Pacquiao escaped with a win in his WBO welterweight title fight with Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night, but that only tells part of the story. Seemingly invincible over the past three years, he looked anything but in scoring a majority decision over his Mexican nemesis in a win that enraged both Marquez and thousands of his supporters who packed the MGM Grand arena.
It’s boxing, of course, so nothing is ever simple. In almost getting beat, though, Pacquiao may have done more to make a megafight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. than with any of his big wins in recent years.
Pacquiao, 32, has trouble with counterpunchers, as his fight with Marquez, 38, clearly showed. And Mayweather, 34, is one of the best — if not the best — counterpuncher in the sport.
“The style of Mayweather would get very complicated for Pacquiao,” said Marquez, who has fought both men.
The style of Marquez certainly was very complicated for Pacquiao, who needed to win a few late rounds to pull out a decision almost as close as the one he won from Marquez in their fight three years ago. Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 knockouts) won the fight by sheer aggression, though Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs) seemed to land the harder punches, especially with his right hand.
One judge scored the fight even, as did the Associated Press. Two others had Pacquiao winning, 115-113 and 116-112. When the decision was announced, an infuriated Marquez stormed from the ring in protest, and fans started throwing beer bottles toward the ring.
“For me the best judges are the audience and you see how they responded,” Marquez said. “I don’t know what type of performance I need to give. It was a robbery once again.”
Marquez may have only himself to blame for that. He came into the ring still fuming over the draw Pacquiao got against him seven years ago and the split decision Pacquiao won in 2008. He had to know most of the rounds were so close they were difficult to score, and that judges more often than not favor the fighter moving forward against the fighter moving backward when all things are equal.
Still, after listening to his corner tell him he was winning the fight, he came out slow in the final round. Neither man did much in a round when they might have been expected to let it all loose, but if Marquez would have fought a little harder and won the 12th round on two scorecards he would have gotten a draw.
“It could have gone either way,” said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer. “I thought Manny edged it out in the last two rounds.”
— Associated Press