TQBR Roundtable, Alien Vs Predator Edition: Manny Pacquiao Vs Juan Manuel Marquez III

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; keys to the fight part I and II; the undercard; final preview and prediction. Next: the ultimate guide.

Manny Pacquiao is an alien, an extraterrestrial being with superhuman powers who has captured the imaginations of earthlings with his extraordinary feats. Juan Manuel Marquez is a predator, a bloodthirsty hunter who has pursued his chosen prey with guile, cunning, and relentless determination, often against long odds.

In this edition of the TQBR Roundtable, we will debate the possibilities for the upcoming HBO pay-per-view featuring the third matchup between Pacquiao and Marquez, which will take place at welterweight. Specifically, we will focus on the continued allure of Pacquiao, the possibility of a Marquez win, and the impact of UFC’s debut on the Fox network on pay-per-view buys for this fight.

It may be unlikely that Pacquiao-Marquez III lives up to the lofty legacy of the first two fights between the rivals, but let’s hope that it fares better than the movies pitting the eponymous movie franchise villains against one another.

Joining us for this edition of the Roundtable are Jeff Pryor, Alex McClintock, Patrick Connor, Andrew Harrison, Gautham Nagesh, Karl Greenberg and Tim Starks. Man, this thing was easier to compile before our awesome staff grew.

1. Are you as excited for recent Manny Pacquiao fights as you’ve always been? Do you see any evidence that the aura of invincibility that has surrounded Pacquiao since his move up in weight will be threatened in this fight?

Jeff: I’m excited… more than for some of the other recent bouts in Pacquiao’s cadre. For Marquez this is THE fight of his career. So far these two prizefighters have made for two absolute classic battles. This might end up like Erik Morales-Pacquiao III where one man was beyond where he could compete eye for eye for a full fight, realized it and went as hard as he could for a couple rounds. Marquez is comparatively older, slower and smaller than their early matchups. But his mind and fire will keep things interesting and his style is a perfect match to Pacquiao, so I think there could be danger to that unbeatable aura.

Alex: I find myself slightly more excited for this fight than I have for any Pac fight since Miguel Cotto. Could have something to do with the wall to wall coverage down here, south of the border, where it may be the biggest televised sports event of the year. Could have something to do with the fact that I identify much more with Marquez than I do with Joshua Clottey, Shane Mosley or Antonio Margarito. It definitely has nothing to do with a rational, unemotional assessment of JMM’s chances.

Patrick: I’m a little more excited for this fight than I normally am for Pacquiao fights, yes, though I realize I’m probably in the minority as many folks feel this should be quick and/or easy work for Manny. It’s not necessarily that I think he’ll lose, but there’s a very real possibility that the weight and age mean less than many of us anticipate. Stylistically they match up well, and I hope that’s where the series stays. In terms of Manny’s invincibility, or even perception of invincibility, it’s fair to note that he didn’t look scintillating against Mosley, got marked and beaten up a bit against Margarito and hasn’t always had the best training habits when away from the gym. There’s a bit of doubt to work with there.

Andrew: Pacquiao is so far ahead of the game his fights have become hellishly one-sided — a series of whitewashes which feature him picking the wings off a string of good fighters unable to live with his physicality, all of whom resemble roadkill afterwards. It’s been a long time since Manny came up to scratch as anything other than a prohibitive favourite and his bouts have all played out in the same vein of late. Long and drawn out leatherings don’t really yank my chain and I’m also a Pacquiao sceptic — I think the only one outside of the Mayweather clan — which doesn’t help my lack of enthusiasm any.

Gautham: I’m less excited. Marquez is simply not a compelling opponent for reasons I’ll detail below. I would rather see Pacquiao take on a young, strong welterweight like Andre Berto or Victor Ortiz even if he won easily. Marquez is basically a lose-lose proposition for Pacquiao; if he dominates people will say Marquez was shot or too small. If it’s a close fight many will take it as proof that Pacquiao lost at least one of the first two fights. Only a close fight that ends with some sort of highlight-reel knockout will truly add to Pacquiao’s legacy.

