By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Call it hype, or a worn-out script, but somehow, it’s believable.
It’s billed Pacquiao Marquez 4, an expected action-packed encounter over 12 rounds, with surprisingly, no world title at stake. Instead, what’s up for grabs is a ceremonial crown: The WBO Fighter of the Decade.
It’s a bragging right that the two future Hall-of-Fame boxers will cherish after fighting over 36 rounds before, with no clear-cut winner, even though Pacquiao, an eight-time champion, prevailed with a split, draw, and majority decisions.
In their press conference Wednesday, Pacquiao and Marquez posed for pictures with the ceremonial red WBO belt, the symbol of being best boxer of the past 10 years.
The welterweight class also has two interim world champions — Robert Guerrero, WBC , and Diego Gabriel Chaves, WBA.
Bob Arum of Top Rank, who is promoting the fight, said even with no world title at stake, the fight is on its way to being sold out and over a million pay-per-view buys are expected.
Boxing experts are mixed on their predictions, but both fighters have shown confidence at the press conference and in pre-fight interviews.
They have fought extremely close fights, and statistics bear this out. According to a statistical breakdown Pacquiao-Marquez I and II by CompuBox indicate that little separated the two fighters from a numbers standpoint, according to BoxingScene.com).
In their first fight, Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO) out-landed Pacquiao 158 to 148 in total punches and 122 to 100 in power shots. While Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO) out-threw Marquez 639 to 547 in total, Marquez landed at a more accurate clip (29% to 23%).
In their second encounter, Marquez again out-landed Pacquiao in total punches (172 to 157) and in power shots (130 to 114). Over 24 contested rounds, Marquez landed more total punches in 12 rounds, while Pacquiao held the edge in nine.
In total, Marquez holds a 330 to 305 edge in total connects and a 252 to 214 advantage in power punches over the first two fights.
For the rubber match, Pacquiao out-landed Marquez 176 to 138 in total punches and 117 to 100 in power shots.
But a pattern has been set: Pacquiao is always the agressor and dares Marquez to engage, while the Mexican is the counter-puncher and waits for Pacquiao to come to him
A change is tactic is possible for the fight Saturday, which Marquez described as a “total war.” He claimed he had won all three previous bouts, and that he had been robbed.
“I think that the things that we can change is that if he’ll fight toe-to-toe, and exchanging punches,” said Pacquiao. “I think that he needs to do that because he’s been claiming that he won the fight, and you’re claiming that you won the fight, and you just back off, back off. It’s not good for the people claiming that, ‘Yeah, I won the fight, but in the fight, I’m always backing off, backing off, waiting for the punches of my opponent.”
“It’s contradictory to his claiming that he won the fight. For me, this is about my name, and the honor of my country, and of course the pride of the Philippine people. I want to give him a chance. Maybe he can prove something.”
“I never complain about the judges or the officials, because that’s their job,” said Pacquiao. “And our job is that we are boxers. So our job is to fight in the ring. Whatever the decision, we have to respect their decision.”
Pacquiao said that he chose to fight Marquez a fourth time in order to achieve closure, Ring Magazine reported.
“Like what Top Rank CEO Bob Arum told you, when you say Muhammad Ali, you think Joe Frazier, and when you say Frazier, you think Muhammad Ali. I think when you say Manny Pacquiao, you think Marquez, and when you say Marquez, you think Manny Pacquiao,” said Pacquiao.
“If I’m scared of him, I’m not going to choose him again after four times. If he wants to fight, ‘Yes,’ and if he wants to fight once every Saturday of the month, no problem. I settled with Marquez because he’s very…he has a brave heart.”
Pacquiao said he and trainer Freddie Roach have devised a plan that might draw Marquez into a fire fight.
“This training camp, we try to adjust our style and strategy, and if we don’t create action, I’m ready to be aggressive and create more action,” said Pacquiao.
“If you’re claiming that you won the fight, then, in the rematch, given the opportunity this time, you have to be aggressive and you have to create first, the action.”
A southpaw, Pacquiao was 11-0 when he was stopped by Rustico Torrecampo in the third round in February of 1996. Pacquiao was 26-1 before losing to Medgoen Singurat by another third-round knockout in September of 1999.
Marquez never has been stopped, although he was floored by Pacquiao three times in the first round of their initial meeting as featherweights in May of 2004, and dropped once in the third round of their second as junior lightweights in March of 2008.
Still, Pacquiao and Roach say they want to deliver an entertaining, violent fight, even if he means that Pacquiao runs the risk of being knocked out for the third time in his career.
“Everybody wants a knockout, because all of the close fights will go to that person,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach. “If [Marquez] comes out and he’s aggressive, and he wins by knockout, then I have to respect him and congratulate him if that happens.”
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