SI.com’s boxing experts predict Saturday’s fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV). Share your prediction in the comments below.
Prediction? Uh … The reality is the Pacquiao-Marquez is a pick ‘em fight and it will be a pick ‘em fight whether they fight today, tomorrow or 10 years from now. Pacquiao will always be an aggressive, come-forward fighter and Marquez will always be the kind of counterpuncher that eats that style up. Marquez looks great at 147 pounds, sculpted and comfortable at the higher weight. And like last fight, Marquez will likely have a strong crowd behind him. Still, boxing judges favor the aggressor and I think Pacquiao will come out trying to prove a fight. He won’t stop Marquez but he will win a close — and probably controversial — decision. Pacquiao by unanimous decision.
The great heavyweight champion Gene Tunney lost only one fight in his career, to Harry Greb, the man known as the Pittsburgh Windmill and one of the best fighters pound-for-pound in history. The pair would meet three more times, all tough engaging and bloody contests. Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler also faced off four times, in a series that is still considered one of the highpoints of the sport. Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta met six times, in a historic series capped by Robinson’s lacerating 13th-round TKO on Feb. 14, 1951 — dubbed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and immortalized on film in Scorsese’s Raging Bull (“You never put me down, Ray!).
Yeah, who wants to see the same guys fight each other more than three times?
Uh, I do. I know that there’s every reason to bemoan the fact that Pacquiao is climbing into the ring with Marquez again and not with that guy who’s feuding with 50 Cent. Part of that is because these days boxers fight so infrequently compared to the old timers — between them, the six champions mentioned above had 1,094 bouts; two of Robinson and LaMotta’s fights were separated by just three weeks — and there’s the sense that time is running out on Pacquiao’s career. That we may never see him against Mayweather.
That’s all too possible. But another match against the redoubtable Marquez is a worthy consolation. It should be another close and even thrilling contest. Marquez knows he has to get to Pacquiao earlier and not let the Filipino build an insurmountable lead. Pacquiao knows he needs to make a statement. He doesn’t want to just squeak by again on the scorecards. That combination should lead to some early fireworks, and those could lead to an upset. Marquez has lost none of his power and Pacquiao — increasingly, it seems — can be tagged. In trying to take Marquez out, he will have to take chances, and against a counterpuncher like Marquez, he will pay a price. I expect to see both men on the canvas and both men bleeding. In the end it will go down to the scorecards once again. Marquez by majority decision.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM
It’s not often these $70-a-pop blockbusters are legit coin flips but therein lies the value of Saturday’s scrap. Pacquiao and Marquez have fought 36 rounds with only seven points separating them on the scorecards. It’s not just that each cancels out the other’s strengths: these guys throw so many lightning-fast combinations that it’s hard to tell who lands flush unless someone gets hurt. Will the judges favor Marquez in the toss-up rounds as Roach fears? Will either fighter’s articulated desire to end it within the distance compromise their strategies? Does one or the other fall off an age cliff? No one can say with any certainty.
So toss a coin. Heads for Marquez, the thinker, whose shrewd counterpunching and footwork neutralizes the Filipino’s most potent weapons. Tails for Pacquiao, the aggressor, who holds the edge in power and benefits from a style that’s easier to see and easier to score, but may not get the benefit of the doubt if it goes to the judges. It’s the most reasonable forecast you’ll read all week: a 50/50 prediction for a 50/50 fight. Marquez by split decision.