Over the past two Saturdays boxing fans were treated to two extremely entertaining scraps and with them we as bettors were treated to parallel underdogs who cashed at odds that paid better than 2 to 1.
This coming Saturday night the MGM Grand Garden Arena hosts two fighters who fame and favor have not shunned. The combatants are no strangers to this city, fight fans, or each other. This bout represents the fourth time Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have met in the ring since 2004.
They last went toe to toe for a full 12 rounds only a year ago, to make it a total of 36 rounds thus far. What’s so amazing about this epic battle between two of the greatest boxers of all time is the fact that if not for the judgment of referee Joe Cortez the first time they met back in May of 2004, we most likely would not have seen the trilogy come to life.
In the very first round of that “featherweight” title fight, Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO’s) knocked down Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KO’s) three times. Nobody would have faulted Cortez for calling a stop to the bout at that point, but instead he used his judgment and allowed the fight to continue. Incredibly Marquez picked himself up off the canvas and not only avoided the knockout, but went on to win the majority of remaining rounds convincingly enough to secure a draw.
Since then these two current top pound-for-pound fighters have given the boxing world three 12-rounders of almost cinematic drama. Though Pacquiao will walk down the aisle with a 2-0-1 record against Marquez when they meet this weekend, a compelling argument could very easily be made that it should be the other way around.
Many, including myself, believe Marquez won their last encounter even though the judges gave Pacquiao a majority and not unanimous decision victory. The controversy that ensued is why we now get another opportunity to try and determine who is truly the better of the two fighters, if of course one is able to finally win convincingly.
This time around odds makers opened Pacquiao as a -350 betting favorite to remain perfect against Marquez, who in turn offers his backers a generous +280 if he can finally pull it off. If you remember, this price reflects a major adjustment from a year ago when Pacquiao who was defending his WBO welterweight title was listed as high as -800.
Surprisingly, neither of these former world champions is wearing gold around their waist at the moment but the WBO has indicated the winner will be crowned their “Welterweight Champion of the Decade.”
Pacquiao, along with trainer Freddie Roach, claims the former eight-division world champion was dealing with plenty of personal problems the last time and lacked focus. Personally, although it’s been well documented Manny was going through tough times outside the ring, I don’t believe that was the primary reason he had such a tough night. Instead, I’ll lean on the over-used boxing cliché that “styles make fights,” and in this case, truer words have never been written.
Pacquiao is an aggressive fighter who looks to overwhelm opponents with speed and power by stepping in to unload a barrage of punches, then quickly get out of harms way…then repeat. Against arguably the greatest counter puncher of all time that is no easy task.
Marquez has shown the ability to hold his ground and fire back, while improving his timing and accuracy with every passing round. The advantage Pacquiao has is his willingness to start quickly, unlike Marquez who tends to find his groove in the middle and late rounds.
Pac-man also has a size advantage having fought at this weight class far longer than Marquez, but when they face each other to touch gloves in the center of the ring before the opening bell sounds, expect to see a much bigger Juan Manuel. It started becoming more evident in last year’s bout after working with strength and conditioning coach Angel Heredia.
Better known as “Memo,” Heredia gained notoriety for his involvement in the BALCO scandal, which unfolded with many well-known professional athletes being accused and others admitting to taking “performance enhancement drugs” or PED’s. In fact, Freddie Roach openly stated he urged for more testing to be done prior to Saturday and claims the Marquez camp declined.
Roach went on to say the added muscle and size will actually be a negative by slowing down the 39-year-old Marquez. Pacquiao has vowed to end this fight by knockout, feeling it’s the only way to finally prove without any doubt he is the better of the two. He says the goal for this camp was to reinvent himself and to go back to when he simply let his hands go rather than try to outthink his opponents.
That may be a good idea because it will be another tough night if he makes it a chess match against a cerebral fighter like Marquez. I don’t believe there’s much debate as to who is the more efficient boxer, as the Mexican icon is a stylistic nightmare for anyone.
The question is whether a less aggressive Marquez can win over the judges, something he was unable to do on three previous occasions. Even though he went on to land the more telling blows and countered each of Pacquiao’s offensive outbursts with such precision, it did not sway the judges. This is what worries me about backing the underdog for a third straight week.
Otherwise, it should be almost automatic to bet Marquez based on the fact the two are so evenly matched and we have 36 rounds that prove it. Therefore being able to receive better than 2-1 on what is more or less a coin-flip makes Marquez the obvious choice to bet.
Finally, the wager that I feel offers a lot of value for this fight is the OVER/UNDER for total rounds, which is currently set at 10½ with the OVER a favorite. Simply put, the true odds on an “over” bet should be in the neighborhood of 4-1 (-400) based on all of the history we have on what happens when these two face off.
Not only do they know each other so well that defense has the edge, but a quick look at their records shows us Marquez has never been knocked out in any of his fights and Pacquiao has not been finished inside the distance in well over a decade.
Both these men have very sturdy chins and we should see the judges decide it once again – and that’s what worries me about the outcome. Since I’ve been known to place a wager or two in my lifetime, here’s what tickets I’ll most likely be holding in my pocket come fight night.
Also make sure to follow me on Twitter for “live” updates and pictures from ringside.
Pick: Marquez/OVER 10½.
Bonus undercard picks
• Yuriorkis Gamboa -200 over Michael Farenas
• Javier Fortuna over Patrick Hyland
VR MMA/Boxing record 82-48 (63%)
(Over two years at Pregame.com)
Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN. Follow him on Twitter@vegasrunner, at Pregame.com and on AM 1100 ESPN (also FM 98.9) on Fridays and Sundays from 11 pm to midnight when he co-hosts First Preview. Contact Vegas Runner at [email protected].