Four years after pulling out a draw in their first controversial fight, boxers Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manual Marquez are finally set to settle the score, as they meet for a 12-round bout for the WBC super featherweight title at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on Saturday (March 15).
In their first fight, Pacquiao — now a hero in his home country of the Philippines — was relatively unknown and so was Marquez to an extent, and the fight was to propel the winner to the next level in their careers. Despite a draw, Pac-Man was the one who benefited from the exposure, while Marquez fell from grace.
Marquez was the favorite then, but Pac-Man didn’t seem to care — he came out with all guns drawn, knocking down the Mexican fighter three times in the first round. Despite the first round setback, Marquez recovered and retaliated with his own comeback — battling back from what seemed to be an impossible deficit to force the draw.
After the fight, a rematch appeared to be inevitable, but due to some questionable management decisions on Marquez’s part, the highly anticipated rematch never materialized, even though Pacquiao was up for it.
“I wanted an immediate rematch,” Pacquiao explained of the first rematch attempt. “We had [problems with the decision], so I thank [promoter Bob Arum] for finally making the fight. I’m very excited for this fight. I want to finish this business.”
Instead of getting a second chance, Marquez fell off the boxing map. He defended his titles twice in the U.S. before his heading to Indonesia where he lost to Chris John. The worst part was Marquez was only paid $30,000 for the bout, and thus, most believed a rematch with Pacquiao was doomed. Marquez rebounded though, defeating legendary Mexican fighter Marco Antonio Barrera along the way in March 2007.
Pacquiao’s stock has done nothing but rise since. The Filipino fighter has since gone on to garner acclaim as one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, going 7-1 since their first meeting. During that time, he split with his promoter Murad Muhammad after a nasty court fight (reported by ESPN), waged an epic trilogy with Erik Morales, and embarrassed Barrera two times.
On Saturday, Marquez is fighting to get back on track after declining the pair’s first rematch, while Pacquiao is out to set straight the controversial draw.
Despite being 34 now, Marquez said the timing is right for their bout now, according to the New York’s Daily News.
“I feel so strong, so prepared for this fight. And I mean the timing — this second fight is coming at the right time,” he said. “I don’t see that it is not the correct time. And I didn’t want to fight him sooner, but everything is falling into place.”
Pacquiao is a different man today. He’s improved vastly since their first meeting, thanks to his trainer Freddie Roach. Pac-Man said it will be a very different fight this time around.
“Well there’s a lot of difference from the first fight, and I think that we will surprise everyone with our new strategy,” Pacquiao told the New York paper. “It will be different from the strategy on the first fight.”
“He’s a much more complete fighter now and he’s a lot stronger. He’s just an overall better fighter,” Roach added. “Marquez has changed his style a little bit and being a little bit more offensive and coming at guys and throwing more punches. I hope he keeps doing that. I hope he doesn’t go back to his kind of punching style with Pacquiao. If he comes to us, it will make it easier.”
But despite the leaps he’s made in his fighting ability, Pac-Man is not underestimating Marquez. He knows what a win would mean for Marquez’s career, so he explained how hard he’s trained to prepare.
“He is hungry for a victory in this fight because he’s the only Mexican left who has a chance to beat me,” Pacquiao said. “He wants to make a name by beating me. He needs to win this fight. That’s why he will do his best to fight a good fight and win. I won’t let him do that and I have trained hard and prepared for this fight. So it’s going to be a good fight.”
As of Friday (March 14) at their latest press conference, Pacquiao is the heavy favorite to win, according to Las Vegas odds, as well as many boxing experts.
We have to wait for Saturday’s fight to see for sure.
The first will air live on Saturday from Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay on HBO pay-per-view at 9:00 p.m. ET.