Overlooked in the aftermath of Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III and all the debates about whether the judges robbed Marquez and whether Pacquiao sucks now is that JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ GAVE AN INTERVIEW WHERE HE WORE A SOMBRERO OVER HIS NAKED JUNK. That is Mexican manliness personified.
But there are serious things left to debate. Maybe some of them can be debated dispassionately, now that we’re days after the card wrapped up on Saturday. They include things like the above questions, but also where each man should be ranked now, what each should do next and whether WBC boss Jose Sulaiman is an asshole.
- What went wrong for Pacquiao, part I. There are a million explanations out there for why Pacquiao didn’t look like his dominant self as a 9-1 betting favorite, and as always, perhaps all of them are right. There shouldn’t be any doubt anymore that Marquez, whether he’s 126 pounds or 144 pounds or 30 years old or 38 years old, has a style that gives Pacquiao trouble, as do all fighters who don’t walk straight at him. Pacquiao himself admitted Marquez hurt him several times, so it’s clear that he carried at least some power up to the weight this go-round. Some of it was strategic: Freddie Roach, for once, gave Pacquiao the wrong plan, trying to get Marquez to commit and then counter him, as if Manny — who’s become a better counterpuncher, but still — is going to win a counterpunching contest with the consummate counterpuncher in Marquez. Pacquiao disobeyed some of the other Roach commands, like circling to his left instead of his right, and head-hunting instead of going to Marquez’ body. Then there we rumors about distractions getting the best of him, too, in his preparation for the fight — all contrary, mind you, to the talk of him having one of his best camps ever, not just from within the Paquiao camp but from more neutral observers.
- What went wrong for Pacquiao, part II. But all the most divisive explanations are ones related to whether he’s no longer the fighter he once was. I’ve seen enough to think he probably isn’t, but it’s all anecdotal. Even within his camp, there have been criticisms of his physical state for the Marquez fight. You can leave it at that, and say he’s been slacking off in training, but then you have to deal with previous statements from Alex Ariza that Pacquiao overtrained for the Shane Mosley fight and had a great camp for this one, only to hear later that he slacked; it makes it hard to know when they were lying and when they were telling the truth. If Pacquiao is cramping up repeatedly as he says, it at least raises significant doubts about whether he is getting old and his body is beginning to betray him. I had noted before this fight that once upon a time people who sparred both Pacquiao and Mayweather thought Pacquiao was faster, but Mosley fought both more recently and thought Mayweather was faster, suggesting there was a chance his speed had dropped off. He definitely looked slower to me than in the recent past — I thought he should’ve been a lot quicker than Marquez, but Marquez wasn’t severely outclassed there by my eye. Defensively Pacquiao is not been as untouchable as he was in the David Diaz/Oscar De La Hoya/Ricky Hatton stretch, but I took that as a matter of focus before, and now I’m not so sure. You can also say that his inability to get off combinations was a result of Marquez’ counterpunching, and Marquez has indeed brought his punches numbers down historically, but Pacquiao threw combinations against him the other two times. That raises questions about his psychology these days, too. Maybe he’s decided he doesn’t need the punishment anymore, which might be justified but certainly would inhibit his offensive dynamism. And it’s a career that’s had a lot of punishment — he has had some all-wars with people like Marquez and Erik Morales at the lower weights, used to be a flat terrible defender, plus against Joshua Clottey, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito he took some shots from naturally bigger men that could have done both psychological and physical damage. I was open-minded but unconvinced after the Mosley fight by those who argued Pacquiao was on the decline. But after this fight, looking back, what looked like isolated and indeterminate hints seem to be growing into trends.
