One of modern boxing’s greatest rivalries will come to an end on Saturday 12th November 2011, when Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao faces Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez for the third and final time at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The two great warriors have already given the world two epic encounters so far, with the first fight in 2004 ending in a draw and the second fight in 2008 ending in a controversial split decision win for The Pacman.
Since their two fights, Pacquiao has gone on to win world titles from super featherweight up to light middleweight, dominating the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley along the way. He is now on a plateau all of his own, with the mythical pound-for-pound champion status bestowed upon him by virtually every analyst, writer, fighter and trainer in the sport.
The only itch left to scratch – at least in the eyes of boxing fans and observers – is Floyd Mayweather. Pretty Boy made his eagerly awaited return to the ring two weeks ago by knocking out Victor Ortiz in round four of a strange encounter. If you haven’t heard what happened, you don’t follow boxing.
Mayweather and Pacquiao can’t seem to sit down and get the contracts signed, and the world waits in frustration and anticipation while they dance around each other and fight other opponents.
This time, however, you have to put the mega-fight of Pacman-Mayweather to one side, because you underestimate Juan Manuel Marquez at your peril. The Mexican legend was dominated by Mayweather in 2009 up at welterweight, but since then he has defeated young warriors Juan Diaz and Australian
Michael Katsidis to show that he isn’t a finished fighter at age 38.
Looking at this fight, you can argue that Pacquiao has moved on to another level – and other weights – since he was given all he could handle in the second Marquez fight. This is true, but closer inspection of Pacman’s record shows that some of the fighters – regardless of how great they were – were on the slide. This is certainly the case with De La Hoya and Mosley, and you can make cases for whether Hatton, Cotto and Margarito were damaged goods too. What is more alarming is that Manny has suddenly started to show compassion to opponents, when they would have been ruthlessly dispatched in the past. This could be a sign that his heart is not completely in the sport anymore. If this is the case, Marquez will expose this weakness.
The biggest disadvantage for Marquez is the weight. He looked slow and sluggish against Mayweather at welterweight, but Floyd would have been a nightmare for the Mexican at any weight. But you have to worry that Pacquiao has an advantage with the fight being at welterweight.
Marquez has never been stopped in 59 contests, and I don’t expect him to be stopped on November 12. I anticipate a much more comfortable win for Pacman this time though, with Marquez, beaten and bloodied, making it to the final bell, only to discover that he has failed to beat the Filipino legend once again.
Then the world will expect to see Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Amir Khan makes the fifth defence of his WBA light-welterweight title this Saturday night (23rd July) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. In the opposite corner will be IBF champion Zab Judah, potentially his toughest test to date.
Judah has found a new lease of life since moving back to light-welter last year, hooking up with defensive master Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whittaker and picking up quality victories over Lucas Matthysse and Kaizer Mabuza, the latter for the IBF belt on the line Saturday night.
Judah’s time spent at welterweight was filled with great highs and even lower lows. For every KO of Cory Spinks for the Undisputed welterweight championship there was a horror show of a performance against Carlos Baldomir. Judah just could not be consistently brilliant. That is what makes the Khan-Judah fight intriguing, and hard to predict.
Khan has looked excellent at times but seemed clueless and one-dimensional against Paul McCloskey in April. With all due respect to McCloskey – who is a quality fighter – Judah will be much more slippery and harder to fathom than the Irishman.
If you want to try to predict the outcome of the fight based on each fighters last performance, Judah has the upper hand. Against Mabuza, Judah was fast and was hitting extremely hard, stopping the South African in the seventh round. If Judah hurts a fighter, they usually stay hurt. He’s a great finisher.
Where Judah has fallen short in the past is when a fighter takes his best shots early and comes on strong. In his defeats against Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and the aforementioned Baldomir, Judah started well before being overawed by his opponent. The plan B never came and he faded late in the fight.
Who can forget his 2nd round defeat to recent Hall of Fame inductee Kostya Tszyu in November 2001? Judah was majestic in the first round, but as soon as Tszyu figured him out and started to measure Judah for the right hand, Judah retreated into a shell. The one second before the bell rang to end the round, Tszyu landed the knockout blow. The resulting ‘chicken dance’ and subsequent attack of referee Jay Nady is the stuff of boxing legend, if only for the wrong reasons.
Khan must improve on his performance over McCloskey and start fast if he is to nullify Judah’s speed and not allow him into the fight. If Khan gets on top and presses the action he can dishearten Judah and wear him down for a late stoppage or unanimous points victory. But one second of complacency could be enough to put Judah back to the top of the division.
