By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao ho-humed his way to a disappointing points victory over Juan Manuel Marquez to retain his WBO welterweight title at the MGM Grand Hotel here.
Pacquiao won on the scorecards of two of the judges and the third saw it a draw for a majority decision victory that was not much different from the inconclusive results of their two previous fights.
A fourth fight then? No way – if the fans who watched the fight Saturday have their say.
However, it was Pacquiao’s 15th straight victory and cemented his claim to the world’s best pound-for-pound title – until Floyd Mayweather Jr. meets him in the ring.
“I have to accept the fact that my opponent is not easy; he’s a good fighter,” Pacquiao said. “I did my best. And I clearly won the fight.”
His best was not good enough in a fight with great expectations. After going 24 rounds in a pair of close fights before, the third fight at a higher weight was projected to be action-packed and decisive.
Instead, the bout started slow, and came alive only in short stretches and briefly in the ninth round when Pacquiao showed a flash of his all-out attack.
Neither fighter was hurt or showed marks, except for a cut on Pacquiao’s right eyebrow from a head collision. Pacquiao sustained a cut on his lips and Marquez had swelling in one eye.
In the 10th round, Marquez went down on his knees after Pacquiao pushed him and the Filipino boxer took the headbutt after the two brawled in the center of the ring.
Marquez had the best shot of the fight – a straight to Pacquiao’s face in the fifth.
“It’s difficult to fight your four people – rival and the judges also,” said the devastated Marquez through an interpreter.
Marquez, who has now compiled a record of 53-6-1, 39 KOs, said he felt sure he won the fight – a claim he made of their two other encounters.
He raised both arms at the end of the 12th round and displayed the demeanor of a winner, strutting around the ring and talking to his handlers like a champion.
Instead, it was another loss, and he said he isn’t sure he’d fight Pacquiao anymore.
Renowned for his attacking style that has endeared him to fight fans at the same time sowing fear in the hearts of his opponents, Pacquiao was tame in comparison.
He was tentative in his punches, content in throwing a left and a right, but no combination, and waited for Marquez to come in and mix it up.
Marquez was hyped as a different boxer, eager to prove he can fight Pacquiao moving forward. He did not.
“Marquez will always be a counter-puncher,” said Manny Steward, one of the fight analysts. “He did not fight like he was trying to win a championship.”
The announcement of the decision provided the most drama of the night, as it could’ve gone either way. In the end, one judge scored it 114-114 while the other two had it 115-113 and 116-112 for Pacquiao.
The Orient Express had Pacquiao winning two rounds, and the rest draw in a 120-118 score.