Manny Pacquiao Vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III: Keys To The Fight, Part I

So continues our marathon coverage of Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III Nov. 12 on HBO pay-per-view. Previously: The big question about Pacquiao-Marquez III; what’s at stake. Next: keys to the fight part II.

Mind. Matter. How do Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez stack up in those categories? In the first of two parts, we compare their physical attributes.

(The [Russ]Keys to the Fight.)

Size. This factor, above all others, will be the difference in the fight. Pacquiao is naturally bigger, period, no matter what they both weigh on fight night; some fighters are just better at a weight than the other, and that’s the track record here, where Pacquiao is the top welterweights in the world and Marquez is the top lightweight with one miserable showing at welter. If Marquez can make any headway having mitigated the size advantage Pacquiao will hold at 144 pounds, then Marquez could be live. It’s a daunting prospect. Marquez is a natural featherweight overachieving at lightweight. Pacquiao is a natural junior welterweight overachieving above that. Clearly, both have showed that you can achieve things at weights less than ideal. But boxing history shows that sometimes boxers can win a fight on size difference alone. It affects almost everything else in this post, besides.

How’s Marquez doing? He sure LOOKS bigger than his last journey up to 144 pounds, a loss to Floyd Mayweather last year. Against Mayweather, he was doughy and had to try hard to get up that high. This time, with the help of strength coach Angel Hernandez — and, if you’re highly suspicious, whatever illegal substances Hernandez, a former confirmed steroid supplier, gives him — he is visibly bigger and more muscular. There’s also a chance that having fought at the weight once, it’ll be a more natural weight the second time. There’s a chance that with the right training, he could do what Roy Jones, Jr. did after briefly abandoning light heavyweight and walking into the ring an undersized but effective heavyweight. That’s a rare example. Pacquiao has more slowly moved up and adjusted to the weight, and despite similar physical dimensions of approximately 5’7″ height and 67″ reach. He’s bigger, the only issue is how much it will matter. Edge: Pacquiao

Speed. This has always been a huge advantage for Pacquiao over everyone, and it was in both his fights with Marquez. But how much have each of them slowed since the last time they faced one another, in 2008? Some see Pacquiao as slower than he was at his peak, both of hand and foot; others see a fighter who simply has moved up in weight and naturally would have dropped off. A few years ago, sparring partners who had faced both Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather said Pacquiao was faster; recently, Shane Mosley, who had faced both recently, said Mayweather was. There’s a chance he is slower overall, not just at the weight. That could minimize the advantage, some.

Unless, of course, Marquez also has slowed down. And he has. The Marquez who was reasonably quick at 126 and 130 pounds simply hasn’t been at 135, getting out-quicked or nearly out-quicked by Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. His punches are a bit more lumbering these days. He’s never been particularly quick of foot, but at least he has good footwork, and he makes up for a lack of speed on offense with counterpunching and timing. Making matters worse, he was glacial at 144 pounds. He and his team say they’ve corrected that with the aforementioned intelligent weight gain. I’ll believe it when I see it. Edge: Pacquiao

Power. Pacquiao punches hard enough as a welterweight that the same thing has happened to everyone he’s faced there: Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Mosley all went into survival mode after tasting his power, if not sooner. Pacquiao punches hard enough at junior middleweight that he can break the face of a man who outweighs him by nearly 20 pounds, Antonio Margarito. He’s always had real power, be it because of Mosley’s weird explanation about him snapping his punches better than anyone he’s ever faced or because his speed amplifies whatever he has naturally or some reason we don’t understand.

Marquez’ power has never quite been on Pacquiao’s level, but as he’s become more interested in sitting down on his shots and trying to finish with knockouts rather than decisions following a string of close losses, and perhaps as he’s gained weight, there has been a boost in his punching authority. He’s stopped every opponent he’s faced at lightweight, although Diaz lasted the distance in their rematch. Forgive me if this is starting to sound repetitive, but at 144 pounds, Marquez’ power was non-existent; the few times he connected cleanly on Mayweather, Mayweather found it comical, and it wasn’t just that “You hit me and I’m going to smile to pretend it didn’t hurt.” Mayweather didn’t move an inch when Marquez landed. This time, they say he’s retained his power as he’s moved up to 144. I’ll believe it when I see it. Edge: Pacquiao

Chin. Pacquiao has been hurt here and there since those knockout losses in the 90s, both of which can easily be attributed to him struggling with weight. Marquez was responsible for some of the times Pacquiao has been wobbled since then. More recently, Margarito hurt Pacquiao to the body. But Pacquiao doesn’t go down, and he recovers quickly when he does get hurt. Pacquiao can take a helluva shot, but he’s not indestructible.

Marquez, he gets knocked down a lot. Pacquiao himself has knocked him down four times in their two meetings. Katsidis knocked him down. Mayweather knocked him down. And Marquez gets wobbled a fair amount, too, even by the likes of Diaz, who doesn’t have much single-punch power. Yet, like Pacquiao, he recovers quickly. It almost energizes him to get hurt, because he usually fights back harder and smarter afterward. Unlike all these other categories so far, moving up to 144 pounds for that one fight didn’t appear to weaken Marquez’ chin, remarkably enough. He went down against Mayweather, but wasn’t hurt badly again after that, and while Mayweather didn’t put much energy into trying to finish him off, Marquez took enough flush shots that if his chin was woeful at the new weight it would’ve showed. Anyway, one guy takes a better punch than the other. Edge: Pacquiao

Condition. This is kind of a catch-all for stamina, wear and tear and general physical condition. Stamina-wise, both are most, most excellent. You can find the occasional example long ago of Pacquiao having stretches where he appeared a little tired, including against Marquez in 2004, but they might have been mirages. I’ve not seen it happen for Marquez at all that I can recall. No issues here. At age 38, Marquez is more likely to have some stamina problems suddenly emerge than they are for the 32-year-old Pacquiao, though. Both have gone a lot of hard rounds, too, and both physically are probably (in Pacquiao’s case) or definitely (in Marquez’ case) on the downward arc of their physical primes.

This is the only close category in this whole post because Pacquiao in his last fight complained of leg cramps, something he said had happened in other fights, too. Strength coach Alex Ariza said they trained in such a way to avoid them this time, but at the beginning of October, Pacquiao said he’d suffered some more leg cramps. It’s enough to almost equalize things, but in this category, I’m going to go with the younger man who looks more like the best version of himself than the older man who doesn’t. Edge: Pacquiao

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.