Karl: I don’t see Manny being threatened at all in this fight unless it’s by a lumpia roll he shouldn’t have eaten, shinsplints, or an attack of remorse. I’ve not been excited about a Pacquiao fight since Ricky Hatton. I see no reason to think that he will be threatened in this fight, at this weight. If they were at lightweight, different story maybe. Or unless Marquez had a Hickman line put in for quick injection of power-boosting drugs from Angel Hernandez.

Tim: I’m not excited at all. God I hope I’m wrong, but I think they’re dishonoring what Pacquiao and Marquez achieved together by having them fight now, at this weight. Maybe if they’d had it at 140 pounds, it would have an air of mystery, since we wouldn’t have the proof we have from before about Marquez sucking at welterweight. And maybe a part of this is that I’m a big Marquez fan. Worst case scenario, Marquez (whom HBO’s Max Kellerman said he’s heard isn’t training very hard) is taking one last cash-out fight and intends to fight to survive the way so many boxers have of late, particularly against Manny. Best case scenario is like Jeff said — Pacquiao-Morales III.

Scott: Count me among the skeptics in the crew. I simply think Marquez will be too slow to deal with Pacman’s speed, plus I don’t see him being strong enough to hurt Pacquiao at welter. Plus, I’m getting pretty bored in general with Pacquiao lately. For a while he was fighting bigger guys who couldn’t match his skill, now he’s fighting a skilled guy who can’t match his size. Would be nice to see him on a level playing field for once. Plus, if I have to hear his shitty William Hung karaoke and then hear people try to tell me it’s good in any way, shape, or form again, I might go Tyson and bite an ear off.

2. Do you think Juan Manuel Marquez will be better equipped to fight at welterweight than he was against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? What do you make of the presence of controversial strength coach Angel Hernandez, who once supplied Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with banned substances, in Marquez’ camp? Does Marquez have a shot to win this fight?

Jeff: I think Marquez will be better at the weight for Pacquiao, having had experience as to what it was like last time with Mayweather and what felt right and what didn’t at the weight. As far as banned substance use… I’m in the innocent-until-evidence camp for everyone in the sport, Marquez and Pacquiao included. I think Marquez has a great chance to win. I thought he won both of their previous bouts. Marquez’s style is so technically good, that it offsets other fighters’ natural abilities. The weight and time will make it an uphill battle, but the inferno inside him and his technical brilliance could make up for it. The key for him is to try and not get dragged into the firefight as much. Try to be clinical, control pace more and fight with his head not his heart. I don’t know if he can; this is the White Whale to his Ahab.

Alex: Marquez does have a shot, but a very small one. I hope that his new training regimen makes him more effective at welterweight than he was against Floyd. A perverse part of me almost takes heart from Hernandez’ background. It’s also worth remembering that Pacquiao is a smaller man than Floyd and will not be so unprofessional as to not make weight. It’s the way he fights these days that I’d be more worried about if I was Marquez.

Patrick: Marquez should be better equipped for this fight, even if only for stylistic reasons. While Manny’s handspeed is comparable to Floyd Mayweather’s, his delivery is different and his approach is far less measured. Manny’s forward motion appeared to play into Marquez’ style very well post-knockdowns in both fights, while Floyd could be described as a bigger, better version of Marquez. The potential PED discussion as it pertains to this fight does little for me, and it’s not influencing my fight pick. While PED/steroid usage in boxing is an issue that should be officially addressed more than it has, I’m not wasting my time fantasizing about who may or may not be using, and how it may or may not affect fights.

Andrew: He looks a brawnier and more powerful athlete that’s for sure. Marquez seems to have taken the stance: If you can’t perform beyond lightweight through drinking piss and throwing rocks then shell out for a chemist (and admitted steroids peddler) so you at least give yourself half a chance of jumping off from the same starting line as your opponent. It takes a trusting soul not to read between the lines here and wind up feeling uncomfortable. Or maybe I really have transmogrified into Harry Caul from “The Conversation” and this is all brinkmanship? It’s difficult to predict whether Marquez has a chance or not — we won’t know for sure until the opening round. In terms of in-ring ability and with all things being equal it’s a wash so he should. Pacquiao, though, looks a different species of late — I can’t see anyone other than Floyd having a chance with him and even Mayweather, for all of his gifts, would need to run like a thief in order to win.

