Not many fighters are in instant classics, but between 2004 and 2012 we saw two men battle 4 times, and several of their bouts became instant classics. The bouts, pit a legendary Filipino against an often over-looked Mexican, enhanced the legacies of both men and gave us 3 ultra close bouts as well a stunning KO in their 4th contest. For today's Closet Classic we're going to look at the first of the 4 bouts between the two modern day legends
Manny Pacquiao (38-2-1, 29) vs Juan Manuel Marquez (42-2, 33) I
Of course the rivalry we're talking about is the sensational 4 bout series between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. The two men were stylistically very different, yet they matched up pretty much perfectly. The two men shared more than 40 rounds together and yet until the 42nd round neither man had managed to finish off the other. Not only were the two men well matched, but their rivalry stretched over multuple years and saw the men fight each other at Featherweight, Super Featherweight and Welterweight.
For this bout we go back to the beginning of the rivalry between the two men, with their May 2004 bout. At this point Pacquiao had already won world titles at Flyweight and Super Bantamweight and was now looking to become a 3-weight world champion. Coming in to the bout he had been unbeaten in almost 5 years and had reeled off a 13 fight unbeaten run. That run had seen him defeat the likes of Nedal Hussein, Lehlo Ledwaba and Marco Antonio Barrera. He was starting to not just make waves but actually become a boxing star. Aged 25 at this point he was becoming a regular on US TV, this was his 6th bout on US soil, and a must watch attraction in the sport.
Whilst Pacquiao was building a name for himself Marquez was often getting over-looked. He had scored 42 wins and had gone unbeaten since a decision loss to Freddie Norwood in September 1999. Since that loss he had reeled off 13 straight wins and beaten the likes of Robbie Peden, Manuel Medina and Derrick Gainer. He had unified the WBA and IBF Featherweight titles and had managed to become highly regarded as a very good technical boxer. Despite being a brilliant boxer, with solid power and a great boxing brain, he was often over-looked in favour of Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, two other Mexican fighter who had more fun styles and were more well known to the world at large. He was, in many ways, the forgotten man of Mexican at this point in time.
Not only were the fighters two of the best but so too were the trainers. In Pacquiao's corner was Freddie Roach the man who had developed Pacquiao into a much more rounded fighter than he had once been. He was still a work in progress, but a sensational talent all the same. In the opposite corner was Nacho Beristain, a Mexican boxing genius who crafted Ricardo Lopez and was now crafting another brilliant Mexican in Maruqez.
For Pacquiao this was a chance to claim more world titles, for Marquez this was a chance to get recognition he craved. It was aggressive tornado against counter punching genius. It was Mexico Vs Philippines. It was special. For fans this was to become an instant classic. One for the ages.
The bout started fast, really fast. Both men seemed to ignore the typical "feeling out round" and Marquez was fighting more aggressively than he typically had, it was as if he wanted to make a statement, and tell the world he every bit the Mexican warrior that Morales and Barrera were. That however cost him and he was dropped 90 seconds into the bout. The knockdown sent the crowd wild, though Marquez didn't appear hurt. Less than 30 seconds later Marquez was down for a second time and then down again only seconds later. It looked, for all intents, like Marquez was going to be taken out inside a round, as Pacquiao kept finding a home for his straight left hand. A bloodied Marquez barely surived the round.
With blood running from his nose and a huge hole to climb out of Marquez's chances looked done within a round. It didn't look like we were seeing the first chapter, of a 4 fight series but instead it looked like we were watching a sensational performance from Pacquiao. It seemed like Marquez was simply unable to cope with the straight left hand of Pacquiao, which had been his undoing in the first round. It looked like Marquez, at the age of 30, was too slow, too old and not versatile enough to over-come the speed and power of the Filipino.
Then things changed. Marquez changed tactics. He was from a man looking for war to a man who was looking to neutralise Pacquiao and counter. The tactical change was stark, no longer was Marquez fighting aggressively but instead he was fighting smartly. Despite the change Pacquiao still seemed to have some major success through the round, landing his straight left hand a number of times. Marquez's tactical change didn't instantly end Pacquiao's success, but did slow the tempo, and began to slow the momentum of the Filipino.
In round 3 Marquez would begin to go to the body of Pacquiao, trying to slow down the Filipino, and would also begin to really time the Filipino as the bout went from a fight to a boxing contest. The slower pace began to suit Marquez more and more. Not only did the slower pace suit Marquez but the distance he was creating also brought him success, and he began to out box Pacquiao. The Filipino was still landing some of the bigger, flashier shots, but Marquez was really building himself a foothold in the bout and that foothold would see him really pull himself back into the bout.
The Mexican also had a solid round 4, making Pacquaio follow him around the ring and countering him regularly. This was becoming Marquez's fight, this was becoming the type of fight that Pacquiao was going to struggle with. Saying that however Pacquiao knew he had the power to drop Marquez, if he landed clean we could see the Mexican fall apart like he had in round 1.
The bout had started with incredible drama but had began to turn into a high paced boxing contest. The drama was slowly ebbing out, but there was tension and action throughout, both men letting shots go, the styles gelling perfectly.
As we went into the middle rounds it was getting harder and harder to predict the outcome. From there on we had exciting, high level boxing. We had a damaged boxer, with what appeared to be a broken nose, against a puncher who was dangerous but struggling to land his main power punch, his straight left hand. We had an aggressive monster against a boxing genius, and we had two top trainers pitting their wits against each other just as much as we had two great fighters against each other.
In the middle rounds we began to see Pacquiao having success once again, landing his left hand, and making adjustments needed, the Marquez adapted once again making things swing back and forth as the bout moved towards the finishing line. It seemed like both men had had major success at times, but it was impossible to predict a winner as we went deeper and deeper into the bout.
We're not going to ruin the outcome for those who haven't seen this, and for those who have, let your memory go a little blank and just relive this sensational battle.
For those who love drama, high intensity action, brilliant back and forth, staggering momentum shifts, high quality action and a touch of controversy this has it all. This genuinely has every thing a fight fan could want and the result left the door open for the rivalry that would unfold over the coming years and give us 3 more amazing fight between two legendary modern day greats.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features