By Ingming Aberia
Inside the ring, Juan Manuel Marquez makes many believe he is better than Manny Pacquiao. Outside of it, the pound-for-pound king just keeps knocking him out.
The two ring gladiators have dueled inside the ring twice, once in 2004 and the other in 2008. Boxing fans, judging from forum threads and blog comments, not to mention what some boxing writers are saying, prefer a third one in 2011. Marquez and his friends have also launched an intense publicity war, apparently aimed at securing a Pacquiao trilogy. Although Marquez appears to be in the mix of future Pacquiao ring partners, signs are all over place suggesting that there is no way he wins that war. Here are a few of them.
One, The Prizefighter
Marquez attracted no more than 5,000 live gate paying fans to his fight against Micheal Katsidis last week. Another fighter in that mix, Shane Mosley, had shown better ticket sales. Mosley may have been dismissed by some boxing experts as wanting, judging from his last two performances, in the ability to deliver quality boxing. Just the same, more paying fans have been turning out for Mosley than for Marquez.
A point of contention: Is it the quality of a fight that sells or is it the prize in prizefighting that promotes quality? Obviously, them fight fans can answer the first. They pay for the brand—if they buy Toyota or Ford, they know they are buying quality. If they buy a Pacquiao ticket, they know they are buying quality boxing. (Footnote: In the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard, Mike Jones gave everything he had in the second round against Jesus Soto-Karass. It was an effort to establish a brand.) The boxers themselves, on the other hand, may respond to the second question. Professional boxers, we may add, sweat and bleed (some die) for the prize. A prizefighter who has no interest in the prize is like a businessman who has no business; he is like a politician who has no seat.
That is where we find Pacquiao—and all professional boxers like him. He will not settle for less than the top prize. He will not settle for Marquez.
Two, Proxy War
The ties between Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Marquez, and Bob Arum’s Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao, have recently turned from hostile to nasty.
In 2001, no US promoter of consequence found commercial value in the little fighter from the Philippines, except Murad Muhammad. In 2003, Pacquiao beat Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera, conqueror of then undefeated Erik Morales and Prince Naseem Hamed, and everybody wanted to have a piece of Pacquiao. Shelly Finkel eventually snatched Pacquiao from the predatory jaws of Murad. In January 2006, Pacquiao avenged his defeat to Morales (another Mexican legend) and US promoters shoved each other not only to have a piece of Pacquiao, but to make sure that he does not slip out of their corrals.
Golden Boy thought it had Pacquiao locked in, only to find out that Top Rank, after a legal process and a court settlement, had the bigger slice of the catch. Since then, Golden Boy and Top Rank became adversaries because of one man. They snarled at each other in every occasion they found themselves facing each other—from boxing rings, to negotiating tables, to the courtrooms.
When Marquez associated himself with Golden Boy in 2006, Golden Boy and Top Rank were still in speaking terms. He probably had no inkling that any Pacquiao-Marquez match-up, from that point onwards, would also escalate into a Golden Boy-Top Rank proxy war. In fact, after 4 years of begging, he got the Pacquiao rematch he wished for. That might have been the highest point for civility between the two camps. It has been downhill all the way since 2008.
The other day, Arum has just called Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy’s CEO, “an idiot.” De la Hoya countered by suggesting that Arum has brought boxing—and the boxers—closer to extinction. “Thanks my peeps boxing is suffering and fights are not being made because of him,” he complained through Twitter.
Perhaps Shane Mosley has read the writings on the wall (Richard Schaefer suggests he reads his contract instead.) He declared he has severed ties with Golden Boy, and in effect sent the message to his kind that the other side is where the money is. Although this may represent nothing more than a shift in loyalty from friends to oneself, this must be enough to please Arum and clinch that coveted Pacquiao prize. Anything that hurts the enemy is welcome.
So what gives? Excellent boxing by Marquez. Foxy career move by Mosley.
Three, Culture Sense
The call for a Pacquiao-Marquez trilogy blared in 2008, after both fighters successfully scaled one division higher from super featherweight to lightweight. Now, as Pacquiao shops for the second-best opponent given Floyd Mayweather’s assumed non-availability, that call has reached crescendo levels. It is not only because the mugging Pacquiao gives to his opponents has become too hackneyed as to inspire the longing for variety, as it were; it is also because protests over the outcome of two previous fights have yet to simmer down.
