Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have clashed in three historic battles, but none have ended with a definitive victor. Despite fighting in three classic fights against one another, each came with much outrage and controversy.
The first fight in 2004 ended in what seemed like a rightful though unacceptable draw. The final two fights, which took place in 2008 and last June respectively, went to the judges as well, with Pacquiao being named the winner. Unfortunately, neither victory came without dispute from boxing experts and fans alike.
In the fourth chapter of this storied nine-year rivalry, both boxers are hopeful this Saturday’s bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas will finally provide an unquestionable superior.
In an era in which boxing appears to have changed for the worst, the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry has accommodated boxing fans with a showcase of all that is beloved in the sport. Pacquiao and Marquez have put on clinics in each fight; the “Pac Man” with his brutal flurry of strikes and Marquez with his textbook boxing style.
In true competitor’s fashion, these two fighters have a mutual hatred for one another. The uncertain culmination of each of their first three bouts has done little to strengthen any potential friendship between the two. Each controversial finish has provided both fighters with a reason to go into these battles with the intent of punishing their opponent to the point of no return. As a result, the two have put on unforgettable shows that rank amongst some of boxing’s best fights in recent years.
With what both men have confirmed will be their final fight, you can expect to see them give their all once again.
Coming off a loss to Timothy Bradley in June that was later overturned, Pacquiao seeks to cement himself as the better man once and for all while also re-opening the discussion of a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. superfight.
Meanwhile, Marquez hopes to prove he has always been Pacquiao’s superior in a rivalry where one could certainly argue the 39-year-old sensation won each of the previous three bouts. At the same time, he has a chance to make his mark as one of the premier fighters in the world today despite his age with his only losses in the last four years coming at the hands of Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr.—two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Sadly, a Marquez win will likely not come without debate. Training with known steroid provider Angel Guillermo Heredia, murmurs have already begun about Marquez’s shocking physical transformation. Heredia prosecuted for the government during the BALCO case, and now, as Marquez’s strength and conditioning coach, it’s a wonder if Marquez’s transformation is not the result of tainted preparation.
With no way to really discover if that is the case at this point in the process, it is the hope of the boxing world and its fans that it is not. Believing he got the short end of the stick in all three fights, Marquez should surely seek to win the final battle in this storied war convincingly—and hopefully—without depending on a chemical advantage to do so.
For many, this bout will be bittersweet. It is the end of an era. The culmination of all that they treasure. In this day and age, rivalries such as this one are few and far between. Another one like it may not come for quite some time. So as Saturday approaches, boxing fans should bask in the glory of having witnessed such a progressively rare feud between two of the era’s greatest boxers.
For Pacquiao and Marquez, it is a sigh of relief and closure in an illustrious but controversial part of their professional careers.
You can follow the author on Twitter @LouisMusto.