- What went wrong for Marquez. Yes, yes, trainer Nacho Beristain simply wasn’t thinking very well by telling Marquez in such strong terms late in the fight that he was winning it, considering the past two controversial decisions in the Pacquiao fights on which Marquez has been on the wrong side. I’m not saying Nacho should have told him to “go for it” in strong terms, because going haywire trying to knock out Pacquiao is a prescription for getting rocked yourself. Maybe Nacho should have told him, “It’s a close fight, keep doing what you’re doing, we need these rounds,” or something short of saying, “Go get the knockout!” but definitely not going in the direction of saying, “No worries, we have this in the bag!” Michael Woods offered some good advice here, saying that for Marquez to get the decision next time he might need to increase the volume of punches since the judges apparently have been giving Pacquiao credit for that. It’s not fair, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice. And it’s too bad that after an overall terrific performance, one where Marquez defied the odds and (according to most) deserved to win, we’re talking about what he should have done, but he could have done some things differently and might have gotten the official win.
- Pacquiao-Marquez IV. Word is that promoter Bob Arum wants this fight next and won’t consider Pacquiao-Mayweather until he sees about Pacquiao-Marquez IV. The reporting is a touch inconclusive, but Golden Boy — which informally promotes Mayweather — is all over it, with Oscar De La Hoya re-tweeting horrible things about Bob. Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz doesn’t want Pacquiao-Marquez IV because he suspects that it’ll be like all the others, a close fight endlessly debated where Pacquiao stands to be on the wrong side of fan opinion, and I tend to think he’s right in that reasoning. Others think Pacquiao-Marquez IV is exactly what Pacquiao needs to prepare for Mayweather. I’m really up in the air about what I want for Pacquiao and Mayweather these days, with this weekend’s fight having complicated matters further considering my view of Mayweather-Pacquiao being less competitive in light of it. I’d like to hear from everyone else about whether they want Pacquiao-Marquez IV, or Pacquiao-Mayweather, or one then the other, or what.
- Pacquiao-Mayweather. The closest explanation I’ve heard about why Mayweather’s style won’t bother Pacquiao as much as Marquez’ is that Marquez is an aggressive counterpuncher and Mayweather is a counterpuncher who doesn’t take as many risks. It’s not some kind of silly argument, but I disagree with it. Mayweather has been a pretty aggressive counterpuncher in his last two fights, against Mosley and then Victor Ortiz. I think that transformation is permanent, because his legs aren’t as spry as they once were. Mayweather is also faster, stronger, smarter, better defensively and altogether better than Marquez; the only area where Mayweather might not trump Marquez is in punch resistance, so I suppose that’s Pacquiao’s “in.” Don’t see Pacquiao beating Mayweather, though, after this past weekend. Before, I could see it, even if I probably would have picked Mayweather.
- Other options for Pacquiao and Marquez. I’m actually a little more interested in what Marquez does next than I am Pacquiao, if they don’t fight each other and Pacquiao doesn’t face Mayweather. Marquez-Erik Morales? Yes. Marquez-Timothy Bradley? Yes. Marquez-Brandon Rios? Yes. None of those match-ups excite me as much if you substitute Pacquiao’s name in instead. I do think that if Pacquiao is slowing down, some fights I previously viewed as wipeouts become a bit more desirable from a competition standpoint, but it’s possible I have a hangover on Pacquiao from believing that he didn’t deserve the win over Marquez and therefore am mentally intrigued by what’s next for the should-be winner rather than the winner-winner.
- Where Pacquiao and Marquez rank. If you are the kind of person who ranks fighters based on the way they look from fight to fight, i.e. the eyeball test, then it’s justifiable to no longer consider Pacquiao the pound-for-pound king and replace him with Mayweather, and to do the same with the welterweight rankings. As much as I disagree with the official result of Pacquiao-Marquez III, Itend to honor resume and record above the eyeball test. I do think Pacquiao is perched as precariously as ever atop the rankings, and that Mayweather is poised for a takeover the moment he beats a decent opponent. Since we have no idea which weight class Marquez will fight at next or if he’ll retire, I’d leave him as the lightweight champ and not rank him at welter, but if someone wanted to rank him both places I’d get it.
