ROUND II: Marquez has Pac Man again

March 11, 2008 6:00 PM
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Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | Brother, there are no moral victories in gambling.

You win, you lose, you push. So even if there was no loser in the epic third battle between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez earlier this month, there were plenty who had to tear up tickets on the gallant runnerup.

Brother, here we go again.

There may not be any losers in the ring Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Arena when Rafael Marquez’s older and bigger brother, Juan Manuel, tries his hand at Pac Man again. This is another of those easy prognoses, if all you’re doing is trying to pick how the bout will do on the excitement-meter.

In their first encounter almost five years ago, Manny Pacquiao dropped the bigger Marquez three times in the first round, only to have the classy Mexican counter-puncher remarkably rally to gain a draw. In fact, many of my ringside colleagues, and others in attendance, believed Marquez virtually shut out the Pac Man after the opening round and deserved the decision in what was a bloody brawl of great artistic merit.

I disagree.

I thought Pacquiao should have been given a clear points decision, the way Jersey judge John Stewart did by a 115-110 margin. Burt Clements of Reno wound up with a 113-113 card, but gave the Pac Man only a 10-7 first round – not realizing he could and should (as the other two judges) scored it 10-6.

 Guy Jutras of Canada had it 115-110 for Marquez and that is why there are many in the congregation will look at the odds for the rematch and do more than pray for the Mexican.

 While there is no question this is going to be another terrific match, I have little doubt that Pacquiao and his backers will be the only winners. Juan Manuel may fight valiantly again, but I believe in the only place it counts – our pocketbooks.

Marquez represents the loser here.

Pacquiao is about a 2-1 favorite (-200 at Caesars Palace). The buy-back rate on Marquez is anywhere from +150 to +170, a rather attractive temptation for a live underdog. But I believe Pacquiao won the first fight and should take the second comparatively easily.

Pacquiao is two years better after more work with trainer Freddie Roach. Marquez is two years older. The Filipino, at 29, is still in his prime. The first fight was at 126 pounds for Marquez’s featherweight titles. This is at 130 for Marquez’s junior lightweight belt.

It is the Pac Man who is growing stronger. He started his pro boxing career, at age 16, as a junior flyweight and won his first world title at flyweight (weighing 110½ pounds). If he beats Marquez his next fight, says promoter Bob Arum, will be to challenge David Diaz for one of the 135-pound trophies.

Pacquiao hasn’t had much trouble, apparently, making weight for next Saturday because of all the hard work he has done in Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. For the first time in a while, he has done all his training in this country, away from his adoring and distracting Filipino fans, People I trust say he looks extremely sharp in the gym.

He has improved mightily since 2004. The southpaw knocked Marquez down with left hands all three times in the opening round. He became so enamored with his power punch that he frequently forgot to set it up.

Since then, Roach has done wonders in molding Pacquiao into a two-fisted fighter. The right hand is also capable of dropping opponents.

More importantly, Roach has actually been able to entrance the Pac Man into playing defense. Marquez’s sharp counters will, I believe, be slipped or ducked more often than not this time.

I don’t believe Marquez is at his peak, but neither do I feel he will not be at his best Saturday. In the seven fights since Pacquiao, he has scored only two knockouts. However, I’m sure the great Mexican trainer, Nacho Beristain, will have him at his best.

It’s just that I think at his best, Marquez is not as good as this new version of the Pac Man, whom I believe is tops in the game, pound for pound, with the sole exception of Floyd Mayweather Jr. And, I’m not sure Mayweather is still in the game.

He might have had a better chance if he had accepted the $750,000 or so for the immediate rematch. Much has been written about how, under Beristain’s management (great trainers can be poor managers), he instead took a pittance and went to Indonesia to lose his featherweight title to hometown favorite Chris John.

I like Pacquiao a lot in this rematch and would not be at all surprised if he manages a stoppage in fairly quick order. Either way, he’s the only winner here, along with his backers.

 

PULL

(Freddie) Roach has done wonders in molding Pacquiao into a two-fisted fighter. The right hand is also capable of dropping opponents