From the moment Michael Buffer announced the decision last Saturday night from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, I've been thinking of not only how I was going to start this, but how I was going to do it without certainly offending someone.
That said, it's no secret that I am a huge Juan Manuel Marquez fan, and based on Saturday night's performance you all know why.
For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you also know that I am an ardent supporter of Manny's.
Please don't start misinterpreting anything I have to say because of my admiration for both fighters. What you are about to read is from an eye in the corner, a place where I have spent the last 33 years, not as a fan, but as a fight trainer.
Juan Manuel Marquez boxed an incredible fight! A 9-1 underdog, Marquez made liars of the experts who were crowning Pacquiao king and settling in for a lucrative Mayweather fight. All Pacquiao had to do was win in a more convincing fashion than Mayweather did against Marquez, and the stage would have been so perfectly set. It was not to be.
From the start of round one, Marquez controlled the action, and the ring. Pacing the fight to his tempo and forcing the opponent to fight his fight, Marquez exemplified the art which can make boxing so perfect and so beautiful. Hands held high and his upper body constantly leaning to the left, Marquez used his balance and footwork to consistently off-set the normally fleet-footed PacMan.
With every Pacquiao attack came an explosive counter from the wily veteran. Time and time again, Manny bombs found nothing but air. At times, Pacquiao was shadowboxing, so brilliant was the defensive performance of Marquez.
Pacquiao and trainer Freddy Roach were confident of a PacMan victory. Roach had said this was Pacquiao's best camp ever. Towards the end of the fight, Roach was telling Manny he needed a knockout to win!
Roach knows boxing.
As a trainer, he understands the sport from a different perspective. He sees the fight differently than a fan. He knows the subtleties required to secure a win. He, more than anyone, knows that winning a boxing match is so much more than just walking forward (all due respect to my friend Harold Lederman), and throwing punches. He knew that in all aspects of the game we teach everyday in the gym, his charge was losing not only the battle, but the war as well.
Manny Pacquiao has dominated the sport for the past decade. His wins have been beyond reproach and his conduct exemplary. Since fighting to a controversial draw with Marquez in their first meeting some seven years ago, Pacquiao has destroyed a who's who of boxing. One by one, fighters like Erik Morales, David Diaz, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito among others have failed to even come close to winning, more importantly outside of a loss to Erik Morales, no one has barely won a round against the Filipino buzzsaw; no one that is, except for Juan Manuel Marquez.
In a trinity of fights between two of the games greatest stars, Marquez and Pacquiao have fought thirty-six rounds of blood and guts warfare, and are both still on an even keel.
Last Saturday's thrilling fight was no different.
While it can be argued that the fight was close, and by no means was it dominant, it was clear. At least clear enough to those who watched it live or on TV.
Long time boxing fan Bruce Korol sent me an article written by Lem Saterfield of Ringtv.com. Of the 20 writers at ringside Saturday night, 12 scored the fight for Marquez while only Sean Sullivan of Boxing Digest scored it for Pacquiao. Seven other writers had the fight dead even at 114-114. It was that close.
But then again, it's supposed to be close when two great fighters face each other, and when it's close, the rightful winner should get the decision. Sadly, that didn't happen on Saturday night.
While the decision didn't go his way, Marquez's performance may have killed the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. The army of fans who steadfastly believed that Pacquiao would beat Mayweather has dwindled greatly. As a matter of fact, the fight now may be in greater jeopardy than ever before.
Juan Manuel Marquez proved on Saturday night what a science boxing can be. More importantly he proved what a scientific genius he is. In the last 10 years, no one has consistently neutralized PacMan the way he has. That achievement in itself is a definitive sign of ultimate greatness.
The decision by Nevada judges will be argued by fans for some time to come. But it's difficult to argue with the following fact. When the bell rang to end the 12th and final round, Marquez threw his hand in the air in a sign of victory, Pacquiao dropped his hands to his side and lowered his head to the ground as he meekly walked back to his corner knowing he hadn't done enough to win.
I would love to take credit for the following statement, but it was fellow boxing writer and friend Ivan Montiel who said "Juan Manuel Marquez is a Mexican boxing legend!"
Now how can you argue with that?