By Roy Luarca
Manny Pacquiao’s aggression against Juan Manuel Marquez’s anticipation.
The Filipino hero’s sudden lunges and explosive combinations against the Mexican icon’s calculated, well-timed counterpunches.
These contrasting styles will define Pacquiao-Marquez 4, unless Marquez lives up to his promise to engage his two-time tormentor in brutal battle on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at MGM Grand Arena here.
Pacquiao, deeply touched by news that hundreds have died and hundreds more are missing, reiterated his pledge to help the victims during the official weigh-in on Friday. Pacquiao, who is seeking reelection as congressman of Sarangani, checked in at a full 147 pounds. Marquez registered 143, four pounds lighter.
It was the same weight Pacquiao posted against Bradley and four pounds heavier than the 143 lbs he posted for the third Pacquiao-Marquez fight. Marquez came in at 142 that time.
“I symphatize with the victims of the calamity,” said Pacquiao.
“I’m dedicating this fight to the Filipinos affected by the storm.” For Pacquiao, an attacking Marquez will be most welcome. The eight-division world champion wants Marquez to fight toe-to-toe to erase lingering doubts about the legitimacy of his victories in their rematch in 2004 and Pacquiao-Marquez 3 in 2008.
But if Marquez, once again, goes on defensive mode, Pacquiao vows to press on and put constant pressure through bunches of punches.
Approaching 34, Pacquiao wants to show that the speed and the power of his punches are still there, that he can still knock guys out after failing to do so in his last five bouts, the last one a shocking controversial loss to Timothy Bradley on June 9.
Other than shutting Marquez up, Pacquiao has another compelling reason to win decisively. He wants to give some joy to his countrymen, who are reeling from the devastation wreaked by Typhoon “Pablo” on Tuesday.
A 17-year ring veteran who started as a 106-pounder, Pacquiao has 54 wins (including 38 knockouts), four losses and two draws. He held titles as a flyweight (112 lbs), super bantamweight (122), featherweight (126), super featherweight (130), lightweight (135), light welterweight (140), welterweight (147) and super welterweight (154).
The 39-year-old Marquez (54-6-1 with 39 KOs) said: “there’s gonna be war.”
Marquez, who came back from three knockdowns in the first round to forge a draw with Pacquiao in their first fight in 2004, is seeking vindication, feeling that the judges have deprived him of victory in all three fights. Pacquiao had narrowly defeated Marquez in their second and third fights.
“All I ask is for the judges to be objective,” Marquez said. “They need to really see what is happening in the ring instead of what they think might be happening in the ring.”
A loss to Marquez would not only confirm the whispers that he is slipping after 17 years as a pro but perhaps derail for good any talk of a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. that would be boxing’s richest ever.
Being the live gate king as well as the premier pay-per-view attraction, Pacquiao has been guaranteed $23 million, according to promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank.
With the bout a sellout at the gate and pay-per-view sales going strong, Pacquiao can earn as much as $30 million with his share in PPV, ticket sales and foreign television closed-circuit television.
While no official title is at stake, the World Boxing Organization, through its president, Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel, will be awarding the winner with the WBO Champion of the Decade belt.
Having downed Marquez four times, including one in the third round of their second bout, Pacquio has been installed as favorite by odds makers in this glitzy, gambling and entertainment city.
Pacquiao is at minus 60 while Marquez is at plus 210. Simply put, a $260 bet on Pacquiao would net just $100 while a $100 wager on Marquez would return $210.
There are four other Filipinos, headed by prime prospect Mercito Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KOs) and Michael Farenas (34-3-4-1 No Decision) in the undercard.
Gesta is gunning for the International Boxing Federation lightweight title of Mexican Miguel Angel Vazquez (31-3, 13 KOs) while Farenas is disputing the World Boxing Association interim super featherweight crown with unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs).
Also seeing action are power-puncher Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr. (9-0, all by knockout) against Jesus Lule Raya (6-4, 1 KO) in the featherweight division, and Ernie Sanchez (13-3, 5 KOs) against American Coy Evans (10-1-1, 2 KOs).
Officiating Pacquiao-Marquez 4 are referee Kenny Bayless and judges Adelaide Byrd, Steve Weisfeld and John Keane.
Around to provide Pacquiao moral support are wife Jinkee, who is running for vice governor of Sarangani, father Rosauro and brothers Bobby and Roel, who is seeking election as congressman of South Cotabato’s first district.
A Catholic Mass will be held at 8 a.m. at the South Pacific Ballroom of Mandalay Bay followed by a Protestant service at 9 a.m. for Pacquiao and the other Filipino fighters.
“I have always been focused but not like this fight,” Pacquiao said.
“There are no distractions in my mind. The family problems I had, I don’t have this time.”
It’s a far cry from 2004, when Pacquiao and Marquez could barely fill half the arena, and the money they made would barely pay for one of their luxury cars today. The fight, though, was plenty intriguing, with Pacquiao coming off a win over Marco Antonio Barrera that announced his entry into boxing’s elite and Marquez having stopped his last 11 opponents.
A fourth fight between two world class fighters is almost unheard of in a day when top fighters rarely enter the ring more than twice a year. Almost as astonishing is that they were spread out over eight years and five weight classes, yet Saturday night’s fight will still be a pay-per-view event that will likely draw more than one million buys (HBO $59.95) across the country.
If the old rules of boxing applied, Pacquiao would be fighting a rematch with Bradley for the welterweight title he lost in June in what most watching thought was one of the worst decisions in recent years. But Bradley doesn’t sell pay-per-views and Marquez does, so Bradley is on the sidelines as Pacquiao and the Mexican opponent he knows so well battle for riches instead of a crown.
As is the norm in the sport, the fight needs some controversy to sell. This time it’s about Marquez bulking up in ways a 39-year-old normally can’t and the ties his strength coach has to steroid scandals of the past.
Angel Guillermo “Memo” Heredia provided track athletes like Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin with steroids and human growth hormone, only to escape prosecution in the BALCO case by agreeing to testify for the prosecution.
He hotly denies using anything with Marquez, claiming his fighter has bulked up only because of an unorthodox strength and conditioning program he designed for him.
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said Marquez didn’t look like a fighter who had naturally grown, prompting a threat of a lawsuit by Heredia and denials by Marquez himself.
“You can say anything you want but you have no proof,” Marquez said.
“Let’s go together and I’ll do any test you want.” Pacquiao, who himself was the target of suggestions by Mayweather’s camp that he used something to grow, said he wasn’t worried about it.
“Let’s give him credit for hard work,” Pacquiao said. “It’s not about size, it’s about how you function in the ring. I’ve been fighting bigger guys all my life.”