By Ingming Aberia
After 36 rounds of ring battle between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, we are not yet sure of who the better fighter is. But we are sure of two things. One, boxing writers have made fools of themselves. And two, promoter Bob Arum is bullish.
In two occasions—before and after the fight—writers (and that includes me, if I can qualify as one) just could not make themselves look better than fools. Before the fight, they—most of them at least—said or quoted people who said it would be a lopsided win for Pacquiao. After the fight, they said or quoted people who said the judges erred in giving the fight to Pacquiao.
Here is how we have become fools.
The first Pacquiao-Marquez dish, served in 2004 and officially ruled as a draw, divided the boxing world into condiments of either the labuyo or the habanero. The fans just could not agree on which gloved chili packed a wallop hot enough to disable mouthpieces and silence the doubters. The second serving (which came out in 2008) had Pacquiao winning it by split decision on official scorecards. He was now ahead by one out of 24 rounds.
Marquez himself had been the most prominent of dissenters. Before the Saturday fight at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, he claimed the officials had robbed him twice. Barely a second after Michael Buffer announced the official result of Saturday night’s main course, Marquez, 38, cried (but don’t call him cry baby) foul; he said he had been robbed thrice.
How daring was it—the robbery?
So far I have collected four police reports (there should be more) that contradicted the official verdict, which favored Pacquiao. It was a verdict that invited people to judge the judges. A comment on a blog said: “I disagree with the decision. The next time they fight, Marquez should bring his own set of judges. The impartiality of those three buffoons, like the ones who preceded them, has been compromised. They are fools masquerading as judges.”
Here we have the UK blotter by Gareth Davies (The Telegraph), US posts by Dan Rafael (ESPN) and Kevin Iole (Yahoo Sports) and the Philippine files by Recah Trinidad (Inquirer).
Davies: “… a draw, 114-114. I gave Pacquiao rounds 3,4,6,10,11 and 12; Marquez 1,2,5,7,8 and 9.”
Rafael: “Terrfic fight and I gave rd 12 to Marquez. 114-114.”
Iole: “I give Marquez the 12th. I have it … a draw. 114-114, six rounds apiece.”
“Marquez, after winning all the last three rounds, was up by at least a point at the half…
What would become apparent in the next six rounds was the absence of the sharp, classy world pound-for-pound king…No, Pacquiao, as pundits would be wont to say, was not a no-show.”
I took Trinidad to mean that Marquez won Rounds 6 to 12, plus one in the first half (which is an impossibility in a 10-point must system—the by-round result can only be 3-3 or 4-2—there is no one-point difference, unless one fighter had been deducted a point or somebody scored a knockdown), or a total of 7 rounds to 5, in favor of Marquez.
Except for Davies and Trinidad, we have no idea of how the fight went from Round 1 to Round 11. But because Rafael and Iole thought the fight was a draw after giving the last round to Marquez, it would follow that Pacquiao was ahead by one after 11 rounds, in their view.
Davies agreed that it was a draw, but he did not give the 12th round to Marquez.
Trinidad agreed that Marquez won the 12th round like in most of the earlier rounds, but he disagreed that the fight should be called a draw. Marquez should have won it—by a mile.
These people saw the same thing but they disagreed on what it was. They are fools masquerading as writers.
To save my hide and avoid looking like a fool, I would neither agree nor disagree with anyone, except to say that the fight was instructive for students of the fight game. Example: an efficient side-stepping move by Marquez was enough to minimize the devastating effect of Pacquiao’s killer left.
Marquez said after the fight: “You need to win fights like this with intelligence and I was very intelligent tonight. Styles make fights and I think my style is complicated for his style.”
Pacquiao also prepared a variety of moves to counter the counter-punching Marquez. One was flight—by moving to the right, with the left toe planted to keep balance and stay in position for counter attack, in case of exchanges. In an earlier fight (against Antonio Margarito, if I am not mistaken), Pacquiao planted his right toe to keep himself in striking position after a fiery exchange. I point this out to distinguish him from what fighters normally do after a fierce exchange of shots, which is to disengage. See, for example, Sugar Ray Robinson versus Joey Maxim.
The other Pacquiao move was raising the two gloves up, but Marquez quickly saw this as a trap. Indeed Pacquiao made it more obvious in later rounds when he could not draw Marquez to it—by staying motionless with hands raised just like he did in the Miguel Cotto fight. Pacquiao dared Marquez to engage. Marquez scored some gimmes here; but sorry folks, he did not—for what might have developed into a full-blown Hagler-Hearns war—oblige.
In the early rounds Marquez tried to dictate the terms of the fight. One could sense he was ready to mix it up. After all, he vowed at one point when he was preparing for what he called the biggest fight of his career not to leave its outcome to the discretion of the judges. He must have dropped that plan after a Pacquiao right hook tagged him in the fourth round, from which point onward he elected to retreat to his comfort zone, which was counter punching.
I suspect the judges saw that limitation in Marquez. He could only shoot after Pacquiao fired his own shots. Marquez did hit Pacquiao with his choice guns, but Pacquiao kept firing, although not in such a devastating manner as most fans must have expected it would be. Their disappointment could have been consuming enough to feel Pacquiao did not deserve to win.
Would a fourth serving help?
Asked if he would dance another 12 rounds with Marquez in the ring, Pacquiao replied: “I’m all for it.”
And Arum? Iole quoted him as saying:
“It was a great, great fight. I had Manny, but it was close, so why not bring them together again in May? It makes a lot of sense to do that.”
An early peek at the pay-per-view Saturday’s numbers may have made the promoter smile when people ask about a possible Pacquiao-Marquez 4.
How about the intelligent but heartbreak Marquez?
We have to understand he and his team just lost 10 million dollars in a rematch supposedly mandated by a win. The windfall was within his reach. Too bad he chose to put up a deliberate fight when taking a little more risk could have opened doors for him. He had his chances but he blew them. He robbed himself of that much money.
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Hermilando “Ingming” Duque Aberia is a sports fan and a literary enthusiast. He has written a book titled “Manny Pacquiao: Story Bigger Than Boxing.” He has a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and is a practitioner in social development work.