TQBR Roundtable, Ms. Mexico Edition: Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez IV

So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2012, Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4 on Dec. 8 on HBO pay-per-view. Previously: the undercard, previewed; why the fight matters; a preview and prediction. Next: the ultimate guide.

Any sport that brings guys that look like this together with girls that look like that is OK in my book. Manny Pacquiao, left, and Juan Manuel Marquez, right, mightn’t be the prettiest two guys on the block (36 rounds of punching each other in the face has seen to that) but, darn it, they’re some of the most determined. That’s why they’re going at it one more time, and that’s why they brought Ms. Phillipines and Ms. Mexico along for the ride (though hopefully not into the ring).

Hard as it is to believe, there are more pressing questions to be asked than whether one prefers Ms. Mexico or Ms. Phillipines (personally I go for Mexico, but I lived there and feel obligated). So, staff writers Andrew Harrison, Patrick Connor, Mark Ortega, Karl Greenberg, Joseph R. Holzer and myself, along with TQBR founder Tim Starks, sat down and got to discussing.

Do you care? After three fights, are you looking forward to another one? Do you see a fourth installment being a promotional success?

Patrick Connor: I seem to be part of the small group that's actually somewhat enthused by this fourth bout. Before the third fight, many said Marquez was done, couldn't offer up much resistance and that Pacquiao had grown too big, and I maintained that the style match-up will almost always produce a good fight. In terms of whether or not it will be financially successful, it's difficult to tell, but I'm not sure how many Manny Pacquiao fights wouldn't be financial success stories these days.

Karl Greenberg: I think it will be promotional success principally because of Mexican and Filipino fans. But I'm going to wager that there actually won't be a lot of interest in this beyond that because of the elephant in the room. Yes, when the two of them fight it's a churning burning mess of action, blood and guts, but I'm kind of wondering if a lot of people aren't thinking, "enough already." Three is the magic number. Four is like the Father the Son, the Holy Ghost and Barry.

Andrew Harrison: Not really, and not because it's a retread. My apathy stems from the influence of those strength and conditioning coaches, which we'll come to in a bit. I imagine it will do good numbers, though. A 50-50 match-up between elite-level guys should be a red-hot commodity.

Joseph R. Holzer: By routine this should be a good fight, but it won't do anything to change anyone's perspective of either fighter's career. It does keep both busy against highly skilled opposition, though, and promotion has been solid. Surely the cards that air simultaneously on NBC Sports and FOX Sports will benefit from the buzz. The interest of boxing as a whole is affected by Pacquiao-Marquez IV, whether it's a priority to watch or not. The fact it's for the WBO "Fighter of the Decade" title has a decent ring to it, too.

Alex McClintock: I have to admit that I don’t care about fight numero cuatro quite as much as I cared about tres. That’s largely because it’s a re-do and things have gotten more and more tactical each time these men have fought. Still, some good things do come in fours. Die Hard 4 was better than Die Hard 3. Likewise Rambo. So yeah, I am looking forward to it, and I think it will be at least a mild success, based on general interest and ethnic fans.

Mark Ortega: I'm looking forward to the fight, and not only because it’s my first opportunity to experience a Manny Pacquiao Las Vegas Fight Week in person. What kind of sport has this evolved into where 50 Cent and Snooki, two equally skilled entrepreneurs outside of boxing, are involved?

I think it will be a promotional success, but not exactly due to the fight being a standout match-up. Pacquiao obviously has his great fan base and Marquez, despite being the Mexican Shane Mosley (a tremendous fighter with a decent following that almost always played second fiddle in their major blockbuster fights), has developed a great following thanks to the 24/7 cameras. Not to mention the sympathy people feel for him after being shafted in all three Pacquiao fights.

Tim Starks: Strangely enough, I care more about #4 than #3, simply because I was so convinced for #3 that Marquez would be too shrimpy at welterweight to do a damn thing. The whole range of responses from the team here strikes me as valid, though. Sometimes when people are looking forward to a certain fight more than me, or less, I wonder if they have gone crazy or if I have. There is plenty to like, and plenty not to like, about Pacquiao-Marquez 4. As for whether it will be a promotional success — that's one of hte big tests here. Has Pacquiao's star faded after so many so-so performances? Or is the fact that he's in TV commercials so much more these days and that ESPN is going ballistic with its coverage of this fight just going to embiggen him?

Will this one be any different? After 36 rounds, is either man capable of doing anything new to change the game?

Patrick Connor: The fight should look at least similar to the first three, but I can see a physical dip or erosion certainly changing the outcome. At this point, much has been made of Pacquiao's apparent piety affecting his motivation, and that may be true, though more often than not, hitting him just pisses him off. I can see Marquez pressing to start quicker, though.

Karl Greenberg: I'd like to think so, and I know that Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said that during the presser Pac etched "Must have KO," on the conference table with his fingernail. But I don't think he'll accomplish that, because there's no reason to think Marquez will be any less of a counterpuncher, and he's gotten better and better with each rematch while Manny has, I think, not. I think, as the urge on both sides is greater in equal measure, the outcome will be the same. I also think that, if so, Marquez will get the nod. Which Pacquaio probably knows.

Andrew Harrison: Pacquiao has a better chance (at changing his game) than Marquez. He may decide to go balls-to-the-wall and come out swinging a la Tommy Hearns, thereby forcing a shorter argument (especially in light of the Bradley fiasco). Otherwise it will probably be a case of same old, same old (unless one of them suddenly drops to bits physically).

Joseph R. Holzer: This is the fight in which the age of Marquez will play the greatest factor. Though he has seemed to solve the Pac-Man puzzle, he'll have to replicate his past success. At 39, that's a tall order. Manny appeared neither fresh nor interested in the first half against Tim Bradley, and it cost him. Considering the pair's ages, the fight favors Pacquiao. Yet no one should be shocked if Marquez wins. He had a great shot to win any of the previous three.

