manuel Marquez Defeat an Aging Manny Pacquiao?


The first two installments in the rivalry between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez-who will meet for the fourth time on December 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas-were marked by explosive surges intermittently disrupting steady craftsmanship. In 2004 Marquez climbed out of a three-knockdown deficit by stringing together stretches of dominance, only for Pacquiao to produce enough bursts in the latter stages of the bout to salvage a draw. In 2008 Marquez again showcased himself as the steadier practitioner, but Pacquiao interrupted his rhythm with enough blows that either discombobulated or tore flesh to escape with a close decision.

The explosiveness Pacquiao produced in those encounters reached rarefied air during breathtaking dilapidations of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto. But that run ended three years ago, and the 33-year-old hasn’t notched a knockout since. Moreover, for the first time in their rivalry, Pacquiao failed to put Marquez on the mat—or even on wobbly legs—during their rubber match. Consequently, while both fanbases squabbled over the result in each of their three bouts, the squabbling was far more resounding last year from the Marquez side. They had a point that most pundits agreed with: Marquez replicated the second performance, without suffering any knockdowns.

Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Timothy Bradley seven months later fit neatly into his recent trend of diminishing returns. While most observers thought he deserved the victory, it was far from an overwhelming display of firepower. And despite Jim Lampley’s euphoric cries every time a salvo was hurled in Bradley’s vicinity, Pacquiao struggled to make solid contact throughout the second half of the bout, much less hurt his slippery opponent.

To be sure, Pacquiao is still an outstanding offensive fighter. He still has abnormal hand speed accentuating an unorthodox delivery of blows that can fool even the most savvy of fighters. He still has unique footwork that can keep an opponent who may think he’s well-adjusted unsuspecting of what’s coming next. His toughness is still impenetrable, and the excellent opposition he’s faced over the last year must be factored into any perceived slippage. But looking at the larger trend—including an oddly reticent performance against Shane Mosley—and we can safely conclude that signs of aging are there.

Marquez, 39-years-old and nearly two decades into his professional career, has obviously lost a step or two himself. The last few years have featured heavier legs, making the task of tracking elusive opponents increasingly difficult. There’s now a clear vulnerability against movement, and the fleet-footed will give him fits. But amazingly, his offense is still majestic. He unravels combinations, practically from any position, with video game fluidity. Lead uppercuts often lead to left hooks to the body. Left hooks to the body are often followed by overhand rights that are accompanied by more uppercuts. Employing Cirque Du Soleil balance, he counters his opponent’s attacks in ways that are impossible for them to predict.

With Pacquiao’s sliding power and Marquez’ craftmanship intact, the Mexican icon may be poised to notch an elusive (official) victory over his rival. But Pacquiao’s growing wisdom has offset some of his drifting athleticism, and against Bradley, his defense succeeded where his offense failed. Eye-catching blows against Pacquiao are more difficult to come by these days, so while he’s less of a threat to separate Marquez from his senses on December 8th, he’s more of a threat to win some of the quieter rounds.

Nevertheless, after we saw how well Marquez handled weight gain last year and, to an extent, defy oddsmakers, the only shock in this fourth installment would be an ass-kicking from either side. Marquez is still considered the hefty underdog, but that’s now a comfortable role, and his battles with Pacquiao have increasingly been fought at a comfortable pace. With age and experience between the two combatants has come a degree of predictability that wasn’t there years ago. And predictability tends to favor Marquez.


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Tags: Juan Manuel Marquez Manny Pacquiao Timothy Bradley Welterweights

  • Jimmy Tobin

    Hi Michael, nice preview.

    I’m not particularly interested in this fight, but what is interesting about it is seeing how the dynamic has changed over the previous three fights, and how the culmination of that change should determine the result here. You’re absolutely right: predictability favours Marquez, especially in this case, when the chaos of Pacquiao’s assault has been mitigated by age. I imagine the scorecards are already filled in for this one, though I’m not sure who gets to win.

    You better duck and cover buddy – because it isn’t swooning or sycophantic the you know whos aren’t gonna like this too much.

    • Michael Nelson

      Thanks JT,

      I’m not overly excited about it either, but there weren’t many dull moments in the trilogy, and each fight was razor close, so I can’t complain that much. I wanted to see a Bradley rematch myself. Then again, I’m a weirdo who bets his house and soul on these sort of affairs.

      I was taken aback a little by the odds. Was expecting something closer to -250 than -350, but as you said, Pacquiao’s base is… passionate. That’s fine as long as they acknowledge that they also thought the last fight was gonna be a blowout, and Bradley wouldn’t last four rounds.

      • Ronald Bugayong

        okay you got the pacman fans’ attention. literally fell into your bait.. hehe nice one. but next time try to be more credible

        • Michael Nelson

          Hey Ronald,

          Glad I got your attention and was credible enough for you to make several comments.

  • Freddie73

    The first was a split draw, the second was a split decision, the third was a majority decision, I am sure the fourth encounter would be a one sided unanimous decision or a knockout win by Pacquiao!

    • Michael Nelson

      Would you bet your house and soul on that, Willie?

      • Ronald Bugayong

        i would. would you?

  • Jimix Eouex

    this a very interesting fight and almost everyone wants to see it…We’ll see it Willie, Pacquiao by unanimous or KO!

