For thirty-six rounds, two boxers had fought to a virtual standstill. One had won more rounds, the other had more knockdowns, both thought they had won each of the three fights and in the end, the judges had their say. Last night though, there was no need for judges and no need for even a ten count.
It’s not every day an album, a movie, a book or a boxing fight live up to the hype. You can see countless fights from Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya to know what it feels like to pay for a fight that wasn’t worth its price. Last night, everyone not only got their money’s worth; they saw history made in one of the greatest boxing rivalries of all time.
Gatti Vs. Ward, Ali Vs. Frazier, Barrera Vs. Morales, Leonard Vs. Durán... if you hadn’t done so already, add Pacquiao Vs. Márquez to that list. After three epic fights, the grudge match took an incredible turn on the delivery of a looping right hand that dropped Manny Pacquiao in the third round, the first legitimate knockdown I had ever seen. Like the true champion that he is, Manny got up, fought back, survived the round, dropped Márquez in the fifth and was on his way to put the matter to rest in this rivalry when in the last second of the 42nd round between these two guys, Juan Manuel Márquez landed a counter right hand that floored Manny Pacquiao not for 10 seconds, but for almost two minutes.
This was a back and forth affair that ended explosively and though Manny got KOd, this fight could have gone either way. From the opening bell, it was clear this wouldn’t be last year’s chess match; this would be a fight between speed and skill, power vs. power, orthodox vs. southpaw, Philippines vs. Mexico. First two rounds were Manny’s, 3rd round Márquez knocked Pacquiao down with a right, so it was all even. Round 4 was for Márquez, Round 5 Manny got a knockdown and won the round and round 6 was back and forth high intensity firepower from both sides and Manny was getting the best out of the exchanges until Márquez landed the aforementioned right hand.
It was electrifying, it was incredible, it was the best fight of the year, it was what boxing needed. This was no strategic chess match... this was boxing at its finest. Two world-class elite boxers put everything on the line and were not in the mood to leave anything up to the judges.
It was eight years ago when I saw a fight between a young Philippino guy who seemed as if he had Popeye’s biceps for calves, facing off against a Mexican boxer puncher I’d never seen before. First round, the Philippino won me over for his power, his speed and for knocking down the Mexican three times. With a broken nose, the fighter on the receiving end of this onslaught got up, lost the second round and then pulled off the comeback of a lifetime, getting a draw and winning me over as a fan for life. It’s been eight years, four fights and 42 rounds. It’s been as even as you can imagine. They know each other as only fighters with this type of rivalry can know each other. Pacquiao has five knockdowns and two victories, but Márquez has the KO and the biggest win between them both.
Leading up to this fight, people were asking if we needed to see a fourth fight between these guys. After last night, the answer was a resounding yes. No fouls. No badmouthing. No empty hype. Determination, skill and passion got into the ring last night and everyone who watched won. May lesser fighters and lesser men watch and learn... this is why we love boxing.