Friday, November 11, 2011

Pacquiao to solve the Marquez puzzle

By JE Grant

The fabled HBO prelude to major pay-per-view fights, 24/7, is built around the premise that two giants of boxing are to meet in a bout that is really too hard to predict.

As the HBO follows the teams of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in preparation for their third meeting, that task is ostensibly made easier. After all, the first two engagements resulted in crazed efforts by both that led to controversial decisions.

The key differences in Saturday’s encounter center on weight and time.

Pacquiao, now age 32, and likely to weigh in very close to the catch-weight 144, is seemingly at his prime in speed, power, and skill.  His five fights at or above the welterweight limit have cemented his legend as he dominated much of the recent who’s who of recent welterweight fame – except of course Floyd Mayweather.

Marquez, 38, will push himself to get near the contracted weight. He is still clearly a lightweight. He last attempted a welterweight contest against Mayweather and appeared the much smaller of the two.

As a welterweight, Pacquiao, 53-3-2 (38 KOs), used a combination of power and finesse that were not present in his first two bouts with Marquez. His weights for those bouts, 125 and 129 respectively, were perhaps indicative of the power differential evidenced more recently.

Marquez, now 53-5-1 (39 KOs), has a long and storied career at weights south of lightweight, never mind welterweight. Indeed, his first venture at lightweight took place only three years ago when Juan Manuel was already 35.

Questions remain. Is Marquez on the way down? As a lightweight he is still king and despite his age appears hard to beat for anyone campaigning in the division.

Does Marquez simply have Manny’s number? Archie Moore called fighters who, for unknown reasons, maybe because of their style or some other quality, cause all kinds of problems for a “cousin.” Archie’s “cousin” was Ezzard Charles, a fighter he never figured out in their three bouts, losing all of them. Moore of course would go on later to win the light-heavyweight title and hold it for nearly ten years, and challenge twice for the heavyweight title.

Despite drawing in the first contest and winning their last, Pacquiao, has yet to completely put the Marquez puzzle together. Both decisions were razor close and both fighters could make arguments for winning.

PREDICTION: Pacquiao’s problems with the Marquez of old notwithstanding, he will finally solve the equation. It won’t be advanced technique that wins it for Manny; brute power and the ability to fight hard every minute of every round will make the tilt the odds in his favor. He is now a real welterweight. He is in his prime. He is as fast as ever.  Juan Manuel is legendary for his resourcefulness and toughness. In this fight he’ll need to muster all of his considerable abilities just to stay in the fight. Manny is a better boxer and a two-fisted banger. Juan Manuel was able exploit Manny’s propensity for being off balance and over using his left hand – both problems Manny has addressed in a major way.  This bout won’t be close. The iron-willed and iron-chinned Marquez will miss seeing the final bell for the first time in his career.

Manny Pacquiao will win by KO in 9.

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