It’s not every day a boxing fight lives up to the hype. It’s even more rare to have the fight exceed expectations. It basically never happens that a fight you have high expectations for becomes the fight of the year with the knockout of the year as its conclusion. That’s what happened last night in boxing. If you missed it, luckily HBO will probably rebroadcast this fight next Saturday December 15 and between December 25-29 in its best of 2012 recap, because this was one for the ages.
For the first time I’d ever seen, Manny Pacquiao got dropped by a Márquez right hand in the third round.... that’s nothing compared to the freight train counter right he ran into at the end of the sixth round. You see, a war of attrition is when in a war, one side chips away at the other side slowly and surely, debilitating until finding victory. There was no attrition last night.
As soon as the opening bell sounded, Manny Pacquiao stormed to Márquez to establish how friendly this fight would be, opening with a combination and a straight left hand that proved to be laser targeted throughout the night, since it landed almost at will. If you’ve seen Pacquiao fights, especially the first Pacquiao Márquez fight, you know Juan Manuel is quite familiar with this punch... almost too familiar. Manny had lateral movement, speed and power, he was showing why the Pac man is in the debate to be #1 pound for pound in the world.... then in the third round Márquez landed a looping right cross that rocked Manny and sent him to the canvas.
Shock sizzled through every vein in the body of anyone who was watching this spectacle. Pac man was down... so naturally he would cower back, right? Nope, he came back angry at his first legitimate knockdown and fired a series of combinations, straight lefts and right hooks. This was no slow chess match... this was boxing at its finest. Two world-class elite boxers putting it all on the line to take away the decision from the judges and clearly show who is the better boxer of the two. Two boxers showcasing why they’ll both be included in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
As has happened in other fights, Pacquiao landed a left that finally wobbled Márquez in the fifth round. The glove touched the floor so a standing eight count was issued by Kenny Bayless, the right call. Furious action to end the fifth, Manny was once again ahead by one point on my scorecard. So they would cool down their jets, right? Wrong. The sixth round was just as brutal, Manny winning two minutes and fifty nine seconds of the round... but in that one final second, a counter right hand from Dinamita landed flush on Manny’s face, sending him face forwards and unconscious... no ten count was needed, no judge’s decision was needed... it was over. That’s how you win a fight.
For eight years and three fights, Juan Manuel Márquez has sucked on the sour pill of defeat. He was dodged by bigger name Mexican fighters who faired much worse against Pacquiao. Marco Antonio Barrera got knocked out in his first encounter with Manny Pacquiao and survived 12 rounds of punishment to say he finished the fight in their second outing. Erik Morales won an epic first match where his Mexican bravado was put on showcase throughout the fight, ESPECIALLY in the last round where he switched southpaw and invited the Philippino to slug it out. He survived and gave Manny his first real loss as a marquee pro. The other two fights had Morales knocked out in increasingly easy fashion, within ten rounds in the second fight and within three rounds in their third fight.
Both Morales and Barrera ducked Juan Manuel Márquez for years. Of the two, only Barrera would man up and take on Márquez, losing a unanimous twelve round decision. Denying it will be an exercise in futility because if Morales and Barrera could face off three times, why did Barrera take so long to face Márquez and why didn’t Morales face him at least once when the fight would have meant something. For three fights against Manny Pacquiao, Márquez showed the type of boxing brilliance, counter punching ability and sheer grit that showcased the best a boxer can put on display. He also gave Pacquiao hell in each of their first three fights having won more rounds and convinced more critics (although less judges) that he’d won most of those fights. Last night, every drop of anger and frustration joined with one of the smartest brains in boxing and a will that few humans showcase to put on one the most spectacular performances you’ll ever see in the ring.
Eight years ago, I saw a young Philippino star in the making knock down a Mexican counter puncher three times in the first round, which resulted in a broken nose and a bloodied face for the Mexican. I was thrilled at seeing this sensational kid show just how much damage a straight left hand can do... The Mexican fighter got up to his feet, lost the second round and then proceeded to shut down the Philippino sensation for the rest of the fight, showing that raw physical ability, speed and power can be overcome by skill and intelligence. He got a draw and won me over as a fan. Eight years, four fights and forty-two rounds later, vindication was attained by the Mexican fighter that refused to go down in the first round of their first fight.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold but last night there was nothing cold when Juan Manuel Márquez took fate into his own right hand and slammed it straight into his nemesis.
This is why I love boxing.