by Gautham Nagesh
Juan Manuel Marquez knocked welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao out cold with a right hand on Saturday night in the 6th round of the fourth edition of their rivalry at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The emphatic win by Marquez terminates Pacquiao’s decade-long run atop the sport, and avenges the Mexican junior welterweight champion’s two losses in their three previous fights. Marquez also fulfilled his vow to finish the fight by knockout, therefore avoiding the possibility of another controversial decision favoring the Filipino fan favorite.
Marquez scored his first knockdown against Pacquiao in the 3rd round, after a cautious start had him down two rounds on our card. A looping right connected squarely with Pacquiao’s chin and sent the Filipino down, though he sprang up and fought back gamely for the rest of the round. Pacquiao steadied himself in the 4th and came back to score a knockdown of his own in the 5th with a lead left hand. The punch sent JMM off-balance, and the Mexican was forced to touch a glove to the canvas to steady himself.
Pacquiao continued the assault for the rest of the 5th, hurting Marquez again with a right hook and pouring on power shots from every angle. But Marquez was undeterred, refusing to hold when hurt. Instead he fired back, bravely fighting with Pacquiao though seemingly taking more damage. The two stood face to face and traded fire, delivering the type of non-stop action rarely seen at such a high level. By round’s end, Marquez looked like he’d stuck his face in a vat of Kool-Aid; his nose appeared broken and continued to pour blood going into the 6th.
Pacquiao kept control in the 6th, and appeared to have his opponent in serious trouble between the blood and constant pressure. Sensing weakness late in the round, Pacquiao dove in, feinting with his right jab and keeping both hands at his waist. Marquez was ready for the crucial mistake, turning to deliver an overhand right with the full force of his 143 lbs. Pacquiao crumpled to the canvas, out before his face touched the mat. He lay prostrate as his wife Jinkee howled in agony and chaos erupted around him in the ring. Only two minutes later, after smelling salts were administered, did he finally stir.
The win capped what was undoubtedly the most compelling fight of the year, and perhaps the best I’ve seen in my brief career. The 5th round alone was an instant classic, the type of contest folks tell younger fans about to emphasize the superiority of the past. Marquez looked undoubtedly bigger and stronger than previous efforts, and was able to handle Pacquiao’s vaunted power with much more resolve. Marquez was also able to anticipate and adjust to Pacquiao, identifying his tendencies and altering the trajectory of his right hand to help it find home.
Perhaps now we will finally appreciate the genius that is Marquez, whose staying power has helped him eclipse his former rivals Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. Marquez has any number of roads open in front of him, including riding off into the sunset, but why quit after your greatest performance to date? Perhaps it’s selfish, but we’d love to see him battle Brandon Rios for supremacy at 140 lbs., or show the world whether Adrien Broner is for real. Either fight would be far more appealing than forcing Marquez to continue campaign above his natural weight class at 147.
The knockout also puts a final end to any discussion over a superfight featuring Floyd Mayweather, considering Floyd’s one-sided beating of Marquez in 2009. We have always maintained that Pacquiao couldn’t touch Mayweather, and that has now become obvious to even casual observers of the sport. Marquez may choose to climb that mountain again, and he may even do better, considering his new physique. But more likely Floyd will focus on the likes of Robert Guerrero and eventually, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
But this night belonged to Marquez, who finally found redemption after feeling he had been robbed on at least two separate occasions against Pacquiao. Marquez will rightly be greeted by his countrymen as a hero, and forever remembered as the man that ended Manny Pacquiao. Whether the two fight again is almost academic; after four fights like they have fought, it is clear that little separates them as fighters or champions. Of course, we said the same thing about the fourth fight. And it turned out to be the best of them all.
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