It is the golden rule of the fight game: one punch, one kick, one wrong move, and you're done.
Manny Pacquiao learned this lesson this past Saturday night when he fell victim to one of the great knockouts in boxing history courtesy of a right hand from Juan Manuel Marquez. This writer doesn't even believe that's an overblown statement considering who got knocked out, who knocked him out, the fight in which it took place, and the circumstances of the knockout itself.
Going into Saturday night's fight, everyone believed that it would be the concluding chapter to a great boxing rivalry. And that included the fighters as their reasoning for taking this fight was to finish some unfinished business. All the Mayweather/Pacquiao talk was put on hold so one part of that equation could finish something from his past, and then new business could resume. Didn't happen.
Depending on how you think about it, one second can either be instant or long. In the case of Marquez's knockout punch, it was a bit of both. Pacquiao went down in a flash after getting hit, but those final few seconds of the round encompassed a lot of action and seemed longer than a few seconds. It was an amazing example of timing that Marquez was able to land the punch basically at the bell and score the knockout. Had he landed the punch after the bell rang, there may have been a problem. Instead, he landed it just before the bell and added that element to the amazement surrounding the knockout.
And while Marquez's straight right in round six is the punch that will define this fight forever and be the punch that Marquez is remembered for, the punch that may have set all of this up was the looping right hand that Marquez knocked Pacquiao down with in the third round.
This was Marquez slaying the dragon that had haunted him for over eight years. The main thing that most people talk about regarding this rivalry are the knockdowns that Pacquiao was able to gain while Marquez had gone through three fights with Pacquiao and scored zero knockdowns. That will eat at a fighter, especially one like Marquez who does possess knockout power.
More important to the fight on Saturday night is the effect that this knockdown had on Pacquiao. All of that frustration that filled Marquez about not being able to knock Pacquiao down became Pacquiao's frustration at the fact that he actually was knocked down. It's not just that Marquez was able to knock him down, but that someone was actually able to put Manny Pacquiao on the canvas on his butt. This isn't exactly a common occurrence when Pacquiao is in the ring, and for it to happen early in a big fight changed the mentality of both men. With that one punch, Marquez gained enormous confidence while Pacquiao became frustrated and looked to prove his own knockdown and knockout power.
This is what was clearly visible from Pacquiao getting knocked down in the third to the end of the fight: Pacquiao's focus was firmly about winning by knockout. Sure, both men set out to do this from the moment the fight was announced, but this was Pacquiao not even attempting to hide his true intentions. Why? Because Pacquiao's mental focus was broken and it was solely about finishing the fight. Any bits of self-preservation or strategy or logic that may go through Pacquiao's brain in any other fight were completely absent in this one after that first knockdown. It's really that simple. You could see it in his eyes, in his punch selection, and in his overall approach to the fight after he was sent down in the third round.
And it's this that allowed Marquez to land the shot he did. Because let's face it: for the final three rounds of this fight, both men were headhunting and engaged in an extremely long slugfest that even the minute between rounds couldn't stop. The fight had become this and the only way for that kind of fight to end is the way this fight did in fact end. And these fights always end the way they do because both fighters are so focused on the knockout that they leave themselves wide open for punches by not even trying to defend punches coming at them.
It's still the belief of this writer that Marquez baited Pacquiao at the end of the sixth round and that Manny fell for it because of his almost overly aggressive desire to knock Marquez out. But it was a bit of defense on Marquez's part as the two were still slugging it out, looking to land one more big punch, in those final seconds. Then Marquez backed up a little. He backed up because he was leading Pacquiao in and could tell that if he got a chance to get him he would not only get him, but Pacquiao would be wide open. And Pacquiao did give Marquez his chance when he went in wide open in the final seconds of the round, running right into Marquez's right hand. The next thing Pacquiao knew he was being helped up off of the canvas by his cornermen as a visibly upset and nearly hysterical Jinkee Pacquiao attempted to get to her fallen husband.
This writer has always prided himself on being able to separate the fan and the writer in him. Both feed off of each other, but they are separate; the man who sits down in the computer chair to type up an article isn't the same man who sits down on the couch to watch a game or fight.
My reaction to Marquez's knockout as a fan: joy; unfiltered, uncontrollable, and unapologetic joy. For a man who had possessed the best characteristics you could want out of a boxer, a man who had always conducted himself with class and dignity both in and out of the ring to finally get his moment in the sun is something that had me saying, “sports moment of the year,” after the knockout took place. This is a man who has always been overlooked because he wasn't flashy enough or didn't have that “it factor” that can create a star while producing compelling and exciting fights often and never backing down from a brawl when his opponent wanted the fight to become one. He is a man who has been a walking hall-of-fame inductee in waiting for years, but the masses needed more evidence to get behind him. Well, they got their evidence with one punch. And hopefully that one punch will force the average boxing fan to take a good long look at the career of Juan Manuel Marquez and pay him the proper respect he has been owed by the American public for years in this writer's opinion.
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