- Judging in the fight. It’s not a “robbery” by my definition if it’s a legitimately close fight, which Pacquiao-Marquez III was, but I don’t like that one 116-112 card for Pacquiao. Eight rounds? Really? I get that it’s just one round more than a 115-113 Pacquiao victory result, but I already think 115-113 for Pacquiao is a mild stretch. Eight rounds is a bigger stretch. I rewatched the fight and thought every single round was close other than the 2nd, 5th and 7th, all three of them rounds I scored for Marquez. There are two competing lines of thought out there about the psychology of scoring this fight: One is that some people gave Marquez more credit than he deserved because he was exceeding expectations; the other is that people assumed Pacquiao would win and therefore came in having him was win rounds that he really wasn’t. The judges ringside, anyway, probably suffered from the latter, if you look at how they scored the fight early. There’s also probably an element of this that involves judges somewhat subconsciously leaning toward the bigger name. Then there’s the tendency of judges to score for the forward-moving person throwing more punches. Pacquiao did those things, although I find the CompuBox numbers about how many he landed to be particularly out of touch this go-round. Anyway, Marquez landed far more of the flush, hard punches; he controlled the fight’s pace, meaning he was the ring general; and he hurt Pacquiao, by Pacquiao’s own admission. That’s enough for me to have scored it for Marquez.
- HBO commentary. Re-listening to the HBO commentary, they were hopelessly pro-Pacquiao early in the fight. Emanuel Steward said at one point that “This is maybe the fastest I’ve saw Manny,” which isn’t what my eyes registered at all; Jim Lampley said that Pacquiao had “landed when he wanted to,” which was not what my eyes registered at all; replays between rounds emphasized what Pacquiao was doing, even when Marquez clearly won them; and Harold Lederman said Marquez had a “style that impresses judges” while debunking the notion that he was winning the fight. If someone can show me a single close fight where the judges have sided with Marquez, rather than the exact opposite, I might be inclined to see it Lederman’s way. In fact, Lederman has always sided with Pacquiao in the trilogy: He had Manny winning 115-110 the first time, 115-112 the second and 116-112 the third. I like all these men, but on the balance, they were seeing what they wanted to see with Pacquiao instead of seeing what was really happening, and Lederman’s scorecard and explanation of it — Pacquiao hit him and then stepped to the side, so he gets the ring generalship advantage! — was way off, I thought.
- Pacquiao-Marquez III entertainment value. No one will mistake Pacquiao-Marquez III for the first two as far as excitement quotient, but this nonetheless was an entertaining fight. I have been hammering this point home because all the people making the opposite point that only pure action brawls are worthwhile are like propaganda ministers with it: There’s more to an enjoyable boxing match for many of us than two people beating the living hell out of each other. That can be fun, and usually is, absolutely. But what made Pacquiao-Marquez III entertaining despite the absence of high punch counts and tons of exchanges was the drama of it, of wondering how it would end, of the storylines at play, of the process of sussing out who was better between these two men, of the skill on display. Again, I want both skill and action; but sometimes I can do without one or the other and still be entertained. And I’m not alone — this fight has been praised by a great many fans, although a good many also are upset about the result, of course.
- Remainders. Arum passed a message through the Mexican media that WBC bossman Sulaiman — who had some negative things to say about Pacquiao-Marquez III — was an “asshole.” He’s right. Arum’s bad temper and vengeful nature hurts more often than it helps, but I’d love it if he turned its cannons on the alphabet gang… It was strange to see Pacquiao booed, and he didn’t enjoy the unique sensation from what I can tell. I can’t blame the fans for booing the decision, but I’d love it if people didn’t boo the fighter who gets the win just because they disagree with what the judges did… Amir Khan, a Roach stablemate of Pacquiao’s, originally scored the fight for Marquez, but thought better of it and retracted his assessment on Twitter. Khan says a lot of things he later retracts… Once more the best fight of the night wasn’t the main event, but on the undercard. Here are highlights from the junior welterweight fight between Mike Alvarado and Breidis Prescott, up as long as YouTube leaves them up there.