(Juan Manuel Marquez on the deck against Manny Pacquiao in Pacquiao-Marquez I)
Remember when Floyd Mayweather, a smallish welterweight, faced lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009 at a catchweight of 144 pounds, and everyone mocked him for picking on a little guy? Rabid fans of Manny Pacquiao (and I count myself among them) led the way, taunting Pacquiao’s rival Mayweather for his bully routine.
I hope they’ve been taking gymnastics lessons, because defending their man from similar charges is going to require them. I know my tumbling skills aren’t up to snuff.
Marquez said Tuesday that he had accepted a November fight with Pacquiao, a smallish welterweight, at 144 pounds. Only a matching offer from Golden Boy Promotions could prevent the bout from happening, and the chances of that are remote at best.
Maybe there’s something different about Pacquiao fighting Marquez under these circumstances that I haven’t considered, but what I see is a fight I’m not remotely interested in at this weight. We’ve witnessed Marquez at 144, and it wasn’t pretty — Mayweather stomped him with ease, and while Mayweather’s considerable skill had something to do with it, so did Marquez’ ineffectiveness at the weight.
Once more, among available options, Pacquiao is not taking the most competitive possible fight, and it’s beginning to become a tiresome trend for the pound-for-pound king.
It turns out I’m not alone, by the way, in thinking Pacquiao vs. Marquez at welterweight is a waste of time. You know who agrees with me? Top Rank’s Bob Arum, the promoter of Pacquiao.
All the way back in December of 2010, here’s what Arum said about a welterweight fight between the pair, which would be a rematch of two close bouts between Pacquiao and Marquez at featherweight and junior lightweight:
“The old fights at the lower weights, where Manny knocked Marquez down four times are not relevant because that was before he really learned how to fight, and before his body developed into that of a welterweight,” said Arum.
“Can you imagine what he would do to Marquez now if he knocked him down the same way? Manny would wipe the floor with him in one or two rounds. And then what the f**k do I do? How would I sell Manny’s next fight?”
Arum had a suggestion for how Pacquiao-Marquez III could become a worthwhile bout. It wasn’t a bad suggestion, either. Maybe if Marquez fought a true welterweight like, say, Andre Berto and beat him, then we’d have something.
“Put Marquez in with Berto, let’s see what he does,” Arum said. “If he beats Berto, well, obviously, he can fight a Pacquiao. But I don’t think he can fight at the higher weights. It doesn’t say anything about his ability as a fighter. He’s a good fighter, nice fellow.”
I bolded two passages there because I think they’re particularly relevant to the debate I expect that will unfold about Pacquiao-Marquez III.
We will hear that when they last fought in 2008, Pacquiao and Marquez were pretty close to one another in weight on the night of their battle, since both rehydrated to the 140s. It’s true. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that Pacquiao and Marquez are anything alike physically in 2011 based on that. They aren’t. And it’s not even close.
Marquez is a natural featherweight. Every weight class above that — two of them — has been a stretch. He only journeyed as high as lightweight originally to chase a third match with Pacquiao. On the day of weigh-ins in his past two fights, Marquez hasn’t even weighed the lightweight limit — he’s been 133.5 and 134 pounds, respectively. He is, in other words, a smallish lightweight, and he’s struggled to take the punches of some of his naturally bigger foes. And if you saw how he looked against Mayweather, he wasn’t some chiseled specimen the night of the fight. He was downright flabby. In order to fight as high as 142 pounds, he basically had to get fat.
Unfortunately for Marquez, Pacquiao didn’t stay around long enough at lightweight for a third fight. It’s because Pacquiao’s body had to strain, his trainer said, to get down to the lightweight limit. His team considers him a natural junior welterweight, but he’s fought capably as high as junior middleweight, although he did show strains of not being able to handle a 154-pound foe. Pacquiao fighting at junior middleweight is a bit like Marquez fighting at lightweight. Marquez fighting at welterweight is a bit like Pacquiao fighting at super middleweight. Proportionally, that’s a slight exaggeration, but Marquez fighting four divisions above his best weight class against an opponent fighting one division above his is what we’ll be getting with Pacquiao-Marquez III.
It doesn’t matter if they weight the same the day before the fight and/or the day of. Pacquiao is the bigger man. Everyone knows this. Pacquiao could beat any current welterweight with ease. I think Marquez would struggle to beat a top-20 welterweight. Size isn’t merely a number on a scale.
I was willing to embrace this fight somewhat reluctantly at junior welterweight, had it been made. It would be, in effect, meeting in the middle of the spots where the two men have resided in recent years. Pacquiao would still have the size advantage, but at least there’d be a modicum of fairness to it. And if you think those extra four pounds won’t play a role, I offer my usual question: If four pounds doesn’t matter, then why not fight at 140? It’s because they mean something to one side or the other.
There will be an argument from people who aren’t thrilled by Pacquiao-Marquez III that Marquez, 37, is too old and that’s why this fight sucks. I can’t make that argument, exactly. Oh, sure, I think in the years since Pacquiao and Marquez last met that Pacquiao has gotten significantly better and is currently in his prime, while Marquez has gotten significantly slower and is on the downturn of his career. But age isn’t the primary factor one should consider when making a fight. Is Marquez still one of the best five fighters alive at age 37? He absolutely is.
Let’s say size wasn’t a factor, and that Pacquiao could somehow shrink down to 135. I don’t think this fight would be competitive anyway. But that part’s not Pacquiao’s fault, and it’s no reason not to make the fight. There is only one person at welterweight on down that I think could be competitive with Pacquiao, and that’s Mayweather — but Mayweather isn’t fighting anyone these days, and truthfully I think he’s hiding from Pacquiao, since Paquiao’s team has tried to make the fight and Mayweather’s team has only made excuses.
The fact is, Pacquiao doesn’t have any good options for serious competition in November. But there were better options than a blown-up Marquez, just like there were better ones than Shane Mosley this past weekend, Antonio Margarito before him in the fall and Joshua Clottey in the spring of 2010. I’m not saying that Pacquiao has to fight the best competition 100 percent of the time. Fighters deserve the occasional lighter bout. But four fights in a row isn’t a good trend, either.
I don’t know if Arum will be able to sell this fight at this weight. I suspect it’ll do just fine, because any fight featuring Pacquiao will do just fine for the indefinite future. Marquez brings some Mexican fans. He brings two competitive showings against Pacquiao, however many years ago, and a hatred for Pacquiao that is rare among opponents who tend to like the friendly Filipino icon. This will mark the second consecutive bout where Arum has shat upon the opponent in advance of the fight, then turned around and made it happen, and he’s a gifted enough promoter that he found a way to get the public interested in Pacquiao-Mosley. (Coincidentally, both Mosley and Marquez were with Golden Boy at the time Arum shat upon them. Maybe this makes you inclined to think that his disses were motivated by the Top Rank-Golden Boy rivalry. But when Arum long ago dismissed Mosley as a Pacquiao foe because he was too old… was he right? And do you think he was telling the truth about Marquez back in December? Questions to ponder.)
But the more times there are better options for Pacquiao and he passes them by — this time, Timothy Bradley would have been a better option for reasons we’ve already discussed, plus there are probably a few other names that would have been superior — the greater the risk that everyone, including the casual fan, wises up to what’s happening here.