Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pacquiao-Marquez IV: Keys to the Fight

The fourth fight of the epic series between Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) and Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) unfolds on Saturday. With their first three matches in 2004, 2008 and 2011, the two future Hall of Famers meet up for their next installment after a comparatively brief hiatus from each other. Pacquiao enters the fight having been deprived of a clear decision against Tim Bradley earlier this year on account of some incompetent judging. Instead of a rematch with Bradley, Pacquiao decided to go for the bigger money fight against Marquez. To this point, 2012 has essentially been a marking-time year for Marquez. He had a stay-busy fight against Serhiy Fedchenko in April and spent the better part of the year waiting patiently for another crack at his Filipino rival.  

The controversial scoring from last year's Pacquiao win still lingers (the majority of boxing observers thought that Marquez had won) and now the two are ready for battle. For Marquez, this is his chance to finally claim a win against Pacquiao. For Manny, this is his opportunity to reinforce his elite status in the sport and finally prove a definitive supremacy over Marquez. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. So what's new? 

Pacquiao weighed in on Friday at 147, four pounds heavier than he was for last year's fight against Marquez. This is now Pacquiao's eighth fight over the junior welterweight limit of 140. Until this year, in all of these bouts he came in well below the welterweight division limit of 147. (His decision to enter the Bradley fight at 147 made sense in that Bradley was coming up from 140 and had been knocked down at the lower weight.) Similar to the Bradley fight, I'm sure that Pacquiao's decision to come in at 147 was a strategic one to emphasize his power. 

After three fights, it's pretty clear that Pacquiao and Marquez fight each other on equal terms. What saved Pacquiao in the first two bouts of the series (a draw and a win) were the knockdowns. Team Pacquiao is certainly hoping that they can repeat the formula from earlier in the series and get Marquez on the canvas. And while I may not agree with the decision to come in so heavy (more on that later), I certainly understand the strategy behind it.  

For Marquez, he has worked with strength and conditioning coach Angel Hernandez to add muscle. Far removed from the overmatched fighter who was physically dominated by Floyd Mayweather in 2009, Marquez is now an able-bodied welterweight. For this fight, he seems as muscular as he has been in his entire career and it’s clear from this decision that Team Marquez is also thinking about the possibility of getting a stoppage or a knockdown. That's a tall order in that Pacquiao has a spectacular chin and he hasn't legitimately been on the canvas in almost a decade. 

2. The speed bothered Marquez, not the power. 

And here is where I think that Team Pacquiao might be making a miscalculation. When Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round in 2004 and once in the third round in 2008, these were not necessarily indications of Pacquiao's superior power, but more accurately, they were reflections of his blinding hand speed. True, the first knockdown in 2004 really shook Marquez up and it affected his balance and composure for the rest of the round. But ask yourself this question: if Marquez couldn't handle Pacquiao's power, why was he the one who was coming on strong in the later rounds of their first two fights? 

It was telling that Marquez was able to stay on his feet during the third fight. Pacquiao, who had knocked Marquez down three times at 125 and once at 130, couldn't put him on the canvas at 143. Pacquiao was able to knock down Shane Mosley and destroy Antonio Margarito, but as a welterweight, he couldn't hurt Marquez. In truth, Pacquiao's speed has declined over the last two years and this factor points to why Marquez was never in danger of getting knocked down in the third fight. Folks, it was the speed, not the power.  

Thus, Pacquiao’s decision to come in at 147 surprises me. I'm sure Team Pacquiao feels that getting at least one knockdown is pivotal. However, they might be misreading what led to their earlier success. The faster that Pacquiao was, the better he fared against Marquez. I'm not sure that the extra four pounds of muscle for Saturday's fight is the answer.  

3. Can Freddie Roach make a key adjustment? 

Throughout the trilogy, Marquez has pasted Pacquiao with counter right hands. In each fight, Marquez was able to get Pacquiao's timing down and use the Filipino's jab and his tendency to fall in against him. Manny's jab is often just a "show" punch; it usually signals a blazing left hand. Marquez realized that when he saw the jab, the left hand was following. Either he directly countered the jab with his right hand or he would step back, wait for Manny to flail with his left and score with a right hand or left hook as Pacquiao was out of position.  

Freddie Roach understands Marquez's countering techniques and by now he probably gives Marquez appropriate credit. Leading into the third fight, Roach famously predicted an early-round knockout. Roach probably thought that Pacquiao's size and power would be too great for Marquez. He expected his fighter to manhandle Marquez with his left hand. Obviously, that didn't happen, and you can make an argument that Marquez's performance in the third fight was his best in the series.  

For Roach, it's time for Plan B. Although Pacquiao featured a good right hook against Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, that weapon stayed in its holster against Marquez last year. Will Roach finally emphasize the lead right hook? In addition, Pacquiao has a good uppercut, although it's rarely used. Will Roach turn to that punch? Will he have Pacquiao double-jab more? Will he encourage Pacquiao to let Marquez lead at points in the fight?
Roach and Pacquiao need to incorporate some additional strategic elements to guarantee themselves a win. But will Roach be able to find the winning combination? And if he does, will he be able to convince his fighter to make the necessary adjustments during the fight? Remember, when under duress, Pacquiao often reverts to his most basic boxing fundamentals – the jab and the left hand.  