Gautham: No. Marquez is the best lightweight in the world. One of the best junior welterweights. He is not a 147-pounder and he proved that against Floyd. I would rather see him fight Brandon Rios or Yuriorkis Gamboa where both men have a fighting chance and are roughly the same size. I have a bad feeling that Pacquiao is going to retire him and if he does it would be a waste. Marquez is too good of a boxer to write him off completely, but I just don’t see how he can beat Pacquiao at this weight.

I don’t know enough about Hernandez to speak on him authoritatively, but if he was really involved with BALCO it does raise questions. With that being said, I think it’s fair to ask the same questions about Victor Conte and the fighters he works with. And to be honest it would hardly shock me to find out boxers were using steroids or performance enhancing drugs. There’s simply too much money in the game for people to not try to get an edge. Juicing is rampant in mixed martial arts and I see no reason why boxing would be completely exempt.

Karl: I hope so, but I think I hope so out of desperate longing to see a good fight. Nothing at all suggests to me that Marquez will be better suited for this fight than he was for Mayweather. Yes, he has the advantage of having fought a version of Pacquiao before, at Marquez’ natural weight. And it wasn’t this version of Pacquaio. On the other hand, Marquez will just do better against a straight ahead offensive fighter like Pac. Nobody has looked good against Mayweather since Jose Luis Castillo, so perhaps we shouldn’t judge Marquez at welter versus Money. This is a bit of a cop out, I realize, but I think this will be damned good while it lasts, but I don’t think it will last long. As for Angel Hernandez in his corner, I can’t comment. I can only think he isn’t so callow as to openly hire a BALCO guy for BALCO reasons. I think he’s probably clean, but I’m speaking pure ignorance here.

Tim: Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, as Donald Rumsfeld said, or maybe it was Carl Sagan. We don’t know what Hernandez is giving him, but I’m always suspicious when boxers seek out the assistance of someone with those kind of skeletons in his closet, and Hernandez’ name change doesn’t look right, either. I refuse to jump to any conclusions — I just don’t like the optics. It’s like with everything in this fight: I hope I’m wrong that this fight at this weight is bad, I hope I’m wrong in thinking Marquez has no chance, I hope I’m wrong in thinking that no matter how studiously Marquez has moved up to 144 pounds he’s not a 144-pounder in real life.

Scott: Marquez has a chance because he is a supreme technical boxer with a history of success against Manny. That chance is dwarfed to sub-Ivan Calderon stature by the weight at which this fight is taking place and the fact that Marquez is a 38-year-old lower-weight fighter. Rather than a puncher’s chance, I give Marquez more a genius boxer’s chance. My biggest hope is that, the week of Joe Frazier’s death, Marquez pays tribute to the great heavyweight by turning back the clock the way that Frazier did against Muhammad Ali in the Thrilla in Manila.

Regarding Hernandez, I see this in a similar way to Tim – I’m not going to make any baseless accusations, but I’m not going to look at it with anything other than skepticism.

3. Will the UFC card on Fox, airing the same night and featuring heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos in the main event, have an impact on the pay-per-view buys for Pacquiao-Marquez III?

Jeff: The UFC card will hurt the PPV a bit, but I don’t think it’s going to dampen it much. I see them as very different things. It’s like saying that the new Batman movie “Dark Knight Rises” is hitting theatre’s on Friday, but they are showing “Thor” on HBO that night. There is crossover in the fan base, but I don’t think it’s going to have any more impact on the PPV than the million other things people could be doing.

Alex: Not that I have any specialized knowledge of the PPV business, but I reckon that if the UFC card has any impact on PPV buys for the fight, it will be positive. People that are both MMA and boxing fans (yes, they exist) will treat the night like one giant card of fights and watch both. They’ll use the UFC as an unofficial undercard. I’m by no means an MMA fan, but I’ve heard that the UFC main event is a guaranteed barnburner. That sounds like a pretty good opener to me. Both sports could profit from this, with Mexican boxing fans waking up to Velasquez and MMA fans tuning into the Pacman.