In the first bout, Pacquiao dropped Marquez thrice in the first round. Marquez got up each time he went down. He rallied in latter rounds to make the fight close, so close that fans remain divided until today as to who won that fight. Even the three judges who ruled the official outcome (a draw) differed in their scoring: John Stewart saw it 115-110 in Pacquiao’s favor. Guy Jutras had it the other way around, 115-110, for Marquez. Burt A. Clements scored it even at 113-113 (he eventually admitted he erred in his tally, crediting Pacquiao 5 points instead of 6 for the 3 knockdowns he scored in Round 1, and which otherwise should given rise to a final score of 114-113 and a majority win for Pacquiao).
In the second bout, Pacquiao again dropped Marquez once (in the third round). As in the first fight, Marquez bounced back. The fight went the full route and the outcome was decided once more by the three judges: Duane Ford, 115-112—Pacquiao; Jerry Roth, 115-112—Marquez; Tom Miller, 114-113—Pacquiao. Official records thus tagged Pacquiao as winner of the second bout by split decision. None of these, however, meant everybody agrees with what the records say.
In a pre-meditated and obviously publicity-driven salvo, Marquez and his team wore t-shirts with prints that yelled “Marquez Beat Pacquiao Twice” minutes after he pummeled Micheal Katsidis last November 29 at Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. De la Hoya echoed what the t-shirts said, put audio into it, and went further: “Pacquiao forces his opponents, including myself, to lose weight and leave everything on the scale.”
De la Hoya rued one condition recently raised by Team Pacquiao for Pacquiao’s next fight: 147 pounds, no catchweight, no exceptions. “One more proof they are avoiding me,” says Marquez.
Three months after Pacquiao stole Marquez’ super featherweight crown in their 2008 rematch and an eternity of the latter’s plea for a trilogy, Pacquiao traveled north and picked up David Diaz’s lightweight belt along the way. Marquez suspected it was Pacquiao’s way of avoiding him; he set himself off to run after Joel Casamayor’s lightweight title and, after winning it, put himself in position to forever taunt Pacquiao to accept his standing invitation for a ring date.
Two years ago Marquez said: “I will fight Pacquiao any where and in any weight division.”
A month after the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch, Marquez visited the Philippines, ostensibly to shoot a product endorsement. It was also an occasion for him to face Pacquiao outside of the ring, and lost no time taunting the Filipino. “Bring out a paper and pen. Let’s sign the contract now,” he dared Pacquiao in front of TV cameras. The Filipino in Pacquiao responded with a smile. Marquez probably did not know it, but being hospitable to guests is almost sacrosanct a culture in the Philippines. By the same token, no visitor may abuse it.
It was almost unthinkable to sell a product that has been touched by one who freely applies candor to the point of being arrogant. Marquez lost his endorser job but may have gained Pacquiao’s eternal derision for him.
Two years after the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch, boxing history has been written and re-written, but the Marquez cry for three remains. In an amazing run that may never be equaled, Pacquiao has blitzed past the opposition at the higher divisions. In two years, Pacquiao crushed bigger opponents and grabbed titles at the lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and super welterweight divisions. Pacquiao became the only boxer to have won world titles in 7 different weight divisions. After he annexed his eighth title at the expense of Antonio Margarito last November, Pacquiao has also become the only boxer to have broken Pacquiao’s record.
It looked like Marquez could not keep with Pacquiao’s pace. He tried to foray at welterweight against Mayweather. He failed. But he has been winning elsewhere.
At the press conference that followed Pacquiao’s TKO win over Miguel Cotto in 2009, Pacquiao was asked how he rated himself on account of his record-breaking performance. He replied: “I’m just an ordinary fighter.”
At the press conference that followed Marquez TKO win over Katsidis last week, Marquez needed no question to be asked. The world saw what he wrote: Marquez beat the ordinary fighter twice.
Pacquiao and Marquez are two opposing styles inside and outside the ring. Marquez gives Pacquiao problems both inside and outside the ring. Unfortunately for Marquez, it has just become too tough for him to dream on and land that cash-rich third bout with the king. Up until the day he is toppled down from this throne, neither Golden Boy nor Marquez will get to decide whose dreams will see the light of day.
Three dreamers are currently in a state of bliss: aside from Marquez and Mosley, Andre Berto is it. A few days ago, Arum said he will soon confer with Pacquiao to pick the lucky one. Arum also offered to clarify that in the grand scheme of things, “I inform. He decides.”
I have offered two guesses as we wait for “The Decision.” One, Mosley did something to please Arum. Two, Marquez has done everything to displease His Highness, the ordinary fighter.
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