When people talk about Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38KO’s), the first things that come up are his unprecedented achievements and his ferocious fighting style.
Astute observers point out the fact that he started professionally at 106 lbs and rampaged his way up to welterweight, plundering titles in seven weight divisions along the way. Others recite a litany of hall of famers and icons who have fallen at the hands of the Filipino great.
However, there are also those in boxing who believe that a certain fighter has had Pacquiao’s number and unofficially won twice against him. They think modern Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez (50-5-1, 37KO’s) has two victories over the PacMan regardless of how the official judges scored their two bouts. Pacquiao and Marquez battled fiercely in May 2004 and again in March 2008, the first being adjudged a split draw and the rematch a tightly-fought split decision win for the Typhoon from the Pacific.
Those who claim the Mexico City, Mexico native was robbed both times argue he won the majority of the rounds in the two fights with his excellent ring generalship and aggressive counterpunching. They matter-of-factly state that “Dinamita” schooled his less technically-proficient nemesis after suffering knockdowns early in the two fights.
Such arguments may sway a neutral observer or those who do not feel strongly for either fighter into believing Marquez does hold two unofficial wins, because of the sheer gallantry of the idea of someone rising from the canvas to wage a savage battle to the end.
Furthermore, Pacquiao has been elevated into the highest pedestal in the sport because of his jaw-dropping dominance, and to see him in such close contests was an aberration so absurd that one might be tempted to entertain the notion he actually lost them in spite of the official scorecards.
The two fights with Marquez actually stand in stark contrast to Pacquiao’s other performances, with the exception of the first Morales fight that he actually lost.
How close to the truth are these impressions then? Those who champion this school of thought go as far as saying if one takes the knockdowns out of the equation both fights would be near shutouts for the Mexican.
That would be like having one’s cake and eating it too. For much of the weight their argument has lies in the fact that it is not an ordinary day for a boxing fan to see a fighter get stretched on the canvas three times in one round, and then still rise up to wage a highly competitive battle with his tormentor. This very fact then is what exactly magnifies his performance in the eyes of those who think he got robbed, to somewhat exaggerated proportions.
The shock one gets from seeing Pacquiao strike Marquez down thrice in a round is only matched by the awe experienced watching Marquez’ resurrection, and since this is relatively the more recent of the two events some people tend to give it more weight.
Take away the awe from Marquez’ heroic recovery, and what one will see is an epic battle of wills. The Filipino’s ungodly mix of speed, power and ferocity testing the Mexican’s uncanny mastery of technique, resilience and heart. Indeed, that first fight was never any sort of schooling that some haughtily proffer to unsuspecting recipients in the guise of “well-informed boxing knowledge”.
The second fight is an even hotter topic for debate, as this time the Mexican was dropped only once en route to PacMan eking out a close split decision win. Those proclaiming Marquez’ alleged robbery yet again, vehemently point to things that Marquez did to win the fight in their eyes but predictably ignore those that swung the pendulum more decisively in Pacquiao’s favor.
They argue Marquez controlled the action, was effective in his aggression and had Pacquiao hurt more times than he was himself hurt by Pacquiao, this last claimed by the Mexican himself in the postfight interview.
They do not however mention that Maquez would have touched canvas a second time in the third round were it not for the ropes, and indeed should have been properly called a second knockdown by referee Kenny Bayless as clearly stipulated in the WBC rules for a championship fight. Specifically, WBC Rules for Championship fights Section 11 on Knockdowns Item 5 states that, “If the ropes prevent a fighter from going down, the referee will call it a knockdown”.
The fighting Congressman-elect from Sarangani Province of the Philippines also had his opponent lurching on spaghetti legs in the tenth round with an improbable single overhand left while himself out of position. There were not only more instances where PacMan legitimately hurt Marquez, but also that these instances were of the near-knockdown varieties.
The eighth round where Marquez had his way with a vision-impaired Pacquiao was basically the one round where it can be argued the Mexican had his biggest round, but still at no time was the PacMan badly hurt or in danger of falling to the canvas. If anything can be gleaned from that round, it is that even with Manny hindered by a bloody cut the best Marquez could do was pot shoot him. Maybe he was simply wary of the Filipino’s power, but at times in that revealing eighth round he seemed at a loss on how to proceed. In that brief time when the roles were reversed and his opponent seemed vulnerable, Marquez couldn’t even rise to the occasion and score a knockdown that would have lent credence to his post-fight claims about who had hurt whom more.
A closely-fought split decision in favor of the fighter who scored a knockdown, had his opponent seriously hurt more times, and just plainly won more rounds is no robbery. Even some respected boxing journalists who happened to score the fight differently compared to the official verdict, admit a Pacquiao win was still a legitimate possibility and that they could actually see it in their own scorecards had they scored some really close rounds the other way.
In the end, the history books will bear a footnote to the first fight which was officially scored a split draw, that official judge Burt Clements admitted erroneously scoring the first round 10-7 because he thought he could not give a 10-6 card even for a three-knockdown round. His final tally of 113-113 would have instead read 113-112 Pacquiao, and given Manny the split decision victory.
And it will also carry on its pages that while the second fight may have been as close, ultimately the verdict went to the fighter who truly deserved it, thus silencing once and for all any lingering questions improperly foisted on the outcome of this fight. – o –