Manny Pacquiao – Juan Manuel Marquez III Is Now More Of A Must Than Ever

Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez became the lightweight (135 lbs.) champion of the world. Let me correct that. Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez became the lightweight champion of the world, securing Ring magazine’s belt, which traces its lineage back to the days when there was only one champion. He didn’t do it by chasing the division’s weakest belt-holder, just so he could say he was a champion. No, that’s what Manny Pacquiao did this summer, when he pummeled helpless (but game) David Diaz and took away his WBC or WBO or whatever the hell mostly-meaningless sanctioning organization belt Diaz had. Marquez became the lightweight champion by taking on one of the best fighters of his generation, Joel Casamayor, a borderline Hall of Famer who just a few months ago scored one of the best wins of his career, and knocking him out for the first time. I make no bones about Marquez being my favorite fighter. Yet even I had questions about whether he was a real lightweight. Now we know he’s not just a real lightweight, but he’s the champ of the division, and he’s got enough power to knock out a man that not even Diego Corrales or Acelina Freitas could.¬† Let’s go one better. Marquez, off this win, is now in my opinion the second-best fighter on the planet, pound-for-pound. At worst. He might be better than Pacquiao, whom I now rank very hesitantly at #1. There’s a problem here. Pacquiao is off making a fortune fighting Oscar De La Hoya, and daydreams about making another fortune fighting Ricky Hatton. But make no mistake: He does so by explicitly sacrificing a piece of his legacy. He does so by robbing the sport of the best and most important fight that can be made. That, of course, is Pacquiao-Marquez III. There are going to be a lot of people — myself included — who will now rank them the first and second best fighters in boxing off Marquez’ win. It is rare beyond belief to see the two best fighters in the sport hold titles in the same division. You have to go back to 1993 in the Ring magazine year-end poll to find the #1 man and the #2 man even in the same division, back when Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez roamed at welterweight (147 lbs). Not only is Pacquiao-Marquez III the most important fight in the sport, it now promises to be better even than I can hope. The first two were instant classics. The tremendous performances by Pacquiao and Marquez in the weight classes they debuted in this year proves that both men are right at home at 135, and I would no longer strongly favor Pacquiao at the higher weight, as I once did. Having debated hundreds of them here in this space, there will be Pacfans who will say that Pacquiao-Marquez III isn’t necessary. Pacquiao beat Marquez the first time, they will say, and it was only a judging error that led to it being scored as a draw; and Pacquiao officially won the second fight. But ask yourselves this, Pacfans: Are you saying that Pacquiao is clearly the superior man because you believe it so deeply, or are you saying it because of your emotional connection to Pacquiao, and out of a spirit of protecting him from a possible defeat that would lead some to wonder if he’s as good as you think he is? I don’t mean to get all Star Wars here, but “search your feelings”: Do you really know that Pacquiao is better than Marquez? Isn’t there at least a question? Because the rest of the world — Marquez fans or no — has that question. Most people thought Marquez won the second fight. Why wouldn’t you want to shut them up by seeing Pacquiao trying to win a third fight definitively? I think it’s because you don’t like the threat that Marquez obviously poses to Pacquiao. It’s only a guess, of course, but my guess is that Pacfans are seconding the reluctance Pacquiao showed after their second fight, when he declared his “business” with Marquez finished, and in, the July 2008 Ring magazine, he and his team confessed the day after the rematch that so vicious was taking on Marquez that Pacquiao was thinking of retirement. As a Marquez fan first and a Pacquiao fan second, I can tell you for my part I most assuredly have doubts about whether Marquez can beat Pacquiao. But I want to see a third fight to find out. As a hardcore Miguel Cotto fan, I knew Antonio Margarito was the welterweight most likely to beat him. But I still wanted to see the fight. I was sad to see my man lose, sure. Ultimately, though, it was a great fight, just like Pacquiao-Marquez III would be, and my allegiance to great fights supersedes my allegiance to any individual boxer. In a more objective vein, because Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton are bigger names than Marquez, there will be boxing commentators that don’t make a very big deal post-Marquez-Casamayor about how much boxing needs Pacquiao-Marquez III. If they know the sport very well, though, they should. Consider this my big deal. And don’t be surprised if I don’t shut up until it happens.

About Tim Starks

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