Alex McClintock: I don’t think that this will be substantially different to their third fight. I expect Marquez to be slightly more active and get the win. Why? He has adapted a little better than Pacquiao every fight, he’s seemingly in better shape than ever before and he saw what happened in the third fight when he let close rounds slip away. That, and I’m a fan boy.

Mark Ortega: Both guys are in the interesting predicament of having been robbed on the scorecards in their most recent fights. If that forces both fighters to go for broke, we might have an excellent fight. That would also mean they both changed their approach.

We also could get Jesse Jamea Leija-Azumah Nelson 4. Which wasn't an all that great fight.

Tim Starks: The thing that Alex and Karl said about Marquez getting better in each successive meeting stands out to me most. Not that Patrick isn't right about someone's physical erosion setting in and making a difference, or that Pacquaio couldn't change his gameplan to go balls-to-the-wall as Andrew says, or that one or both of them might not be super-motivated like Mark said about recent bad decisions. If there's one thing I left out of my preview that I regret, it's the Karl/Alex point.

Do Freddie Roach's statements about Marquez' strength and conditioning coach, Angel Heredia, regarding performance enhancing drugs concern you? Is the cloud of suspicion a turn off?

Patrick Connor: It's not a turn off until the cloud grows much thicker, in my book. The cloud of suspicion, as it were, is supposedly hovering above every fighter, trainer and nutritionist's head. Until there's some concrete way to sort through it all, I'll keep it on the back burner and try to enjoy the fights first.

Karl Greenberg:  Um… Hm. Today I heard an anecdote about Lance Armstrong that is kind of incredible. I mention it here because it shows how well people are capable of doing one thing on the front end, and another on the back, to borrow a marketing image: It's the extent to which, reportedly, Lance ran his team like a drug cartel, and simultaneously had no qualms about utterly concealing it. When the accusations began surfacing I remember Robin Williams hitting the TV circuit lambasting the French. That's how good Lance was. So my cyclist friend told me about how Lance would tell his teammates to get with the program: hit the needle or hit the bricks. If that could be so utterly concealed from the hoi polloi — and I include myself among that cohort, as I also mocked the French authorities for executing what I thought was a "sour grapes" strategy, and couldn't believe for a minute that someone so fabulous, and morally impregnable  as Lance Armstrong could EVER dope — than I'm ready to believe anything is possible. So yes, it concerns me.

Andrew Harrison: Roach's comments were both hilarious and depressing in equal measure. Firstly, he snipes at Marquez and Heredia (a former supplier of steroids) after pictures emerge showing the Mexican looking as muscular and powerful as Pacquiao is these days. Then, his own conditioning coach, Alex Ariza, moves quickly to defend Heredia. Roach then claims that the sport would be PED free without the likes of Ariza, Heredia and the rest of these scientists altogether. How poor does that all look? I know Roach has had to backpedal somewhat under duress; however, has he even made the connection that his stable peaked when working under Ariza?

Oh it's a turn-off alright. It's nicotine breath and a hairy top lip and I can't get away with the "Who cares?" brigade and the inference that anyone squawking about testing reform is either prone to histrionics or pissing in the wind. That cloud of suspicion extends right across the sport. If the president of the World Anti-Doping Association, John Fahey, is astute in his assertion that the war against drugs has already been lost (which is a stance he would take) then me and this here boxing lark are unlikely to go on together (with suspicious minds). For others, it isn't as much of an issue. Mixed martial arts, for instance, seems to get by just fine.

Joseph R. Holzer: The PED issue should be left to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and sanctioning bodies. Roach is doing his part in promoting, whether or not it was in a positive light, and his accusations shouldn't trip the scale without burden of proof. With PED controversy surrounding his own fighter, it would be best for Roach to shy from comments such as these.

Alex McClintock: The cloud of suspicion is something of a turn off, I have to admit, though I don’t mind nicotine breath as much as Andrew. I find Roach’s comments almost laughably hypocritical, though, considering how upset the Pacquiao camp was about Floyd Mayweather’s similarly unsourced accusations against them. In a perverse way, I’m happier to have suspicions hanging over both parties in the sense that it may at least be an even playing field in there on Saturday night.

Mark Ortega: Freddie Roach continuing to point out his own hypocrisy is about all I got out of his comments. I am not going to assume anyone is guilty of foul play or even acknowledge it until there’s a smoking gun.

Tim Starks: Yeah, I was more annoyed at Roach than anything. I'm used to classless behavior in the build-up to a fight, but Roach usually plays inside the lines, and this time he went out of bounds. That said, the overall sleazy air that boxing has taken on this year as more and more fighters get busted, as guys like Heredia and Victor Conte get involved with more and more fighters, is a turn off. I'd like to think that my sports heroes aren't all on drugs, but then, I grew up worshiping the mid-80s New York Mets, and nothing crushes a boy's "Just Say No!" dreams about athletes as role models like learning that all your boyhood idols are snorting cocaine. This is different, of course, because it's more about out-and-out cheating than recreational drug use (unless you're pot-smokin' I mean accidental-pot-infused-sleep-tea drinkin' Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.!). It's not like I'd be shattered to find out 90 percent of boxers are doping. But it would leave me a little limp all the same. Maybe we're moving in the right direction if people are getting busted at all — it is a disincentive for other boxers to begin doping or to stop if they are doing it. I just worry that promoters see cleansing the sport of PEDs as a subtraction from the bottom line, rather than an addition to the long-term health of the sport, since short-sightedness is the defining disease of boxing.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.