Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Men Fought and Nothing Was Decided

Goatee = evil Manny Pacquiao?

Pacquiao vs. Marquez III. A disappointment or more of the same?  To be honest, it was a little of both.  Twelve more rounds between two great rivals that should have been met with open arms by boxing fans. Instead, it was received with disgust and naked Mexicans in sombreros.  Where did it all go wrong?

Sure, this post is about a week late in being written, but I wanted to watch the fight again (this time on a feed that didn’t resemble a scrambled porn channel) and score along with the judges.  Was the outrage I heard immediately after the fight justified or was it part of a growing anti-Pacquiao bias?

So I tuned into HBO and watched their replay prior to the Julio Cease Chavez, Jr./Peter Manfredo tilt (I thought Chavez looked good against an outclassed opponent).  After twelve rounds of championship boxing between Pacquiao and Marquez  I scored the fight a draw. That’s right 114-114, right down the middle.

Could it have gone either way?  Definitely. I was on the fence about several rounds. For instance in the eighth round I gave it to Pacquiao because he landed a left right at the bell.  If he hadn’t landed that punch I might have had to score that round a draw.

 If you’ve ever sat down and tried to score any of the three fights you know how hard it is to judge on a round-by-round basis.  Pacquiao scores by being more aggressive and throwing more punches.  Marquez scores by landing clearer, harder shots. If you throw away the first round of the first fight (Marquez down three times) and the third round of the second fight (Marquez on the canvas) the entire trilogy has been pretty much a draw.

In their latest contest, Marquez fought his perfect fight.  He was more aggressive, he kept landing left hooks to the body and straight rights to the face.  He frustrated Pacquiao early in the fight and won most of the middle rounds. Several times during the night he landed big shots flush on the Filipino’s jaw. If he had fought this way in either of the first two match-ups I think he would have won either fight.

On the other side, Pacquiao seemed tentative (Kellerman accurately described him as “muted“). He bobbed and weaved like the Manny of old, he relied on the straight left hand like the Manny of old, and yet something  was missing.  We were promised a more complete Pacquiao, one whose right hand was as dangerous as his left.  He was supposed to be at the apex of his talent, having trained harder for this fight than any other fight in his career.

That’s where the disappointment comes from.  Instead of “Manny Pacquiao” the man who broke Antonio Margarito’s face, we got Manny Pacquiao effective fighter who did just enough to win.  We wanted to see New York City’s 4th of July fireworks and instead got sparklers in the back yard.

Perhaps the newer, more evolved Pacquiao just isn’t as exciting as the raw version.  If you watch the fight again, look at how much better his defense is.  A lot of Marquez’s shots are picked off by gloves and elbows.  Manny’s jab is better and more effective. The straight left is still there, but he’s not twirling around the ring after he throws it.

Technically, there is no doubt that he is a better fighter than when the two matched up for the first time eight years ago, but as fans do we want a conventional  Pacquiao who blocks punches with his gloves instead of his face? Are we bored with a Pacquiao who wins on points and not with a Tasmanian Devil-esque flurry of punches?

So, if Marquez was better and Pacquiao more traditional, then how did Manny win the fight?  HBO’s unofficial judge, Howard Letterman, hit it right on the nose during the 4th round when he said judges lean to the flashier fighter.  When rounds are close, they will give the edge to the fighter that is more active, be it throwing punches or moving around the ring.  In this case, that man is Pacquiao.  Marquez is more a victim of his conservative, counter-punching style than he is of any grand boxing conspiracy.

There are talks of a fourth match-up between the two pugilists.  Why? If insanity is doing the same thing again and again hoping for a different outcome then Marquez is insane to think a 4th fight would be any different than the first three. The only way the outcome changes is if Marquez puts Pacquiao on the canvas, and he’s shown that he doesn’t have the power to do so at any weight limit. It’s time for both fighters to move on.

For Pacquiao that means Floyd Mayweather.  However, it seems the dynamics of that possible match up seem to have changed.  Mayweather is a stronger, faster, more annoying version of Marquez.  A devastating counter puncher with superior defensive skills and the uncanny knowledge of when to finish a fighter.  If Pacquiao struggled so much with Marquez, what chance does he stand against a fighter who has the power to knock him out?

Perhaps the close win was the best thing for those who hope for a Pacquiao/Mayweather match-up.  Pretty Boy Floyd would never risk his perfect record in a fight he didn’t think he could win.  Did Manny struggle enough against Marquez to make Mayweather think his skills are deteriorating?  That’s the $100 million question.  One that needs answering before the end of the year if they want to fight on May 5th.

Meanwhile, what lies ahead for the defeated Marquez?  Hopefully, the last image we have of the great Mexican fighter is not him sitting naked in the training room with a sombrero over his private parts somberly answering questions from Kellerman.  There is a long list of pretenders like Timothy Bradley that he can knock off and then retire with one last victory.

There is some talk of a bout with fellow countryman Eric Morales.  If this was 2005, I’d be all over that match-up, but Morales is a faded version of his former self and watching Marquez pick him apart for 12 rounds wouldn’t be fun for anyone.

In all likelihood the money will be too much to turn down for both fighters and we’ll end up seeing a fourth fight some time late next year.  Honestly, these two fighters could probably fight every year for the next five years and it would be entertaining.  The only problem is, it wouldn’t solve anything,

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