In a stirring duel that took many twists and turns, Juan Manuel Marquez unleashed a perfectly-timed right straight counterpunch that hit Manny Pacquiao flush in the face, rendering him dead-cold with just a second remaining in the 6th round.
It was a shocking upset, with Manny ahead in the scorecards of most analysts and viewers. Manny made it clear that he was in good shape and ready to rumble right from the start, stalking Marquez with a vigor that was sorely missed during his last few fights. This time, the footwork was there, the hand-speed was sharp, the tiger-instinct evident. Even the trademark grin as he made his ring entrance was once again present. Manny took the first 2 rounds, scoring more punches, and dictating the tempo.
In the middle of the 3rd round however, a looping right from Marquez caught Manny squarely in the chin, sending him to the canvas for the first time in years! More surprised than hurt, Manny got up and fought back valiantly. But this was just a portent of things to come. Here was a more heavy-handed Marquez that Manny had never encountered before. Where before Manny could weather Marquez’ blows, the added bulk now had more sting, more power and consequently, more pain.
The 4th round was a fairly even round, with no one able to show a clear advantage. But in the 5th round, Manny once again took control, knocking down Marquez and then giving him a bloody nose with a series of near-lethal bombs. By the end of the round, Marquez’ eyes were starting to puff, and it looked like it was only a matter of time before Manny would be able to break down his defenses.
On the 6th round, Manny chased Marquez around the ring with knockout in his eyes. Blood oozing down his nose and having difficulty breathing, Marquez fought back gallantly, even as he slowly back-pedaled his way to safer ground. When the last 10-second signal sounded, the two clashed again to gain round supremacy. And as Manny fired a right jab, Marquez ducked and launched the perfect counter that felled the Filipino champion. One more second and the round would have been through! One teeny-weeny miniscule second that would haunt Manny for the rest of his life.
Looking at the faces of the two protagonists after the slugfest, it wouldn’t be hard to assume that Marquez had lost. His nose was bleeding profusely, and his face was starting to swell. Pacquiao on the other hand looked like he had just come from the office. Alas, things are not as they seem. For now, it is Juan Manuel Marquez who owns bragging rights to this decade’s most spellbinding boxing rivalry. JuanMa deserves credit for having weathered Manny’s fists of fury. Despite intense pressure from Manny, Marquez did not wilt. Instead, he plodded on, patiently looking for the right opening, and he finally got rewarded for it. For that, he is now on top of the world. Truly, a champion worth emulating.
What’s next for Manny now? Already, there are talks of a rematch after the dramatic fight registered a big success in ticket sales as well as projected PPV numbers. Will JuanMa be up to the challenge considering his age? Or will he retire, confident in the thought that he will forever be on top of his rival now? And will fight fans still be up for a 5th match between the two protagonists? As for the other possibilities, Manny’s market value now will clearly be on a decline. Throw out the Mayweather fight for now. That gigantic loss has closed down that door for the meantime. A projected fight with BamBam Rios next year could be a second option, if the Marquez rematch is not available. A distant third option would be a rematch with Timothy Bradley, unless Marquez himself chooses to fight Bradley.
Manny needs to keep himself busy in the ring next year. His 2 consecutive losses should not be reason for him to slow down. It is important that as he retires from boxing, he retires on a positive note. He needs vindication from those twin road bumps. He cannot afford to leave boxing at this stage, and besides, he still has 2-3 years of productive fight left in him. Used intelligently, these last few years could help him better transition to his next career in politics. He knows that his political influence is to a large extent an offshoot of his illustrious boxing career. And he needs a few more victorious years in order to cement that winner’s image in Saranggani Province. Certainly, this should not be the end for a true warrior like Manny.