Postfight report by Andreas Hale
It’s almost as if time stopped when Manny Pacquiao lay motionless and face down on the canvas.
Seconds earlier in the 6th round, Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) was shredding through Juan Manuel Marquez and settling into one of those scary rhythms. After being crushed and dropped with a sledgehammer right hand in the 3rd round, the Filipino had gathered himself and began raining down punishment. It appeared that the Mexican was getting ready to wilt; his nose broken and a maniacal Pacquiao coming at him smelling the blood in the water. One problem though, Marquez is as excellent of a counterpuncher as there is in the sport. Pacquiao rushed in with a swarm of punches and left himself wide open to a counter right hand.
“I said that this fight would end in a knockout one way or another, didn’t I?” Top Rank’s Bob Arum said to the astonished reporters in the conference room following Juan Manuel Marquez’ heart stopping TKO victory over Manny Pacquiao at 2:59 in the 6th round. For Marquez, it was the exclamation point on a rivalry that had no clear victor no matter what the scorecards read. “I told you this fight would be different from the other three, didn’t I?”
In the first three meetings between Pacquiao and Marquez, the judges had been the topic of much scrutiny. Every result was debated and there was much concern as to whether they would see it in favor of Pacquiao yet again. Marquez (55-6-1, 39 KOs) wanted to make sure that he had the final word in the fourth encounter. And, boy, did he ever. As for the judges, they likely breathed a collective sigh of relief since they had nothing to do with the outcome.
You could sense that this was going to be a special night at the MGM Grand in front of a sellout crowd of 16,348. The ebb and flow between the two was ridiculously entertaining. A very pro-Marquez contingency roared at every punch landed. Prior to Saturday night’s epic war, only the Mexican tasted the canvas. But a visibly stronger Marquez came out to play for the fourth fight and coupled his impeccable timing with that extra bit of strength to send Pacquiao down in the third round with an overhand right. It was a war with both fighters ready to die in a blaze of glory from that point on. A 5th round that will likely go down as the round of the year and the most epic in this rivalry saw Pacquiao put Marquez down and the two exchange the type of heavy leather that called upon the Gods of Hagler-Hearns. But in the 6th round, Pacquiao seemingly took control and Freddie Roach was pleased with what he had seen for 2:58 seconds. It was the last second that will be stuck in his head for a long time.
“I thought we controlled the fight and were close to getting Marquez out of there but we got a little careless and Manny got hit with a two inch punch,” Roach said at the post fight press conference while his fighter was taken to the hospital for a CT scan. Pacquiao had strafed Marquez with combinations and had the Mexican hurt before rushing in for the kill a little too recklessly. Pacquiao missed, Marquez scored a Michael Jordan-esque last second shot and that’s all she wrote.
“It was by design and it wasn’t a lucky punch,” Roach continued as he refused to take anything away from Marquez. “I was surprised to see him pull it off considering how hurt he was, but he did.”
It was a devastating punch that left Pacquiao in a heap and his wife, Jinkee, drowning in a pool of tears as she scurried toward the ring. The Filipino was used to leaving opponents laying in their own wreckage, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect the Pac Man to taste his own medicine like he had. It left only one question: “Is this the last we’ve seen of the great Manny Pacquiao?”
“We have to let this settle down a little bit,” Roach said. “Possible retirement, possible rematch. I’m not sure which way he wants to go. It all depends on how he feels. If he decides to fight again and we get in the gym and he looks good, we’ll go on. If I see signs of deterioration, we’ll stop.”
Without closing the door on his prized pupil’s career, Roach cracked open a door to something he and Pacquiao swore they wouldn’t consider again.
“I’d love to get a rematch but is that the best move right away?” the hall of fame trainer said. “Should we take a softer fight first? I don’t know.”
And with that, Roach left the room to likely find out the condition of his fighter and friend. Meanwhile, Marquez was making his way to the conference room despite a broken nose and a possible concussion. Nothing was going to stop him from taking his victory lap in front of the media though. Not after all the hell he has been put through. After three fights that could have went his way but didn’t, Marquez left no doubt in the fourth fight. And just think, Marquez was considering retirement after the highly controversial third loss.
“I’m very happy I didn’t retire,” Marquez said as he beamed from ear to ear. “I finally had my hand raised in victory and I’m pleased with how the victory came.”
How the victory came is exactly what everyone will be talking about. It was one of those knockouts that will end up in the highlight reel packages years after these two living legends decide to hang up the gloves. It was as beautiful as it was devastating. It was also all part of Marquez’ game plan. “I was counterpunching him,” Marquez said about the same strategy he has employed for the previous three fights. “When he was missing I was trying to counter. And when he missed I threw the right hand.”
It went against the idea that Marquez was going to be more aggressive in this fight to win over the judges. Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain had deployed the same strategy without deviating in lieu of what the scorecards may have read. “He will never go toe to toe because he’s one of the finest boxers and the best boxers don’t fight toe to toe,” Beristain said.
Obviously, the questions about the future of both fighters came into play. Marquez’ knockout put a stake through the barely beating heart of Pacquiao-Mayweather and opened a can of worms as to where both fighters go from here. The questions rained down but Marquez was only concerned with what happened moments ago and wouldn’t entertain any of those inquiries.
“I’m not thinking of any fight. I just want to rest and celebrate with my fans and my country.”
We’re only left to speculate as to what will be next. Will Marquez look to avenge his loss to Floyd Mayweather? Could he take on Brandon Rio in what could be another war? Or maybe, just maybe, he and Pacquiao will do this dance again. I don’t think anybody will complain much about the latter.
And the irony of all this? Marquez-Pacquiao V may now be bigger than Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Who would have thought it?