Marcos Maidana will return to the ring on 9th April 2011 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he will face three weight world champion and Mexican legend Erik Morales. It will be the Argentine warriors’ first fight since December’s war with WBA light-welterweight champion Amir Khan, a 2010 ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate.
With boxing politics being what they are, Khan has been elevated to the lofty position of WBA ‘Super’ Champion, meaning that the fight will be for the ‘vacant’ WBA light-welterweight champion. A cynic would say that this has only happened so that Morales can aim to become the first Mexican fighter to win world titles at four different weights. Even if you’re not a cynic, it doesn’t make much sense.
Politics aside, it’s still a fascinating bout. Maidana proved in his fight with Khan that he is not just a one-dimensional slugger. He landed plenty of jabs and cut off the ring beautifully, especially in the tenth round when an overhand right had Khan on rubbery legs and one punch away from oblivion. To be able to beat Khan you need technique and speed, and Maidana came close to upsetting the champion, who showed ridiculous amounts of courage to not just survive the tenth round but to win the fight.
The fight is intriguing mainly because it involves Erik Morales. ‘El Terrible’ retired in 2007 following a close and controversial decision loss to then-WBC lightweight champion David Diaz, his fourth defeat in as many fights (including two KO defeats in wars with Manny Pacquiao) but came back three years later and has won three in a row to set up this fight. He hasn’t looked especially great in those bouts, but we all know that great fighters can always surprise us.
It looked likely that Morales would challenge fellow Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez at lightweight, but that fight fell through. Marquez is now likely to chase and hound Manny Pacquiao into a trilogy closer. Morales now has an arguably tougher task a weight north.
After such a great performance against Khan, Golden Boy Promotions have rewarded Maidana with a high-profile contest against a faded legend, and he deserves it. He’s never in a dull fight and he leaves everything in the ring. After seven or eight rounds of an exciting fight, Maidana should be leaving the ring with the title he nearly took from Khan.
That’s how to turn an ‘L’ into a ‘W’.
After watching the men and women’s tennis grand slam finals at the Melbourne Open I felt a mixture of emotions ranging from euphoria and happiness to sadness and depression. It had nothing to do with Andy Murray’s defeat, it was purely because tennis has a perfect structure to please fans of the sport, and my favourite sport – boxing – has nothing of the sort. I came to the conclusion that boxing could learn a great deal from tennis and a shakeup couldn’t come at a better time.
People are fed up with news stories about failed fights and failed negotiations. The next time I log in to Twitter and read ‘Klitschko Blames Haye’ or ‘Haye: Wlad is ducking me’ on my News Feed I’m going to hurl the computer through the window. If boxing wants to become mainstream again it needs to seriously buck its ideas up.
Showtime’s Super Six super-middleweight tournament was a big step in the right direction for the sport. Unfortunately, as it moves towards its conclusion, it is in a seriously depleted state (no fault of its own) due to fighters dropping out through injury. It has been equally cursed and blessed but the real point to highlight here is that six of the best fighters in the weight division have been fighting each other consistently. Showtime has repeated the trick at bantamweight this year with four fighters and it has been equally as successful. A few tweaks here and there and every division could have their own Super Four/Six. Imagine what that could do for the health of the sport?
One of the biggest issues for boxing is that one of the sport’s biggest champions HBO has been one of its biggest problems. Manny Pacquiao’s fights aside, the recent HBO run has been pretty poor to say the least, with dire undercards and one-sided match-ups. The fact that Pacman has defected to Showtime just highlights the problem. The great boxing writer Thomas Hauser wrote an amazing article on the issue for top boxing site Secondsout.com. Read it here: http://www.secondsout.com/columns/thomas-hauser/how-hbo-lost-manny-pacquiao-
I grew up watching HBO fights on Sky Sports, so I’m a huge fan. Some of my earliest and greatest memories have come from their shows, particularly in the 90’s when Lennox Lewis was dominating the heavyweights and Oscar De La Hoya’s smile could have printed its own money. Larry Merchant is a personal hero of mine, his voice and his words ingrained in my mind. Hopefully Pacman leaving will make them pull their socks up and comeback stronger than ever. I hope so, because boxing needs them.
Back to tennis, and why is think it could set an example for boxing. In a tournament, there are no excuses, no argument over finances. The best play the best if and when they have to and when they do, the world sits up and takes notice.
It would be great to see it happen in our sport. Showtime has come closest to the Grand Slam format and for the best part, it’s worked. Prizefighter has done a similar thing for UK boxing. Come on HBO; let’s see you throw your hat in the ring.