Patrick: I’d imagine that a number of people will be buying this PPV regardless of what else is on TV that night — folks who buy any and every Pacquiao fight, and the much smaller subsets of folks who buy every boxing PPV or every Marquez fights. That said, I can’t imagine holding a free UFC card on network television will be a great or helpful thing for the Pacquiao-Marquez III card, and especially when said free card is for the UFC heavyweight championship. However, I don’t expect the UFC card to turn the PPV from a huge success into a bust either. At worst, I’m thinking it might take a bit of the shine and attention, maybe a barely notable amount of buys.

Andrew: Can’t really answer this one mate – not clued up enough. I only know James Toney, Hulk Hogan and Shirley Crabtree (I jest of course).

Gautham: Since I run a boxing/mixed martial arts website where MMA fans are far more active I would have to guess yes. How large is difficult to say. Marquez brings more fans to the table than Mosley or Clottey, but perhaps not as many as Margarito or Cotto. The fact the first two fights were so good will ensure a lot of fans tune in, especially Mexican-Americans. So most real boxing heads will be there.

But for the mainstream audience, maybe Cain-JDS will be enough violence for one evening. My understanding is that the UFC undercard is stacked, on for free and the main event is the most anticipated fight in MMA right now. Pacquiao-Marquez is going to cost $65, no small chunk of change in this economy. Once they find out who wins via Twitter there are probably a lot of fans content to catch the replay on HBO next week.

Karl: Nope. Hispanics (and Filipinos) don’t, by and large, give a shit about big white Russians and Midwestern guys fucking each other up in a cage. This will be a big Hispanic PPV buy, and the so-called “general market” (which by the way is becoming more and more Hispanic) has never been a big part of PPV boxing. I don’t know this, but I believe it. Maybe someone can call me out on this, call me an idiot and correct me with stats and I’ll be appropriately chagrined, but I think the boxing fan base is probably mostly Hispanic in this part of the world. In fact, since Manny may actually have won some crossover appeal in proportion to his global celebrity status, there’s a good chance the fight may actually steal some share from UFC.

Tim: There was that kerfuffle where Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum got all mad at the UFC for having a card that night, and was all like “Bring it on, we’ll beat them head-to-head!” for no good reason, since by then UFC boss Dana White had made clear that the cards were on at different times. I don’t think White wants to go head-to-head with Pacquiao, of all people, even if he — and some boxing promoters — say there isn’t much overlap between the boxing and MMA audiences. This week White told our old buddy Mike Coppinger that the UFC lead-in will actually help Pacquiao-Marquez III, so maybe he’s thinking like Alex, that everyone who likes fights will be watch both as a kind of mega-fight card. Or maybe White’s just cross-marketing and trying to steal boxing fans away by going to boxing outlets and saying, in effect, “Hey, watch our show that same night, it’s free on Fox!” Either way, I don’t see anybody being hurt by this in the short-run, even if Gautham’s alternative theory is also viable. (Also, Karl: Arum says that whities are returning to boxing fandom. Huzzah!)

Scott: My line of thinking is closest to Gautham’s here. Ultimately, I don’t see the UFC card having a major impact, but I do see it as having an effect on the PPV buys. The fact is, the economy is still bad, and while the Pacquiao audience will always be there and will always be huge, the extra buys that people are assuming will come from Marquez may not be as great as anticipated, given that the UFC main event features a Mexican-American heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, against Brazilian challenger Junior Dos Santos (no big Russians or Midwestern guys in this cage, Karl). Like Gautham said, some fans may have gotten their fill of combat sports for the night after seeing the UFC. Frankly, given the mediocre undercard for Pacquiao-Marquez III and the reservations many of us have about the main event, I think it’s fair to say that Velasquez vs. Dos Santos is the best fight of the night. And it’s free. Assuming this would have zero impact on PPV buys or that there is zero crossover between boxing and MMA fans is naive. Explain Gautham and me if that’s your line of thinking. I expect this fight to do significantly less than Pacquiao’s fight with Shane Mosley, which sold 1.3 million PPVs. I anticipate this number to come in between 1.05 and 1.15 million PPV buys, and I think the free UFC card on the same night will have a small but tangible influence on that number.

About Tim Starks

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