4. Will anyone hit the canvas? 

Let's face it: both sides know how close each fight has been. Without Marquez hitting the canvas, we might not have even had a second fight, let alone a fourth one. Both boxers understand how one round, one punch, can determine the difference in this matchup. For Pacquiao, getting Marquez on the ground is a way for him to equalize Marquez's superior boxing technique. For Marquez, if he can send Pacquiao to the canvas, that will be one less point that the judges can hold against him. 

Both fighters will be unloading their power shots on Saturday. Pacquiao's jab will be there for show, to get his rhythm down. Marquez may not jab whatsoever. Both want the fight to end within the distance, but in a more likely scenario, the history of this series suggests that whoever can knock the other one down won't lose the fight. 

5. Who are the judges? 

Pacquiao has been helped throughout the trilogy by the Duane Fords and the Glenn Trowbridges of the Nevada judging circuit, a jurisdiction well known for favoring the "aggressor." Marquez was so incensed by the scoring in the third fight that he insisted that the fourth installment take place outside of Las Vegas. He didn't get his wish but on Saturday he'll have a very favorable slate of judges.  

In close rounds Adalaide Byrd is the rare Nevada judge who favors clean punching over all other factors. In addition, her record indicates an independent streak. She has often scored against the "house" fighter. Last week, she turned in a wide 119-109 scorecard for Austin Trout over Miguel Cotto, even though the fight occurred in Cotto's adopted home of Madison Square Garden. She was the one judge who scored in favor of Richard Abril's counter shots over Brandon Rios' mostly ineffective aggression. Again, Rios was the "A-side" in that particular fight. In 2009, she favored Chris John's clean punching over Rocky Juarez's pressure, giving John a wide 119-109 win. Byrd may not be the best judge out there – she can be guilty of picking a trope and staying with it – but her predilections play into Marquez's strengths.  

Steve Weisfeld is a judge from New Jersey who has risen to become one of the top arbiters in the sport. Just in the last two months, he was assigned to Garcia-Morales II, Broner-DeMarco, Cotto-Trout and now Pacquiao-Marquez IV. You'd have to search long and hard for the last bad decision that Weisfeld rendered. (I had to go all the way back to his scoring for Joan Guzman over Ali Funeka in their rematch, and even that one wasn't truly awful.) Weisfeld's cards are consistently excellent and I feel confident in saying that he is a damn good judge who almost always gets it right.  

The third judge is John Keane, probably one of the best British arbiters working today. A familiar name on the international circuit, Keane was the one who scored Ward-Froch the widest (and correctly) for the American. He had Julio Cesar Chavez down prior to his knockout of Andy Lee. Keane thought that George Groves squeaked by British Olympian James DeGale. He was also the one who had Jo Jo Dan beating house fighter Selcuk Aydin in Turkey. If there's a specific bias in Keane's record, I haven't been able to determine it. In addition, he has consistently demonstrated an ability to make the correct call over the crowd-pleasing one.  

Marquez should get a fair shake from this judging panel. If the fight's close, he'll have his chance to finally score a victory over Pacquiao.  


I think that Marquez found something in the third bout. Instead of trying to get the better of Pacquiao in exchanges, he limited his attack to single counter shots and a few quick combinations. For him, remaining balanced and keeping the appropriate distance were more important than trading – he correctly realized that the longer exchanges went, the better chance Pacquiao had of landing something big.
The judges didn't favor Marquez's selective approach in the third fight, but as I stated, Saturday's crew should better reflect the ring action than any of the judging panels from the first three fights. It would certainly help Marquez if he didn't give away the 12th round like he did in the last fight. In addition, Marquez will have to look for opportunistic spots to mix in more combinations. He doesn't have to be much busier than he was last fight, but more activity on the margins will help him win close rounds.  

Because of the fighters' familiarity with each other, I don't see either one pulling away. Pacquiao will start fast and immediately try to test Marquez's chin with his power shots. I also wouldn't be surprised if Pacquiao incorporates more angles into his attack than he did in their last fight. I expect Pacquiao to have a lead after five rounds, although all of these frames will be competitive.   

As the match progresses, Marquez will get his timing down. The accuracy of his hard counters will thwart Pacquiao’s aggression and minimize how often he throws his left hand. In addition, I don't see Pacquiao making any key adjustments to turn the tide of the fight. Marquez, with his clean punching, will pile up just enough rounds to squeak by with a victory, notching his first win in the series.  

Juan Manuel Marquez defeats Manny Pacquiao by a close, unanimous decision, along the lines of 115-113, or seven rounds to five.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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  1. I didn't expect the fact that Manny Pacquiao was lost with their fight from Marquez. People say that the reason why Manny lost was because of his career. He is a Congressman and he has a tv show where he is the host also. Those things might be the reason why Pacquiao didn't focus his all attention to their training. Whatever the reason is, he is still the champion in all Filipino because of all the honor he brought to the country.