    • Michael Nelson

      Pacquiao by UD or KO would, if nothing else, be new!

  • Manuel Pacheco

    how is pacquiao the aging fighter when marquez is six years his senior?

    • Jose

      How can Amir Khan be considered aging at 26 with barely 30 fights under his belt? Pacquiao fights are almost as many as Marquez with more bigger opponents than he does; that is while burning both ends of his candle – that puts Pacquiao twice as old as Marquez accomplishment wise, Marquez in some aspects of living a life is not even born while Pacquiao is already old there. While Marquez was obsessed with Pacquiao all these years putting his life in suspended animation, Pacquiao was everywhere partying, late nights, into politics and into all other activities that an ordinary man will surely drop dead. Aging is not counted in years all the time, some people are still mobile at 100 and some dead of old age at 60.

      • Manuel Pacheco

        the only reason why pacquiao MIGHT be aging more than marquez is all the drugs he used to do when he was younger. that can take years from your physical life. on the other hand, marquez has lived a squeaky clean and healthy life.

        • reyocs

          so you taste the pee of the pacman boy?????????????????

        • reyocs

          another jelous small brain lil boy you pacheco

        • Jeff

          you probably watched One Piece. I think you are pertaining to Hordy Jones

        • rence

          mr. Pacheco you better watch the 4th fight ! it was obvious during the third fight that the commentators are biased and the judges were being carried away by the mexican crowd.. i watched the replay .. yes its close but still righteous and humble manny is the winner…. i think marquez might end up more bitter because this time around Im telling you, Pacquiao is very much eager to liquidate marquez more than ever before… Pacquiao by KO in 11th round !

        • Kc Jones

          Haha I dont think drinking your own piss is healthy !! The only one doin drugs between Pacquiao and Marquez is Marquez. Did u see his fatass in the mayweather fight? All of a sudden he gets a new trainer in Angel Hernandez who associates with Condes, who has been convicted and served jail time for giving his athletes PED’s. When Marquez made that change all of a sudden he’s not a fatass when he moves up in weight and is in immaculate shape. Hmmm….. It doesn’t matter because Pacquiao is till going to knock him the fuck out!! He aint gettin past the 6th round mark my words

    • Michael Nelson

      Hey Manuel,

      Athleticism is more integral to Pacquiao’s success than it is to Marquez’, so it makes sense that any loss in speed and power would affect Pacquiao more severely. Marquez won more total rounds in the first two fights, but Pacquiao landed more fight-changing blows. Pacquiao didn’t land those in the third and most thought Marquez deserved the nod.

      If there’s less of a chance that Pacquiao takes Marquez off his feet, the odds of Marquez finally winning look better.

      • Ronald Bugayong

        yeah mr expert… pray that your know it all hypotheses come true

  • Pakyawin mo mukamo!

    the Author is Insane!!!.Marquez is 39 yrs old and Manny is just 33 yrs old…you must bet your house ang soul Michael..Marquez has no chance for will be KO this time.. if you watch the 3rd fight, Marquez was slow…I know , you know it..

    • Michael Nelson

      Just got off the phone with my bookie. He wasn’t much interested in my soul, despite frantic explanations that a house comes with it.

      If Marquez was slow, shouldn’t it be worrisome that a slow Marquez gave Pacquiao hell?

      • Ronald Bugayong

        yeah, 4 knockdowns and you still insist marquez won any of those fights?

  • vince_bugaboo

    “The Last Detail: Can Juan Manuel Marquez Defeat An Aging Manny Pacquiao?”
    Marquez is 37 years old and Pacquiao is 33. I think this is one very, very stupid title!
    It should be: Can An Aging Marquez Defeat Manny Paquiao?”
    Can you grasp that, author???

    • Michael Nelson

      Marquez is actually 39, bugabee. But the point of the piece is to acknowledge that age is affecting Pacquiao’s prowess more than Marquez’, for a variety of reasons.

      • reyocs

        marquez used another strategy…a bicycle ride..japanes made.shimano brand..cozzz..the dragon chis jhon beat him

      • Ronald Bugayong

        your logic is…….bwahahaha

  • reyocs


  • Manuel Pacheco

    i too would love to see this fight but because top rank is promoting this event, i’m not buying it for one reason only. in vegas, marquez cannot win a decision over pacquiao with arum promoting. we’ve all seen this script before. marquez outboxes pacquiao for twelve rounds and wins (according to boxing public), but pacquiao gets an early christmas present handwrapped by arum himself.

    • Noel Nunez

      you know manny would win, the reason you wont watch this fight.. you cant handle the TRUTH…

  • Jun Separa

    at least with marquez already going 40, he is still fighting pacman in the ring and always crying!! with FRAUD GAYWEATHER JUNIOR its the opposite, he,he,he, he has been trying hard to avoid pacman!! in every inch of the way with the help of his clan, from PED’s, his health, the fight purse, bob arum, in prison, anything and everything that he can think of just to get away from pacman, he would do it, that’s why he is the greatest scared ducking boxer of all time!!!

  • Ronald Bugayong

    can an AGING juan marquez beat d PACMAN? that’s a more credible question, don’t ya think so?