By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Both bigger and more experienced, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez want to settle the score once and for all.
And from the looks of it, the result will be decisive: There will be no doubt of who wins the fight. Pacquiao and Marquez want to take the decision away from the judges.
Someone has to fall.
The 32-year-old Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 knockouts), and the 38-year-old Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) will clash over 12 rounds at the MGM Grand with the Filipino champion’s WBO welterweight title at stake.
But after going 24 rounds, with the result so close it could have gone either way, this third fight promises to be decisive.
“I really need to have my best performance in this fight,” Pacquiao said following the weigh-in Friday. “I do not want to disappoint the fans. We’ve trained hard and we’re ready for this fight.”
Marquez, who bulked up for this fight, expects a big win to back up his claim to have won both previous bouts, and even went to the extent of proclaiming that sentiment in appearances promoting the Saturday bout.
“This is the most important fight of my career. I want to beat the man who is considered the best pound-for-pound fighter,” said Marquez. “This time, I need to win every round, and I need to win every round clearly.”
Some boxing experts agree Marquez won both previous fights, but Pacquiao is heavily favored on this one.
It will be his first return to the ring since he beat Shane Mosley in May. He and Marquez have already gone 24 rounds with each other.
But the first fight seven years ago was at 125 pounds. The second four years later was at 130 pounds.
This one will be at a catch weight of 144 pounds, a weight Pacquiao has proven comfortable with over the last few years, but Marquez had no success the only time he got past 140 pounds in a lopsided loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
That’s the big reason Pacquiao is a 7-1 favorite in a pay-per-view fight that doesn’t figure to lack for action. The odds had risen to 9-1 in most Las Vegas sports books.
“At 144 pounds it’s going to be different,” Pacquiao said. “I’ve improved my boxing and my power. Everything is going to be different.”
Pacquiao weighed in at 143 pounds Friday, while Marquez was 142 – the same weight he fought at against Mayweather.
Pacquiao – who last lost in 2005 at 130 pounds – risks a 14-fight winning streak against Marquez, a Mexican who has held titles in three different weight classes.
Once again he will carry the weight of the Philippines into the ring, and once again he will be fighting someone other than Mayweather. Sixty of his colleagues in the Philippine House of Representatives are on hand for the fight.
He was elected in May representing Saranggani, a province in the island of Mindanao.
In an interview with Piers Morgan of CNN Friday night, Pacquiao said he wants to give back to the people, and in an indication of his future political ambition, he said while most Filipino politicians are corrupt, “Manny Pacquiao is not corrupt.”
“I want to help people,” Pacquiao said. ” I came from nothing, (so) I want to give something back.”