As depicted in this past Saturday night's first episode of "24/7 Pacquiao-Marquez 4", the HBO documentary-style series leading up to the December 8 pay-per-view fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the legendary Mexican has been in the business of complaining when it comes to his rivalry with the Filipino star.
The episode explored the closely contested first three bouts that have given way to this fourth encounter, one that has been promoted as a requirement to settle the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry steeped in history, controversy and inconclusiveness. Will a fourth fight really serve that purpose or will it give Marquez another reason to find fault with the outcome in what is likely to be the last bout of his career?
A good portion of this first installment of the four-part series involved Team Marquez expressing their sentiment that they were "robbed" of all three previous victories. It is a position that is somewhat difficult to empathize with when taking a closer look at the situation.
In defense of his featherweight titles in their first fight on May 8, 2004, Marquez valiantly fought his way back from a three-knockdown first round that, as aptly pointed out in Saturday night's program, referee Joe Cortez allowed to continue given his understanding of the overall situation and assessment of Marquez's condition. Marquez made the necessary adjustments throughout the fight and was able to effectively neutralize Pacquiao's left hand with right hand counters, with both men landing shots in a close and exciting fight.
Had it not been for a scoring error of the first round by judge Burt Clements who gave it to Pacquiao by a score of 10-7 instead of the standard 10-6, the Filipino would have won the fight by split decision rather than it ending in a draw with scores of 115-110, 110-115 and 113-113. It was Team Pacquiao who had reason to claim they were "robbed", protesting that the judge's error cost them the fight, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission did not overturn the decision. Marquez, meanwhile, maintained that he dominated the rest of the fight after the troublesome first round and was deserving of the victory.
Marquez was knocked down again by a Pacquiao left hand in the third round of their second fight on March 15, 2008, this time in defense of his WBC super featherweight title in a rematch promoted as "Unfinished Business". He once again persevered in a close hard fought battle, with both men suffering cuts and hurting the other over the course of the action. Marquez indicated he thought the referee might stop the fight given the deep cut sustained across the length of his right eyebrow. The fight was allowed to continue, with both men trading shots down the stretch.
Although the Mexican champion landed the most punches at a higher percentage rate, the third-round knockdown proved to be the deciding factor in a close split decision victory for Pacquiao with scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 112-115. Business was anything but finished, with Marquez resuming his cries that he was again denied justice by the judges. [ EDITOR NOTE: Of the three fights, this is the only one that this writer scored for Marquez 114-113].
It would be over three years later before Marquez would have a chance for redemption in a rubber match. The 38-year old Mexican entered the fight on November 11, 2011 as a 9-1 underdog moving up almost two weight divisions to challenge Pacquiao for the WBO welterweight belt at a catchweight of 144 pounds.
Much like the first two fights, it was a closely contested bout with several back and forth rounds that could have gone either way. Yet, Team Marquez entered the final round believing they had the fight won.
"We thought we were winning the fight," Marquez said. "He [Pacquiao] took more risk in the twelfth round, but I didn't think that one round could sway the decision."
This was a rather shocking comment coming from a highly intelligent ring veteran like Marquez whose two previous fights with Pacquiao were ultimately decided by a single point.
The outcome of the third bout would not be much different, with two of the three judges scoring the final round for Pacquiao. This led to a majority decision victory for the Filipino star with scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 114-114, prompting even louder outbursts of injustice from Marquez.
"The first and second fights made me mad, but the third one filled me with rage," Marquez said of the decision.
You're taking this very personal. This is business and this man is taking it very, very personal.
Marquez's trainer Nacho Beristain, who told his fighter heading into the final round that 'the only way he could lose the fight was if the judges were to rob him again', was equally disgusted by the outcome.
"The result of the third fight was shameful. In the history of boxing, it will always be shameful," said Beristain.
All three fights were extremely close, making it rather difficult to accept claims that any of the decisions rose to the level of a clear one-sided robbery much like those of Pacquiao-Bradley, Rios-Abril or Cloud-Campillo.
Furthermore, Marquez was permitted to continue fighting in the first two fights when a case could have been made to stop the action. Although he displayed tremendous heart and courage to fight his way back and be extremely competitive after being knocked down a total of four times in the first two battles, those knockdowns played a role in the scoring and contributed to the results. The swollen right eye and upper lip of Marquez after the third fight was not representative of a fighter who was a clear cut victor.
For Marquez to say he dominated any of the bouts or was victimized is sour grapes and perhaps an embellishment, to a certain degree, to raise greater interest in a fourth fight.
Both men have vowed to settle the score once and for all with knockout victories which will require Marquez, who is now 39 years old and moving up from 140 to 147, to sustain a more aggressive stance against the fading, but nonetheless, harder hitting Pacquiao. The Mexican legend found himself on the canvas four times when fighting in that manner in the first two fights.
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's famed trainer, may have said it best as the episode drew to a close.
"To be quite honest with you, I wanted to close the book on this. I never wanted to see them fight again. And then, here we are," chuckled Roach.
A fourth fight will finally close the book on any more future match-ups between these two men, but whether Marquez is capable of delivering the kind of performance that would finally earn him a definitive victory is rather unlikely at this stage of his career.
If it winds up being another close fight, his business with respect to Pacquiao will remain unfinished as well.
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